Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Learner, not learning
Australia’s “L-plate” environment minister goes to Poland


The Morrison government appears to have learnt precisely nothing from the Victorian election, in which heartland Liberal voters sent a strong message about the need for action on climate change, and nothing from Julia Banks, Kelly O’Dwyer or Kerryn Phelps, much less the schoolkids on a #climatestrike. So our “L-plate”’ environment minister, Melissa Price, is right now leading Australia’s wrecking-ball effort at the United Nations’ 24th climate talks in Katowice, Poland. We have refused to contribute any more cash to the Green Climate Fund, which will help poorer nations, including those in the Pacific, adapt to the climate change we have inflicted on them. We have lined up with the United States, Russia, Kuwait and the Saudis to downplay the significance of the IPCC’s warning two months ago that the planet has only until 2030 to drastically cut emissions or kiss goodbye forever a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. And today it emerges that we were the only nation represented at a US pro-coal forum, sending our environment ambassador (of all people), and are counting on “fake action” to achieve our 2030 Paris targets. 

Perhaps the government imagines nobody is paying attention back home, or cares any more. Perhaps they are listening to Sky News host Peta Credlin, who last week mourned that Price probably would not “push back against the climate alarmism that’s taken our energy prices from some of the world’s cheapest to now most expensive, all but destroyed heavy industry in this country, hurt cost of living for everyone but the very wealthy, and now threatens to put up the cost of cars and cull the national herd as further emissions cuts roll out”. Perhaps they are reading The Australian’s Judith Sloan, who today writes [$] that UN climate talks are “more farce than serious policymaking” and concludes with a joke: “If you believe the IPCC, there are now only 12 years until it is too late to do anything about climate change. (Previous tipping points have come and gone.) On this basis, we should expect COP36 to be the last. That will save a few airfares and associated emissions.”

More seriously, and instead, the government should be listening to Sir David Attenborough, who told the UN talks last week: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” There could scarcely be a more credible voice on the planet, and Sir David talks directly to middle Australia.

Or the government might listen to the global investors with $32 trillion in assets, who yesterday called for urgent climate action, or to the head of the Business Council, former Origin Energy managing director Grant King, who today calls our energy impasse Australia’s “largest failure in public policy”.

Or the government might simply listen one of their own, the former member for the Victorian seat of Hawthorn, John Pesutto, a potential state Liberal leader who last week blamed his shock defeat in his blue-ribbon Melbourne electorate on the federal party’s stance on climate change. He told journalists that his 17-year-old daughter took part in the #climatestrike protest: “Even in my own family, I can see the challenges we’ve got [as a party],” he said. In yesterday’s The Age, a letter-writer from Hawthorn warned Treasurer Josh Frydenberg that he was facing political extinction in his own seat: “I am a constituent of said Kooyong electorate. Betrayed is a very strong word I almost never use. But I have never felt so betrayed by a political representative as by Mr Frydenberg over the existential crisis that is climate change.”

Price jetted off to Poland after failing [$] on Friday to get agreement to a joint statement on climate action from the states and territories, storming out of a press conference when she was asked about it. Labor states put out their own statement: “Our jurisdictions are initiating, developing and delivering strong and lasting action on climate change … it is time the Liberal-National states and the commonwealth join us.”

At this rate, when the test comes at the next election, the L-plate environment minister is heading for a fail.

since this morning

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has [$] ridiculed as “inadequate and embarrassing” the federal government’s response to a consumer watchdog report that found the big four banks gouged customers to the tune of $1.1 billion, according to the AFR.

Labor frontbenchers Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek have thrown their support behind boat turnbacks ahead of the weekend’s national ALP conference, The Australian reports [$]. Earlier, the paper reconfirmed [$] that Labor would abolish temporary protection visas.

in case you missed it

Sydney’s Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne writes in The Guardian that increasing Newstart is a moral issue for an incoming Labor government.

The Coalition insists [$] that the next election is winnable, despite grim headline poll numbers, because the outlook is not as bad in the marginal seats that will decide the outcome.

The Australian reports [$] that the Coalition’s primary vote is at its lowest point in Newspoll history five months out from a federal election, and columnist Peter van Onselen writes [$] that this makes fundraising harder.

The Morrison government is expected to formally recognise [$] Jerusalem as Israel’s legitimate capital following a cabinet meeting today, but may delay the relocation of Australia’s embassy from Tel Aviv on cost grounds.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is urging a bipartisan approach to population policy and avoidance of “dog whistles” at tomorrow’s COAG meeting in Adelaide, Nine (formerly Fairfax Media) reports.

by Nick Feik
The Liberal Party: a rolling fiasco
The government’s suite of half-formed ideas work for no one

by Robert Skinner
On the road to Gundagai
An unexpected stop prompts the question: Just what is the deal with the Dog on the Tuckerbox?

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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