Thursday, May 9, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Climate for change
It’s all happening very quickly

Source: Twitter

One dare not hope but it suddenly seems that an overwhelming majority of Australians have decided that enough is enough on the threat of climate change, and that it is time we got serious. We sort of decided that already in 2007, and repeated it half-heartedly in 2010. Then the climate movement lost majority support in the face of a scare campaign led by the Coalition under Tony Abbott, and the rest is history. Now, when climate finally matters again, the chickens are coming home to roost for the Coalition, and nothing they have to say on the subject is believed in any way, shape or form. We won’t know until the votes are in, but perhaps under all the noise Australians really are determined to send a message this election that it’s time for climate action.

The run of news since yesterday is remarkable: the Lowy poll shows that for the first time climate is seen as the number-one threat to Australia’s national interest; Britain passes the milestone of going one week without using coal to generate electricity for the first time since 1882; New Zealand introduces a bill for zero carbon by 2050 (and gets slammed for moving too slow); and Peter Garrett calls for Labor, should it win the election, to declare a climate emergency and to establish a “war” cabinet committee to implement a transition to zero carbon.

One highlight of last night’s leaders debate came when Bill Shorten withdrew his comment earlier this week that it was “dumb” to ask the cost of Labor’s climate action policies and, instead of dissembling or making nice, he doubled down and called the question “dishonest” – a “crooked charlatan’s argument”, to be precise. Morrison does not get it, and never will. He is campaigning under the old Abbott paradigm, or he would not yesterday have warned about “green tape” within hours of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) revealing that the planet faces an extinction crisis. Whatever the costs of Labor’s policy, the costs of inaction are so much higher. Just today, take the Climate Council’s warning that climate change could take $571 billion off real estate values by 2030. If that’s not big enough, what about a study published in Nature last month that assessed the cost of thawing permafrost to be $70 trillion between now and 2300.

If this is a climate election – and that’s a big if – it’s game, set and match to Labor, and the reason why was set out in Greenpeace’s “Dirty Power” report, a collaboration with investigative journalist Michael West and analyst Simone Marsh. The Coalition is too heavily connected to big coal. It’s not just the out-and-out coal spruikers, such as Resources Minister Matt Canavan or the arch-deniers of the Monash Forum. (Remember them?) It’s the invisible environment minister, Melissa Price, 15 days without a presser during a planetary crisis, previously a lawyer at Crosslands Resources, subsidiary of big coalminer Mitsubishi. It’s the energy minister, Angus Taylor, who previously wrote a report for the Minerals Council of Australia and was a headline speaker at the “Wind Power Fraud” rally, organised by Stop These Things. It’s the prime minister himself, whose chief of staff, John Kunkel, was previously deputy chief of the Minerals Council of Australia and a lobbyist for Rio Tinto. Pulled together, it’s a damning picture.

After six years of climate vandalism, the Coalition finds that the wind has changed, and the government appears to have sailed unexpectedly into a climate election. “We are taking action,” the PM says, as though we’ve all been asleep for six years and nobody noticed how he got the job in the first place.



“It is possible for Labor to argue that the Coalition hasn’t increased spending as quickly as the Gillard/Rudd government intended to, but that isn’t a ‘cut’, not in any universe where words are supposed to have meaning, especially not when spending is growing far more quickly than inflation.”

Crikey’s political editor Bernard Keane tells Labor to stop lying: the Liberals have not cut health spending.


“That motto of working hard to get ahead is now under threat. These days, if you work hard to get ahead and buy a big house you’re labelled an elitist.”

The Number

The number of times that RN Breakfast host Fran Kelly asked Treasurer Josh Frydenberg how much the government’s proposed tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000 a year would cost the budget – without getting an answer.

The Policy

“Ending access to the pre-2004 [parliamentary pensions] scheme, and instead giving retired MPs only the benefits available under the current, less lucrative scheme … would save $90m over the forward estimates, cutting expenses by $146m but decreasing taxation revenue by $56m. It would save roughly $350m over 11 years.”

The Greens’ democracy spokesperson, Larissa Waters, has released Parliamentary Budget Office costings of the minor party’s policy on superannuation for federal MPs.

The list

“The story was not only factually incorrect but immoral. Shorten has written, touchingly, of Ann becoming a lawyer later in life, and referenced her achievements in countless speeches. It is simply untrue to say he has omitted facts from her life story. In any case, Caldwell’s article completely misses the point of Shorten’s account, which is this: his mother had to wait until her 50s to study and then practise law on account of her working-class background and her gender.”


“Anthony Albanese designs merch for the Marrickville Dolly Parton fan club.” Oslo Davis takes a look at where our politicians might be in 10 years’ time.


“Where once ‘the environment’ was just one political issue among many, years of inaction have brought on a state of paramount urgency. As David Attenborough put it recently, ‘If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.’”  

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 Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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