The Politics    Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Lift-off on climate

By Paddy Manning

Lift-off on climate


Labor, the Greens and key crossbenchers are working hard

The groundswell of direct action on climate change, abroad and at home, from the school strikers to Extinction Rebellion, is echoing in the federal parliament. Shadow minister for climate change and energy Mark Butler announced today that Labor will move for a climate-emergency declaration, joining the crossbenchers and the Greens who have their own motion in train. It is real progress, never mind who gets the credit.

Late yesterday afternoon, a dozen MPs from Labor and the crossbench, members of Parliamentary Friends of Climate Action, met in a committee room to hear a briefing from experts on the dire health threats to Australians from global warming of more than 1.5 degrees. Ahead of the meeting, co-chair Helen Haines revealed that she would move a motion for a national strategy on climate and agriculture, seconded by Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie. Deputy chair Zali Steggall told the meeting that climate action was the whole reason she had gone into politics: “We are working hard, it’s not business as usual.” Also attending were Adam Bandt, plus Labor MPs Ged Kearney, Anika Wells, Peta Murphy, Mike Freedlander, Libby Coker and Josh Burns.

It is hard to see a climate-emergency declaration passing this parliament. Those Liberal MPs who are friends of climate action – Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, Jason Falinski, Dave Sharma and Angie Bell – missed yesterday’s briefing. No Nationals are friends of climate action, although global heating is linked to drought and extreme weather events that hit rural and regional electorates especially hard. Beleagured emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor, subject of fresh revelations in the Jam Land controversy today, told parliament that “whilst some in this place are keen on symbolism, we are keen on strong and meaningful action”, then regurgitated the misleading talking points we know so well.

Labor’s climate-emergency motion acknowledges that the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Portugal, Argentina and Ireland have declared a climate emergency. It is a sign that, despite internal divisions over the appropriate emissions reduction targets for 2030, the Opposition is not going to walk away from climate science. Prime Minister Scott Morrison today described Labor as “a climate fight club”, unable to agree on targets, and claimed that the motion would result in “the full banning of coalmining in Australia”. That’s over the top, but it will be hard for the Opposition to reconcile a climate-emergency declaration with the Queensland Labor government’s support for the Adani coalmine, and opening up a whole new thermal coal province in the Galilee Basin. Backbencher Ed Husic would not be drawn on that question on Sky News Australia this afternoon.

Yesterday’s briefing from the Climate and Health Alliance was frightening. Discussion of 1.5 and 2 degrees global warming doesn’t sound too bad, but that’s an average, and, as ANU public health expert Liz Hanna told the meeting, parts of Australia’s north will be nearly 14 degrees hotter. One slide showed Darwin exceeding 35 degrees every day of the year – the top end becoming physically uninhabitable, along with most of South-East Asia. Imagine the climate refugees.

It was fraught, but the Greens’ climate-emergency balloon finally got up today. With Labor, the Greens and the crossbenchers working together, progress this term may be possible.

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

“I say to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, ‘it is time now to act with justice, compassion and mercy. The so-called Pacific Solution is too expensive. It is detrimental to our relationships with our neighbours and to the moral fibre of our nation. Indefinite detention, particularly on the Pacific Islands, has been going on for too long without an end in sight.”

Former member for Indi Cathy McGowan, who today received an award for parliamentary integrity from the Accountability Round Table, calls on the government to accept the refugee resettlement offer from New Zealand.

“It is always easier to comment with the benefit of hindsight, but it is my view that over the last 10 years private sector competition between strong players such as Telstra, Optus, TPG and others was always going to build 100 Mbps broadband access and speed to the majority of the population of Australia, in an ongoing competitive landscape and at no cost whatsoever to the taxpayer.”

Telstra chair John Mullen says that Australians would have faster, cheaper internet had the NBN never been built, while acknowledging that the incumbent telco blocked investment in broadband for years.

Exclusive: Forfeited to state care
A dispute over funding and the NDIS has forced 500 families to forfeit their children into state care.

The denomination of notes handed over by an unknown man in dozens of cash “bricks” deposited at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, shown in video leaked to independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

“The national accounts reported that the Australian economy had grown by 0.5 per cent in the June quarter. Year-ended growth [for 2018–19] had slowed to 1.4 per cent, the lowest outcome in a decade … [Members] discussed the possibility that policy stimulus might be less effective than past experience suggests … [and] judged it reasonable to expect that an extended period of low interest rates would be required in Australia to reach full employment and achieve the inflation target.”

The minutes of last week’s RBA board meeting, released today, where the decision was made to lower the official cash rate to a record low of 0.75 per cent.

The list

“It is clear that Uncle Dave is a busy man: as well as being a member of ‘many boards with too many acronyms’ he does a lot of conservation work in the area. This morning, however, he’s invited us on to Wurundjeri land to learn about a new project. Over the past few months, seven near-identical structures, known collectively by the clear-cut moniker untitled (seven monuments), have appeared across this patch of the Yarra Valley, an hour east of Melbourne.”

“During the 2003 NSW state election campaign, The Australian reported that Morrison had ‘displayed an almost paranoid concern about answering even basic questions’. Later, as immigration minister under Tony Abbott, this tendency would be seen as a tactic to preserve secrecy around a controversial area of government policy. But the habit has been there all along – in government, it simply persisted.”

“No one I have met within XR believes every part of the movement constitutes a perfect strategy. But there is a prevailing view that this is all there is left, a last roll of the dice. ‘We’ve tried everything else,’ protester Joseph Borellini told a Channel Nine camera crew who had come to the Carlton Gardens village. ‘We’ve tried asking nicely. We’ve tried advocacy. We’ve tried petitions. And nothing has worked. This [civil disobedience] is all we have left.’”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning 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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