Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Red line on coal
Australia’s intransigence on climate makes no sense in the Pacific

Children symbolically representing the effects of climate change greet Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he arrives for the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu. © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

According to The Australian today [$], Australia’s negotiating team is trying to tone down the language of the proposed Pacific Islands Forum declaration and arguing that Australia is doing more than enough on climate change, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison mouths the official mantra that we will “smash” our emissions reduction targets for 2020 and 2030. That particular fib has been taken apart so many times it’s not worth repeating the exercise, and one suspects the sinking small island states are perfectly aware of the federal government’s record of dodgy carbon accounting. Regardless, as Pacific leaders this week have made clear, the existing targets are beside the point. The level of ambition agreed in Paris in 2015 is inadequate even if every country was on track to meet their targets, which they’re not.

What is breathtakingly deceptive is the government’s attempt to argue that Australia is not actually a very big contributor to the problem: the nation’s most prominent purveyor of climate denialism, The Australian, reports [$] on new figures that the country only has 20 of the world’s 2459 operating coalmines. Talk about garbage in, garbage out. It bears the hallmarks of the PM’s adviser Brendan Pearson, the former journalist and Peabody Energy executive who was part of the widely lampooned “coal is amazing” campaign in 2015, and who was too pro-coal for the Minerals Council but is now right at home in the Morrison government’s inner sanctum. Whatever the number, Australia’s coalmines just happen to be big enough to make us the world’s largest coal exporter – and with Adani right now opening up a whole new coal province in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, production is expanding. Likewise, we are the world’s largest producer of LNG. If the emissions from these fossil-fuel exports were included in our national total, Australia would be one of the biggest polluters in the world.

This week the government announced it would spend $500 million over five years to fight climate change in the Pacific, to be spent on renewables and adaptation. But the prime minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, yesterday said the small island states would not be bought off: “No matter how much money you put on the table, it doesn’t give you the excuse to not do the right thing, which is to cut down on your emissions, including not opening your coalmines. That is the thing that we want to see.”

Minister for International Development and the Pacific Alex Hawke told RN Breakfast this morning that Australia’s position was non-negotiable: “We wouldn’t want to see talks break down but every country has a position, every country has a thing we need to stick with … Australia has a red-line position on coal.” 

Opening up more new coalmines while paying small Pacific Islands to build sea walls … how does the Morrison government think this story ends? With a miracle, no doubt. Somebody else’s problem. It’s the same with Sussan Ley, who is today reported [$] to have snorkelled over a section of the Great Barrier Reef in “vibrant” condition, and who is now full of hope. “I was expecting to see dead areas with a few patches of life,” Ley said. “I saw the exact opposite to that.” Reef envoy Warren Entsch was even more cheery, saying bleaching had been going on “for millennia”.

“The new ‘vibrant’”, tweeted eminent reef scientist Terry Hughes: “According to the latest scientific surveys by AIMS [Australian Institute of Marine Science], coral cover on Moore Reef has declined to an average of 0–5% following back-to-back bleaching in 2016 & 2017.”

The climate deniers may feel vindicated by the recent federal election, but they can never win the climate “debate”. Day after day, the planet is proving them wrong. It’s embarrassing, and the neighbours are watching.

“We have to remember that in recent times, parliament was all male. And so you had a whole bunch of men in Canberra and they set the rules, they set the customs, the precedents and the environment. It was all men. There was very much that culture around politics, even though [Australia] were world-leading as the first to simultaneously grant women the right to vote and the right to stand for parliament … but that kind of behaviour’s just pathetic.”

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop slams the “grotesque” sexism inside the Liberal Party in a tell-all interview with Andrew Denton on Channel 7.

“It remains the case that the investigation is ongoing. So I’m not drawing anyone in or out who may have been determined, or who we may determine, has committed a crime. We are looking to collect evidence to see who we believe may have … committed acts that could constitute an offence and then judgements are made.”

Outgoing AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin tells the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security hearing on press freedom in Canberra today that News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst may still be charged.

Schoolyard bullies
In the past decade, reports of teachers and principals being abused by parents have increased. Jane Caro on accounts that range from intimidation to stalking.

The combined amount that Australia’s four richest schools spent on new facilities and renovations between 2013 and 2017, which is more than the total amount spent by the poorest 1800 schools.

“The Environment Department found the method used to calculate risk of loss ‘potentially overstated the averted loss the offset will achieve’. Furthermore, the department said the developer used inaccurate habitat quality measures, ‘potentially providing results that do not accurately reflect habitat quality at the impact and offset sites’.”

An ABC 7.30 investigation reveals that, in a breach of its own offset policy, the federal Environment Department approved the clearing of more than 75 hectares of critical koala habitat west of Brisbane.

The list

“‘I don’t look at my news online or anything like that. If you just don’t engage in it then it doesn’t mean anything to you,’ Tarantino says, before adopting a mock-pompous voice: “‘Oh, Twitter’s blowing up about you!”’ he says with an empty laugh. ‘So what? If I don’t read it or engage in it, it causes me no heartache.’ As we speak, the film that has brought him to the Cannes Film Festival, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, is making global headlines and trending across those social media platforms he spurns.”

“At News Corp – in an inversion of journalism’s ideal– the old-fashioned, straight-down-the-line reporting is expendable and surplus to requirements. It is the unhinged propaganda outfit that is central to the identity of the company. It is the core that is lunatic, not the fringe.”

“With rising geopolitical instability, the value of reason – of the ilk Freudenberg championed – couldn’t be higher. Yet we find ourselves in a vacuum of rhetoric where, according to Scott Morrison, a ‘miracle’ is our best hope and being a ‘quiet Australian’ the noblest virtue. Rendering Australians as mute devotees is a dangerous abandonment of the engaged lineage of political dialogue that figures such as Freudenberg worked so hard to enshrine.”

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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