On climate, the lessons for Labor are far from clear
After a thumping win on Saturday, Annastacia Palaszczuk cements her place in history as a Labor legend: almost certain to become the party’s longest-serving Queensland premier, and the country’s first female leader to win three elections running. Not only will the result burnish her legacy of reform, by ushering in fixed four-year terms and a conscience vote on voluntary assisted dying, but it delivered a devastating blow to the LNP – which could even lead to a demerger – and it crushed One Nation, which is increasingly a one-woman band. Yet it was done in a relatively clean campaign, without resorting to smear tactics or disinformation. As Premier Palaszczuk said in her victory speech, in which she acknowledged Opposition leader Deb Frecklington, it was the first time two women have gone head to head, and was a “much more respectful debate than we have seen in times gone past”. Contrary to what she said on the night, Frecklington has declared today that there will be a spill of the LNP leadership and has ruled out running – although she will remain an MP. “Whoever the new leader of the LNP is will have my full support and my full loyalty, and I will assist them in any way possible to help this party move forward.”
ALP state president John Battams told ABC Radio that planning for the campaign began on May 19, the day after the federal election handed the party a drubbing in regional Queensland: “We went out there, and we sold our message, which was about unity, which was about infrastructure in the regions, and it was about supporting the resources industry. We knew that if the lies that were told in the federal election weren’t dispelled by the state election, we couldn’t possibly win.”
Labor was able to get its primary vote back up to 40 per cent in the regions. Without using the c-word (coal), Battams went on to say, “The lesson is, you’ve got to show you value all of our industries, and particularly in central and northern Queensland, our resources industry is most important.”
Battams rejected the idea that the rise in the Greens vote to 9 per cent statewide – with Amy McMahon beating Jackie Trad in South Brisbane in her second attempt, to become only the party’s second state MP – meant that the electorate had rejected Labor’s climate policies. He stood by Labor’s environmental track record in Queensland – citing restrictions on land-clearing and support for a “renewable revolution” via a $500 million fund, announced in September. He did not mention the state government’s approval of the controversial Adani thermal coalmine, to open up the Galilee Basin.
On the right – including The Australian’s conservative columnist Nick Cater, or Labor’s federal resources spokesperson Joel Fitzgibbon (who last week secured an apparent “go-slow” on the Opposition’s climate policy federally) – there is crowing about the Queensland result and an attempt to argue that Labor should lower its ambition on climate change and embrace coal and gas. “She [Palaszczuk] put the Labor back into the Labor Party,” Fitzgibbon said today.
It’s a fallacy, of course – there are more future jobs in renewables than there will ever be in fossil fuels. In a piece of unfortunate timing for those who want to use the Queensland election as a pointer on national climate policy, today a new Access Economics report estimated the economic consequences of 3 degrees of warming by 2070 – which is where we’re headed – would include almost 880,000 fewer jobs and a $3.4 billion annual hit to GDP. Queensland would be worst off, with a 14 per cent reduction in state product, and a 7 per cent hit to employment by 2070. By contrast, decisive action to limit emissions to net zero by 2050 could add $680 billion (in present-value terms) to national GDP, growing the economy by 2.6 per cent and adding more than 250,000 jobs than would otherwise be the case.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, in the Northern Territory today, continues his excruciating balancing act and was circumspect about fossil fuels in an interview, saying gas would “play a role and continue to do so”, while talking up the prospect of the massive Sun Cable project to export solar power from Tennant Creek to Singapore, and repeating that he wanted Australia to be a renewable-energy superpower.
Hopefully, Labor will take the Queensland result as a sign that it can afford to be more ambitious on climate, not less.
“Surprise, surprise – the Murdoch personal smear efforts continue. Here’s the latest effort: they want to know what meetings I may have had with… wait for it… Hunter Biden! Of course, this’d have nothing to do with the #MurdochRoyalCommission petition.”
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“Albanese employs a rope-a-dope strategy: hanging back, feinting, weaving and only sometimes throwing a counterpunch. On a good day (and so far, those have been scarce), this looks sporting and efficient. On a bad day, it looks as though he fought the Tories, and the Tories won.”
“Last week, as Scott Morrison’s outrage slid seamlessly from Christine Holgate’s Cartier watches to Qatar’s intrusive body searches, it became clear the prime minister may have been grateful for those distractions, for he had also received some seriously bad news. And the worst of it was that most of us regarded it as good news, because it showed unambiguously that, as Morrison goes on dithering, the world around him is shifting: action on climate change is ramping up on several fronts, and Australia’s inaction is becoming starker by the day.”
“At first glance, there was nothing especially remarkable about the decision handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday, which rejected attempts to provide a Covid-19 buffer for the tallying of votes in the state of Wisconsin … But there is nothing ordinary about this Supreme Court, this election, or the powerful forces that seek to shape it to their ends.”
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 Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.
After a thumping win on Saturday, Annastacia Palaszczuk cements her place in history as a Labor legend: almost certain to become the party’s longest-serving Queensland premier, and the country’s first female leader to win three elections running. Not only will the result burnish her legacy of reform, by ushering in fixed four-year terms and a conscience vote on voluntary assisted dying, but it delivered a devastating blow to the LNP – which could even lead to a demerger – and it crushed One Nation, which is increasingly a one-woman band. Yet it was done in a relatively clean campaign, without resorting to smear tactics or disinformation. As Premier Palaszczuk said in her victory ...
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