Thursday, January 30, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Emissions elisions
The PM has no plan for real action on climate change

Prime Minister Scott Morrison © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

Despite everything that’s happened over summer – and is yet to happen, with Fires Near Me apps still pinging around the country – Prime Minister Scott Morrison is clearly not going to do anything substantial on climate of his own accord. That’s even clearer after his confounding, defensive and at times nonsensical appearance at the National Press Club yesterday. So he and Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor and the rest of the coal-huggers will have to be dragged to it by the crossbench and backbench, state and territory governments, business and civil society and even quiet Australians. And underlying the PM’s verbiage is a logical fallacy: it makes no sense to invest in adaptation to warming while simultaneously pursuing policies that accelerate warming. How do you adapt to an ever-worsening climate? Far from being an investment, as the prime minister would have us believe, doing both adaptation and exacerbation at once is completely unsustainable – a fool’s path to both environmental and economic ruin.

As public concern and anger over climate change hit peak levels earlier this month, and after stumbling from one fireground to another amid the disaster, the prime minister talked about how the government’s emissions-reduction policies might evolve. As The Monthly’s editor, Nick Feik, wrote, that bright idea lasted a matter of hours. All it took was for one cabinet minister to speak off the record to The Australian, warning [$] that a change in policy would “blow the place up”, and the PM snapped back into line. Soon enough, Morrison was telling Sky News Australia host Peta Credlin that hazard reduction was as important, if not more important, than emissions reduction.

So we get to yesterday’s speech, in the which the PM did not pivot on climate at all, as Crikey’s Bernard Keane writes [$] today, but instead promised a bunch of policies dressed up as practical climate action, which will make warming worse. This includes more burning and land-clearing, and opening up more unconventional gas fields – such as the Northern Territory’s onshore Beetaloo Basin field, subject to a potential gas reservation [$] policy, and from which fugitive emissions could prove a veritable carbon bomb. Going by its abysmal track record – abolishing an effective carbon price in favour of the wasteful pay-the-polluter fund whose supposed abatement has now gone up in smoke, along with a string of other emissions policies – we can only assume the Coalition is, as Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy writes, “choosing to fail” on climate. Let’s hope that NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean walks the talk when it comes to negotiating the first of the bilateral agreements Morrison hinted at yesterday.

Last week the Carbon Market Institute’s John Connor wrote a brilliant list of ways the prime minister could, if he was genuine about it, “evolve” his climate policy without opening up a partyroom brawl. The PM appears to be uninterested. Yesterday, in fact, he continued with his climate-warrior-speak, saying strangely that he would not sell out mining communities “and tell them they’re just collateral damage of a global movement”. In his topsy-turvy world, the squillion-dollar fossil-fuel industry is the victim of a powerful bunch of globalists, presumably taking instructions from a Swedish schoolgirl.

So Morrison and Taylor will have to be forced into real climate action – a way forward, perhaps, being member for Warringah Zali Steggall’s Climate Change Bill [$], to be introduced in March. Game on.  

“It’s important to recognise that we’ve got a group of vulnerable Australians who, through no fault of their own, are found at the epicentre of a significant outbreak … We feel that the repatriation to Christmas Island, to a place [that] has been previously the focus of populations under enormous mental and physical trauma and anguish, is not a really appropriate solution.”

The president of the Australian Medical Association calls on the federal government to find a more humane solution following the announcement that Australians evacuated from Wuhan would be quarantined at the remote immigration detention centre.

“They are misrepresenting a significant portion of the victims of violence and sexual violence – particularly domestic violence – who are male. I speak about the real picture of domestic violence. Batty and Hennessy clearly aren’t remotely interested in talking about situations where women are the perpetrators and men and their children are the victims of violent women. And that is the real cause of the outrage here, that I have been telling the truth about what’s happening.”

Bettina Arndt, who was this week recognised with an Order of Australia, attacks domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty and Victoria’s attorney-general, Jill Hennessy, who today called on the governor-general to revoke the award.

Exclusive: Red Cross staff speak out
The Red Cross has collected more than $115 million since Australia’s bushfire crisis began. But where is that money going? The organisation has been criticised for not getting money to victims quickly enough. Rick Morton on why current and former Red Cross staff are speaking out.


The amount per week by which ACOSS is calling for the Newstart payment to be raised. The payment is presently less than $40 a day.

“With businesses across the country benefiting from contestable, open access fibre, NBN Co has been exploring ways to maximise the benefits to enterprise customers and RSPs [Retail Service Providers]. This has included listening to industry feedback in terms of how we jointly engage with customers moving forward. In response to this feedback, NBN Co will evolve its enterprise contracting model so that RSPs will in all cases have the direct contractual relationship with enterprise customers.”

The supposedly wholesale-only NBN Co announces that its policy of competing with broadband retailers for business customers has evolved, in what The Australian calls [$] a major backdown after an industry outcry.

The list

“As much as I would like to, I cannot at the moment go into detail about this shooting … The coronial and criminal investigation is still in its infancy and will likely take years to unfold. What I can say is that very little, if anything at all, seems to have been learnt by police or government agencies from what happened on Palm Island. Leaving aside the utter awfulness of still another fatal police shooting of an Indigenous person, it’s the way in which some of these agencies, as well as some other non-Indigenous people, have responded that already leaves me with a bitter taste.”

“Australia’s bushfire catastrophe has burned a giant hole in the government’s strategy to use stored carbon and shown the folly of claiming that tree-planting programs can offset rises in fossil fuel emissions … The fires have highlighted the extreme risk in thinking we can count on carbon storage in trees, other vegetation and soil while fossil fuel emissions continue to rise."

“We might think conservatives would see climate catastrophe as a threat to order and reason, not to mention self-interest. Not the modern strain. As spiritual descendants of landed classes and traditions of noblesse oblige, the desecration of the natural environment, the degeneration of our river systems, the shrinking of country towns unto death, the loss of both beauty and function in the landscape, and forms of intensive farming that threaten the land’s sustainability – all these should be a plague upon their souls. Not the present crew.”

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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