Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

An existential threat
There’s a climate emergency … don’t tell the federal government

BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie. Source

There is an air of pinch-me unreality about Australian politics as parliament’s work is conducted in apparent denial of the existential threat presented by climate change, which even the CEO of one of the world’s largest miners, BHP’s Andrew Mackenzie, acknowledged [$] in a major speech overnight. Backbencher Barnaby Joyce told the House this week that there was “not one thing that this parliament can do to change the weather – not one thing”. In that particularly boneheaded assessment he appears to be at one with the floundering minister for energy and emissions reductions, Angus Taylor, who squirmed his way through question after question from the Opposition yesterday, as he tried to avoid the undeniable fact that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are going up as a result of this country’s climate policy vacuum.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison showed his complete disengagement with a classic bit of climate babble in Question Time yesterday: “We had to turn around a million tonnes in abatement over the course of our efforts,” he claimed, “and that’s what we have done.” A million tonnes or 700 million tonnes (the deficit the government claims to have inherited from Labor) – it’s all the same to the PM.

Taylor may have misled the House yesterday by saying that he had “no association and have remained at arm’s length at all times from Jam Land”, the company that is under investigation for alleged illegal land-clearing, as Labor pointed out in renewed questions today. Taylor tried a bit of revisionism, saying he had no association with the investigation and that his interest in Jam Land had been properly disclosed and widely reported. He will brazen it out – more proof that misleading parliament is not what it used to be.

Taylor tried arguing that Australia’s emissions have gone up because we are now the world’s largest exporter of LNG, and even tried to put a figure on it, saying the overseas reductions were equivalent to 26 per cent of our national emissions. But Taylor is trying to play fast and loose with the international emissions accounting rules: if Australia wants to claim credit for the reductions supposedly attributable to burning our gas overseas, it must also take responsibility for the massive emissions from burning our coal overseas. That will soon include emissions from coal extracted from Adani’s giant Carmichael mine, which is going ahead, even though the ABC reports today that the company is a “collapse waiting to happen”.

Country after country is recognising the climate emergency, including Canada, the United Kingdom – where the new PM, Boris Johnson, is not a climate denier – and France, where heroic Swedish school striker Greta Thunberg called on the National Assembly to “unite behind the science”. Meanwhile, in his speech, BHP’s Mackenzie recognised the need for a mobilisation on the scale of World War Two – which is exactly what the Green New Dealers have been calling for – and linked executive pay to emissions reductions, which is the kind of initiative that could really get things moving. BHP is now showing more leadership on climate than the federal government.

Instead of genuine climate action, what have we today? Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton playing the man against shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, rather than explaining why the bipartisan recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence Services over the foreign fighters legislation have been ignored. And the entire parliament banging on about the CFMEU’s embattled Victorian secretary, John Setka, whose name is now apparent justification for any kind of attack on unions, and will be hurled endlessly at Labor leader Anthony Albanese as his case against expulsion from the party drags on. Even where climate change is directly relevant to the policy up for debate, as with the Future Drought Fund, the government remains in denial. Reality will surely hit home soon.

“I am sure I do not need to remind every person who follows Christ that Christ too was a refugee. If the government is successful in repealing this legislation, it will cause much harm. Needless harm. Unnecessary harm. It is quite simply a wicked thing that we are doing in this place. It is unnecessary. And I therefore, in the strongest possible terms, oppose this bill, as will my Centre Alliance colleagues in the other place.”

Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie explains why her party will oppose the proposed repeal of the successful medivac laws.

“We love this word ‘Medicare’, it’s like Bambi. I don’t want to be seen as the one who wants to shoot Bambi, but I think there’s a better way of delivering universal healthcare which is more efficient and fairer.”

NIB chief Mark Fitzgibbon, who is the brother of federal Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon, calls for Medicare to be replaced by mandatory private health insurance.

High-rise catastrophe
A softening in the housing market has shown up defects that were being hidden by demand. Debra Jopson on how housing became an asset and what that means for the past decade of construction.


The number of years earlier that the Darling River below Bourke was pushed into hydrological drought than would otherwise have been the case, due to the high extraction of water from the Barwon–Darling system by big irrigators under a sharing plan agreed by the NSW Nationals in 2012. The Australian reports that the sharing plan is the subject of an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

“The Committee recommends the Australian Government review the effects of government policy, including the adequacy of payments, on young people and single parent families in the 46th Parliament.”

Recommendation 14 of the “Living on the Edge” report by the Select Committee on Intergenerational Welfare Dependence, which Nine Publishing today revealed was rewritten after then social services minister Paul Fletcher requested the removal of an explicit call for an increase to Newstart.

The list

“‘I’ve got a deep voice and a twang. I need to get the voice matching the body,’ Tracy says, gesturing from her head down to her feet. Tracy is among five people seated around an assembly of industrial-grey tables in a small room bordered by whiteboards and one-way mirrors. They are about to begin a program at Melbourne’s La Trobe University Voice Clinic, in the hope of gaining a communication style that better aligns with the gender with which they identify.”

“It was late 1988. The occasion was a state banquet in honour of the visiting Chinese premier Li Peng ... Li batted away then prime minister Bob Hawke’s attempts at small talk with one-word replies until Hawke gave up and chatted with China scholar Geremie Barmé instead. Discreetly gesturing with his thumb in the direction of the Chinese premier, Hawke said he’d heard that ‘this bloke’ was locked in a power struggle with Zhao Ziyang.  Barmé confirmed this. Hawke asked him who he thought would win. Barmé’s eyes flicked in Li’s direction. ‘Aw, shit,’ Hawke replied.”

“As confusing messages emanate from the Morrison government on the issue of First Nations’ constitutional recognition, the leaders of the unprecedented dialogues that led to the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart are making a clear point in response: they weren’t addressing the government, they were addressing the people.”

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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