Thursday, November 28, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Come clean
The guilty party doesn’t get to change the subject

© Lukas Coch / AAP Image

Contrary to what the Coalition would have you believe, it’s the government itself that has taken parliament into the gutter, not the Opposition. It’s the hapless minister for energy and emissions reduction, Angus Taylor, who sought to score a cheap political hit on Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, making use of a doctored official document that is now being investigated by NSW Police. It’s Taylor who keeps the scandal going by refusing to release the emails and other information that would show exactly where the doctored document came from. It’s the prime minister, Scott Morrison, who made an inappropriate phone call to the NSW Police commissioner. And it’s the prime minister who, in his rush to smear former prime minister Julia Gillard, got his facts wrong. Of course the government, stumbling from one error to the next, wants to change the subject ASAP. But accountability doesn’t work like that.

As commentators from Nine Media’s David Crowe to The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan [$] wrote in quietly damning columns this morning, the prime minister has shown a sorry lack of judgement by digging in so hard over Taylor. Morrison was “totally exposed”, wrote Crowe, and “under pressure and making mistakes”, according to Shanahan.

Things got worse this afternoon, when the PM accused Labor of moving to gag the member for Herbert, Phillip Thompson, who served in Afghanistan, when he was talking about veteran suicides in a debate about the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill. Again and again, Morrison accused Albanese of “silencing a veteran of this country”. Labor countered that Thompson had actually been speaking about the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund and attacking the Palaszczuk government, and accused the PM of misleading the house again by claiming Labor had voted against the bill, when it didn’t. Question Time descended into more divisions as the government gagged debate, as it has done more than 20 times this week.

Perhaps there will be some accountability and perhaps not. What is most sinister about this debacle is the reason the Morrison government is digging in so deep behind Angus Taylor: he is their spear-carrier in the endless culture war they insist on waging over climate change, instead of doing the responsible thing and taking the kind of action that scientists and the UN this week have warned is urgently needed.

Taylor today cited ABS figures showing that electricity prices had fallen for the last three quarters, for the first time ever. With his record of misquoting figures, that can’t be taken at face value. Taylor appears to believe that the “outrageous” smear against him is designed to distract from the important work he is doing: undermining climate action by subsidising fossil-fuel investment that would never occur otherwise, and restricting renewables wherever possible and thereby fanning the flames of climate change. 

Taylor is the champion of the climate deniers inside the Coalition. They will defend their guy forever and, as former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull reminded us in an interview with Guardian Australia last weekend, their tactics are akin to terrorism: if they don’t get their way, they will threaten to blow up the government. They have done it before and would do it again. So, if Labor allows it, the person who will be sent to represent Australia at global climate negotiations, amid an existential threat to the planet, is a hardline scandal-prone coal-hugger, who is the subject of a criminal investigation. It is vandalism, pure and simple.

“As well as undermining our life-support system, biosphere tipping points can trigger abrupt carbon release back to the atmosphere. This can amplify climate change and reduce remaining emission budgets … [T]he evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute … The stability and resilience of our planet is in peril. International action – not just words – must reflect this.”

Seven leading climate scientists, including Will Steffen from the ANU, warn that Earth may already have reached tipping points beyond which global warming becomes uncontrollable.

“I think Jacqui can support the bill.”

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton tells 2GB’s Ray Hadley that he hopes independent senator Jacqui Lambie will support the repeal of medevac, which she has reportedly made conditional on acceptance of a resettlement option in a third country, such as New Zealand.

Fascism and troll culture
According to author Jeff Sparrow, a new fascism is emerging from the internet – one that is rooted in meme culture, but that harnesses mass shootings as a political tool. This is the story of how the Christchurch massacre came to represent a new frontier in the far right.

The compensation that Galarrwuy Yunupingu is seeking in Commonwealth compensation, on behalf of the Gumatj people of Arnhem Land, for cultural loss as a result of the Gove bauxite mine in the Northern Territory.

“The Morrison Government is strengthening Australia’s foreign bribery laws to help crackdown on corporations and employees that improperly influence foreign officials. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Corporate Crime) Bill 2019, to be tabled in the Senate today, brings Australia into line with many of our major trading partners such as the United States and Britain … Most significantly, the Bill creates a new offence for corporations of failing to prevent foreign bribery, carrying a maximum penalty of either $21 million, 10 per cent of annual turnover, or three times the benefit gained – whichever is greatest.”

The list

“After only two days as treasurer, Joe Hockey was utterly unprepared for his meeting with China’s finance minister … Lou Jiwei strode in, sat down opposite Hockey and blithely lit a cigarette. ‘So,’ Lou opened by saying, ‘why won’t you let me buy Rio Tinto?’ … ‘That’s fine,’ Hockey parried once he’d recovered from his surprise. ‘As long as you’ll let Qantas buy China Southern,’ a state-owned airline, the biggest in Asia. Lou didn’t like that idea. He tried another angle.”

“In writing, to reach the depths of badness, it isn’t enough to be banal. One must strive for lower things. Almost five years have gone by since I cut out from a British newspaper the article containing the following passage, and I think I am finally ready to examine the subtleties of its perfection. But first, let the reader judge its initial impact…”

“A marine physicist who has studied the effects of sediment on the reef, Peter Ridd confidently positions himself in direct opposition to the findings of hundreds of his peers. He tells the room that climate change, ‘whether it is caused by burning coal or is natural’, will benefit the Great Barrier Reef. Everything from coalmine dust, to pesticides, to starfish plagues, he says, poses little to no threat.”

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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