Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Liberals for climate
The latest IPCC warning should be a tipping point


On his last day as prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull fessed up: “The truth is that the Coalition finds it very hard to get agreement on anything to do with emissions.” Today, as the world reacts to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s dire warning that the world has just 12 years left to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, we see more evidence of what Turnbull was belatedly saying. What planet are these people living on?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who carried a lump of coal into parliament and whose chief of staff was formerly deputy CEO of the Minerals Council, says [$], “We’re not throwing money into some global climate fund and getting pulled around by the nose by all these international agencies when it comes to these other reports.” The deputy PM and Nationals leader Michael McCormack maintains that the government won’t change policies on coal “just because somebody might suggest that some sort of report is the way we need to follow and everything that we should do”. The new environment minister, Melissa Price, a former mining industry lawyer, gives a train wreck interview on the ABC, where she gets her degrees Celsius and per cents mixed up. Price also blithely insisted, without any reference to facts, that Australia was on track to meet its Paris targets, and that the suggestion coal use would need to be phased out by 2050 was “drawing a very long bow”.

A small network of concerned Liberals is trying to turn the party’s denialist position on climate change around. Former Liberal leader John Hewson is a regular commentator in favour of climate action. In late 2016, Kristina Photios, wife of the NSW Liberal Party powerbroker Michael, quit the party to speak out against a “vocal minority” of conservatives who she said were preventing any progress on climate policy by the Turnbull government. Then there’s former chief executive of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), Oliver Yates, who was last year ejected from a Liberal Party fundraising event in Melbourne after loudly objecting to the presentation of a lump of brown coal to then treasurer Morrison, by Senator Jane Hume. A decade ago, Yates himself unsuccessfully sought preselection for the NSW Liberals Senate ticket.

Yates spent more than a decade at Macquarie Bank and ran the CEFC for five years, including under the Abbott government, which tried and failed to abolish it, so knows the economics of energy and emissions well. The CEFC was set up under the Labor government of Julia Gillard, at the behest of the Greens, and was given $10 billion to invest in clean energy. Dubbed “Bob Brown’s slush fund” by the Liberals, the CEFC actually made money, lending to a slew of renewable energy projects that otherwise may not have gone ahead. When he spoke to RenewEconomy last year, Yates flagged that he might set up a Liberal Environment Party, and run in the Melbourne electorate of Kooyong (Josh Frydenberg’s seat) where he now lives – perhaps picking up where the old Liberals for Forests left off. Yates hasn’t done that, choosing instead to continue trying to change the Liberals from within. When he speaks at local branch meetings, he says, there are the usual climate deniers, but on average roughly 40 per cent of the audience will agree with him. He gets loud claps.

The problem with today’s Liberal Party, Yates says, is that the average age of members – the so-called “base” – is about 68, and their narrow extremism makes meetings unappealing to anyone with moderate views, who therefore shy away. Hawthorn Football Club would swamp the whole membership. Yates says preselections are undemocratic, controlled by a cabal, and bullying is rife – he has had Liberals try to get him sacked for speaking out about climate change.

Environment minister Price is telling a “fat lie”, he says, when she suggests the government hasn’t had a chance to read the IPCC report, given they’re a co-author. “They’ve had a draft for months.” Yates bemoans the politicisation of the public service, and backs a federal ICAC and tough donations reform. There is a revolving door between ministerial offices, PR and lobbying firms, and the Minerals Council, who he says are “in everybody’s underpants … it needs to be stopped.”  Environmental liberals may need to take a stand, he says, and run against the Liberal Party. If Dutton had been voted up as leader, he says, and pulled Australia out of the Paris agreement, “It would have been enough for a whole lot of us to go berserk.”

since this morning

The Guardian reports that Racing NSW has cancelled a live barrier draw for the Everest horse race, citing security risks amid ongoing public outrage at plans to project the results on the Sydney Opera House.

Also in The Guardian, columnist Greg Jericho examines where China’s $40 billion investment in Australia is going.

in case you missed it

According to The Australian, in a move to bring more firepower into the government’s senior ranks, Scott Morrison has appointed [$] Peter Conran, a former senior adviser to John Howard, as his new cabinet secretary.

The AFR reports [$] that the Australian Tax Office is examining whether tax promoter penalties can be applied to the big four accounting firms, Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC, as it examines emails that detail how aggressive schemes were marketed.

The Australian reports [$] that the Morrison government will impose new visa conditions for thousands of migrants a year, requiring them to settle outside Sydney and Melbourne for up to five years. Labor, however, has dismissed the plan as a “thought bubble”, and said that the PM voted against a similar idea when he was in Opposition.

The Guardian’s Essential poll finds that voters are evenly divided on whether asylum seeker and refugee families on Nauru should be brought to Australia. The poll also shows Labor ahead of the Coalition, 53–47, unchanged from a fortnight ago.

by André Dao
‘How are you today’ at the Ian Potter Museum of Art
Audio messages from Manus Island reveal what it sounds like to live in limbo

by Justin Clemens
Barron Field and the myth of terra nullius
How a minor poet made a major historical error

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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