Monday, February 25, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

A convenient untruth
The Coalition does not deserve to be taken seriously on climate change


The less said about the Coalition’s climate policy announcement the better. Reverting to the Emissions Reduction Fund – a “proven failure”, according to eminent climate scientist Will Steffen – is the policy equivalent of farting in an elevator. The government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, installed after a coup by conservatives hell-bent on stopping even modest climate action, is simply hoping no one will observe that this is the same policy the previous Turnbull government axed because a) such a pay-the-polluter scheme is fundamentally stupid, and b) it is impossible to determine whether the emissions “reductions” funded by the program would have happened anyway. Tony Abbott’s climate policy didn’t work because it was never meant to. A policy that allows emissions to rise suits Abbott, who believes that global warming, to the extent it is happening, is “probably doing good”. As it was for the ERF, so it is for the rebadged Climate Solutions Fund. We should barely dignify it with a response.

More importantly, the government does not deserve to be taken seriously on any subject at all while it continues to flout acceptable norms of conduct. We were already scandal-fatigued on Friday, after an eviscerating week of federal politics that one hardened Canberra veteran evocatively compared to standing in a wind tunnel [$]. But wait, there was more to come over the weekend, with Liberal candidate Georgina Downer, presumptive heir to her father’s old seat of Mayo, presenting a giant taxpayer-funded cheque featuring her face and the Liberal Party logo. Local member Rebekha Sharkie was rightly outraged, and Labor yesterday sought an investigation by the auditor-general. Then followed a story in The West Australian claiming that Attorney-General Christian Porter received a free campaign bus from ex-Liberal MP Joe Francis, whom he just appointed to the board of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Porter told Perth radio this morning he had nothing to do with the bus contract.

Today, there is more questionable behaviour, with communications minister Mitch Fifield once more brazenly ignoring the recommendations of the independent panel created by law to ensure arm’s-length appointments are made to the ABC board. Fifield has ignored the panel’s advice every time, and is now going to Cabinet with a recommendation that Ita Buttrose be appointed as chair. The PM has all but confirmed the same today. Buttrose is a highly accomplished Australian with decades of media experience (though none in broadcast or digital media, as Crikey points out [$] today). But are we to accept at face value that this government, whose female members are literally deserting, and this prime minister – who, when asking former foreign minister Julie Bishop for advice for the first time did so to ask for Tina Arena’s phone number – suddenly cares about appointing women? That it cares so much, in fact, that a presumably professional and certainly expensive assessment of merit can be ignored? Merit is the reason the Liberals don’t have quotas for female MPs, remember, but merit must mean something else outside parliament.

Sure, those in government are dimly aware that they should temporarily appear as if they care about climate change, although their track record on the issue is so diabolical that The Guardian’s political editor wrote that “if the Coalition has had a climate epiphany, I’m Beyoncé”. But that does not mean we have to go along with it. The Sydney Morning Herald has suggested that there was a backbench push within the Liberal Party to take climate change seriously, but not one moderate MP was willing to be quoted in the report, even anonymously. Similarly, in New South Wales the Berejeklian government, after doing next-to-nothing about climate change for eight years, is suddenly throwing a thin light-green tint over itself, by announcing a token interest-free loan scheme to fund rooftop solar, and with energy minister Don Harwin posturing about his testy intergovernmental meeting with federal counterpart Angus Taylor. They don’t want to do anything; they just want the headlines. They don’t care. We know they don’t care. They know we know. It’s just that they won’t say it, and we’re not supposed to say it either.


“By 2025, if current trends continue, fewer than 10% of Australians will trust their politicians and political institutions. The result will be ineffective and illegitimate government, and declining social and economic well-being. Whoever wins the 2019 federal election must address this problem as a matter of urgency.” THE CONVERSATION

University of Canberra professor Mark Evans, kicking off a new series for The Conversation called “Advancing Australia”.


“It’s so predictable … It was a set-up, an attempted set-up. It’s another reason why mainstream media is failing, and why people are turning to YouTube and other channels.”THE AUSTRALIAN [$]

Jordan Peterson calls the ABC “tricky” for putting him on tonight’s Q&A panel with transgender woman Cate McGregor.

The Number

The number of consecutive Newspolls in which the Coalition has trailed Labor in two-party terms, including today’s 47–53 result. READ ON [$]

The Policy

“Labor will give bank victims a fairer chance to fight for their rights with a $640 million Banking Fairness Fund. The fund will raise $160m per year from Australia’s biggest banks to revolutionise the services available to Australians in financial difficulty – a key recommendation from the Royal Commission.” OPPOSITION LEADER BILL SHORTEN

The list

“It is no surprise that infrastructure will play a major part in this month’s NSW election, as it did in Victoria’s in November. Politicians reflexively grasp for big-ticket announceables at polling time. Yet despite record infrastructure spending, the Coalition government of NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has so far failed to reap the political rewards. That’s partly due to a spectacular series of own goals.” the monthly


“So the second of the Liberal Party’s two most senior women has now left its ranks. Julie Bishop, the only conservative woman to get within a bull’s roar of the Lodge (the ambitions of her namesake, Bronwyn, were never more than megalomaniac fantasy), has decided to retire her shoes – which many in the media seemed to think were her most important attribute.” the monthly


“Before the medivac bill passed last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his security ministers were advised they could lessen the risk it posed to border protection by insisting medical transferees from Manus Island and Nauru were sent back after treatment – but they chose not to.” The saturday paper

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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