Australia records zeros, but still refuses to commit to the zero that matters most
The eastern side of the country is breathing a frosty sigh of relief, as all three of the states currently on high alert recorded zero locally acquired cases of COVID-19, meaning Australia has recorded its first “donut day” in a number of weeks. Concerns remain, however, over the infected Victorian couple who entered Queensland without a permit, with chief health officers in the north and south questioned over what happened. Victoria’s newly eased restrictions mean the federal government has withdrawn access to its COVID-19 disaster payments, but the Victorian Council of Social Service is calling for them to be extended, as ongoing restrictions leave many still unable to work. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has this afternoon flat-out refused that request, reminding everyone that it’s the state that has decided to leave restrictions on some sectors. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made no comment, because he is on his way to the United Kingdom for the G7 summit, where he is expected to come under pressure to commit to the other all-important zero: net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Morrison, who used a departing foreign policy speech on Wednesday to declare that it should be up to sovereign nations to set their own path on emissions, plans to use the summit to warn others against the use of carbon tariffs, a warning that is likely to gain zero traction in his talks with other leaders. Morrison’s signature stubbornness is now putting the nation’s jobs and exports at risk: a new Australia Institute report warns that by sticking his head in the sand over emissions-based tariffs – an idea growing in global popularity – he risks major damage to 43 Australian industries.
Morrison’s stubbornness knows no bounds, whether on climate targets, federal quarantine, international borders or detaining families seeking asylum. But he surely cannot expect his warnings against carbon tariffs to have any effect in Cornwall; his embarrassing bluster over Australia “meeting and beating” its current insufficient targets never does. The G7 summit’s chair, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has been calling for more ambitious pledges from attendees ahead of November’s climate summit in Glasgow, and even has an opinion piece in today’s Australian, calling for the G7 to commit to halving emissions by 2030. (Lucky for Morrison we’re not actually members of the G7, only guests…) Morrison will be using this month’s summit to push for a global alliance on China, but apparently such international cooperation doesn’t extend to climate. Morrison claims tariffs are “combative” protectionism, while railing against a measure that is simply about creating a level playing field. But the PM’s pointless obstinacy is about to do some serious damage. In the Australia Institute report, former government adviser and climate policy expert Frank Muller urges Morrison to shift course and join the “climate club”, noting that the carbon price trend is going to move beyond Europe, with Japan and the United States considering introducing them too. The health of Australia’s economy is at stake, he tells The New Daily: “You can put your head in the sand and say you don’t want anything to happen about climate change, or you can look ahead and say, ‘This is coming, we need to have a plan.’”
The cold snap on the east side of the country has delivered an infuriating reminder as to why Morrison is as pig-headed on the carbon price issue as he is. Nationals MPs including Matt Canavan and Barnaby Joyce are using the extreme weather conditions, which have so far taken two lives in Victoria, to question the existence of climate change. How long can Morrison go on appeasing the anti-climate conspiracy theorists in his parliamentary ranks, in the face of sustained pressure from the friends he wants to impress in Cornwall? It’s believed US President Joe Biden will pressure Morrison to move faster in their first ever face-to-face meeting this weekend, as will Johnson in trade deal discussions. Labor has copped a lot of flak lately for its internal divisions on coal and gas, but the splinters within the Coalition will surely have to come to a head before Glasgow – which likely means before the next election.
Unless of course the election comes before the Glasgow summit. Pundits are now predicting an election this year, given that waiting until 2022 involves the risk of further COVID-19 outbreaks and the economy faltering. Morrison will be hoping both this weekend’s summit and the coming election stay firmly focused on the topics of his choosing.
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The eastern side of the country is breathing a frosty sigh of relief, as all three of the states currently on high alert recorded zero locally acquired cases of COVID-19, meaning Australia has recorded its first “donut day” in a number of weeks. Concerns remain, however, over the infected Victorian couple who entered Queensland without a permit, with chief health officers in the north and south questioned over what happened. Victoria’s newly eased restrictions mean the federal government has withdrawn access to its COVID-19 disaster payments, but the Victorian Council of Social Service is calling for them...
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