Monday, October 11, 2021

Today by Rachel Withers

Come together
News Corp gets on the net-zero bandwagon

Composite image showing today’s front pages of The Courier Mail and the Herald Sun, both promoting net-zero emissions

Images via Twitter

Today represents a turning point for the nation in more ways than one. New South Wales took its long-awaited first step out of lockdown (apparently it is now fine to call it “freedom day”), and the state’s success is considered critical to the nation’s, not to mention the federal government’s. News Corp, meanwhile, began its recently foreshadowed pivot towards advocating for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 (or “Mission Zero” as it has been labelled), shamelessly pretending it had not spent years tearing down any and all efforts to achieve it – something Australian of the Year Grace Tame quickly dubbed “greenhouse gaslighting”. The prime minister was heralding both events as he exited his latest bout of quarantine this morning (he’s heading to Sydney before returning to Canberra for next week’s parliamentary sitting, and being much more open about his movements this time around). “Today is a day so many have been looking forward to,” he said of the NSW reopening, before turning to that other issue. “Addressing climate change is a challenge that we must do together,” he declared, in what The Australian described as a “rallying cry”. “We’ve got to come together on this issue. My government will come together on this issue. The country will come together on this issue and we will tackle this challenge.” Calls from Morrison and the Murdoch media for the nation to “come together” on something they have only recently come around to themselves are laughable, and it’s hard to trust the intentions of either when it comes to achieving net-zero emissions. How serious could News Corp really be about preventing widespread warming that, until recently, it didn’t seem to think existed?

The News Corp tabloids’ matching “Green and Gold” front pages – each spruiking how Australia could be “NUMBER ONE” in the new global economy – have prompted no small amount of questions, cynicism and concern from those seeking meaningful action on climate change. From The Daily Telegraph to the Herald Sun, The Courier Mail to Adelaide’s Advertiser, the company’s pages were today littered with reports about the economic opportunities of the climate revolution, with Australia suddenly portrayed as “the best-placed nation on earth to be the global winner in a net-zero world”. In an explainer on the campaign, the papers say that the issue has “bedevilled Australian governments on both sides of politics”, leading to “the downfall of at least two prime ministers”. And, in what could easily be perceived as a nod to its own outsized role in this saga, the network says it is time to put a stop to the division. “Today we are putting an end to all of that so we can put Australia on a path to a Net Zero future,” the editors wrote, before signing off: “Welcome aboard Mission Zero, the most important mission on Earth.” Welcome to reality, others might say.

The about-face from the Murdoch media comes hot on the heels of an announcement from the Business Council of Australia, which over the weekend called for more ambitious short-term emissions-reduction targets – something it says could boost economic activity by as much as $890 billion. But News Corp’s net-zero campaign has arrived one week earlier than originally planned: a Nine story last month reported it was due to begin on October 17, and would be timed to lead into the UN climate talks in Glasgow. In that report, a source revealed that the Morrison government has been privately briefed on the plans by News Corp management. It seems the campaign was needed a little sooner, what with Morrison still grappling with how to get agreement on the net-zero target from the extremist Nationals.

It’s not yet clear how far Morrison will be willing to go in order to seal the deal with the Nationals – though going by comments today from Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor about the ongoing future of coal and gas (“Net zero doesn’t mean zero emissions,” he said), the answer is “pretty far”. News Corp’s enthusiastic endorsement only throws further doubt over the entire net-zero project. It’s obvious from the coalminer-friendly front pages that Murdoch’s “Mission Zero” is aimed at a coal-friendly net-zero – which experts say would be a fraudulent one. There’s less and less hope that Morrison’s mission will be any better.

“We’re hiding the guards. We’ve been hiding them in safe houses. They are under direct threat … They’ve had the night letters, they’ve had the visits.”

Humanitarian advocate Kay Danes tells the Senate inquiry into Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan that guards who worked with Australia but were left behind are in mortal danger from the Taliban.

“It’s rare when a prime minister and a deputy prime minister, in basically an unscripted way, both have the same messages on virtually the same day.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce insists the government is serious about plans to regulate social media, and expects people to believe that he and Scott Morrison were just randomly on the same page.

‘I’ll be on the frontline and I might die’
Eighteen months into the pandemic, Australia has more case numbers than ever, and our doctors, nurses and other health professionals are reporting alarmingly high rates of exhaustion, burnout and mental health issues. Today, Dr Natasha Smallwood on the stress that healthcare workers are facing.


The percentage of the latest round of the Morrison government’s $300 million Building Better Regions Fund that went to Coalition-held or marginal seats, according to a seat-by-seat analysis.

“Under the proposed law, a person’s visa could be cancelled without them knowing why, or on what evidence the decision was based. Upon cancellation, visa holders would be forcibly removed from Australia, or, if they were stateless, detained indefinitely without charge or trial.”

Legislation being pursued by the federal government would install a “regime of alarming secrecy”, legal organisations and rights groups have warned, allowing Australia to use secret evidence to deport migrants.

The list

“Even before the lockouts and the lockdowns, the number of familiar faces on Sydney streets seemed to be in decline. Any city has a coterie of buskers and beggars, hawkers and preachers who become familiar and occasionally famous, the public-facing eccentrics who accumulate a local, almost parochial notoriety. Fifty years after her death, Bea Miles still enjoys name recognition, as the woman in a green tennis visor who recited Shakespeare on buses and harassed taxi drivers. She is recorded in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, which lists her occupation as ‘Bohemian rebel’.”

“Hydrogen Park South Australia – HyP SA for short – has become a favourite hangout for politicians of all stripes. Part of its appeal is the environmental value of non-fossil fuel energy generation, and part of it is the reflected kudos of the scientific and ­engineering achievement that is the plant itself – along with the fact that no Australian politician in 2021 can turn down an opportunity to be photographed wearing hi-vis.”

“Despite the efforts of dozens of defenders inside and outside the NSW government, who argue there is much more to Perrottet, talk of his deep Catholic conservatism has dominated discussion. In the public mind it already is the defining characteristic of his premiership. Far more likely, in the opinion of close political observers, and on the limited evidence of the past few days, it will prove to be less his socially conservative ideas than his reformist economic zeal that will come to define his tenure.” 

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Monthly Today.



The Monthly Today

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Images via ABC News

Morrison’s mandate

Barnaby Joyce acknowledges that a net-zero target is cabinet’s call. But what exactly is their mandate?

Image of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in Question Time today. Image via ABC News

Rush hour

The Nationals have had far more than four hours to figure out their position on net zero

Composite image of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (images via ABC News)

Border farce

So much for the national plan

Image of Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud, leader Barnaby Joyce and leader in the Senate Bridget McKenzie, June 21, 2021. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Image

Fear and showboating

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Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Images via ABC News

Morrison’s mandate

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