The Politics    Monday, October 18, 2021

Rush hour

By Rachel Withers

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

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

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

Parliament has resumed and all eyes are on the Nationals, who yesterday failed to come to a consensus on a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, despite tens of billions of dollars in “regional incentives” being on the table. Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed to a Liberal partyroom meeting that the government would not be increasing its 2030 target of 26 to 28 per cent above 2005 levels, after Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce all but ruled it out, but Morrison played up the national security imperative for the 2050 target. The calls are also coming from inside the house for the Nats: former deputy PM John Anderson has urged his party to face the music on net zero, warning that the “cattle are out of the yard”, while National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson has penned an op-ed reiterating support for a “fair and measured” transition, noting that farmers are on the front line. In a series of interviews this morning, however, Joyce made clear that the Nationals would not be “rushed”, and were going to take their deal-sweetening time. The party, Joyce said, wasn’t going to be “forced into a corner”, warning the Liberals against trying to ram through a plan. On RN Breakfast, Joyce implied that the delay – widely seen as an effort to extract more cash – was prudent, with the Nationals having had only “four hours” to review the plan on Sunday. Never mind the 2963 days they’ve had in government.

Those 3000-odd days – or eight years – were what Labor was keen to hammer today, whether in interviews, tweets or Question Time. Leader Anthony Albanese and climate spokesperson Chris Bowen held a press conference to criticise the government for leaving this task until just two weeks out from the UN climate summit in Glasgow, and for having had “21 climate policies in eight years” (“eight years and four hours”, Albanese quipped, in response to Joyce’s complaints). As MP Stephen Jones, himself a regional MP, put it, “It’s time for the Nationals to piss or get off the pot.” Bowen also played up the eight years on RN Breakfast, appearing just after Joyce, though he was unable to say when Labor would be laying out its own policy, having dumped its 2019 election pledge of a 45 per cent emissions-reduction target by 2030 – something now considered a global norm and backed by the Business Council of Australia.

Labor was ready to capitalise on the widening divisions within the Coalition, arguing that the 2050 target needs to be legislated to be taken seriously. That, however, is something the prime minister is loath to do, lest he be undermined by Nationals crossing the floor. (Morrison reportedly told his Liberal party room it would be a nationally determined contribution, which is slightly more concrete than a pledge but does not require a vote.) In Question Time, Labor asked why the government was allowing itself to be held hostage by the Nationals, and why its climate policy was being decided without the PM in the room. (Morrison’s non-answer revolved around a “strong Coalition” that was “working together”.) Attempts to turn allegations of division back on Labor by bringing up the outgoing “member for Hunter” (friend of coal Joel Fitzgibbon) were somewhat undermined by the fact that Fitzgibbon this morning dared the PM to bring a motion for net zero to the floor, arguing it would pass easily with Opposition support.

Morrison, predictably, felt little shame over his own about-turn on climate, boasting that the government had always excelled at “meeting and beating” its targets (it hasn’t), and would do so again (though if it’s so confident of beating the current targets, why not increase them?). A similarly ludicrous climate debate was taking place in the Senate, where new president Slade Brockman rejected Labor’s attempts to call out Bridget McKenzie on relevance, in a heated exchange with Penny Wong. (I’ll bet the Opposition regretted, in that moment at least, not having backed the Greens’ attempt to circumvent the traditional process and put up Senator Mehreen Faruqi for president.) Eventually Brockman did side with Labor on a later point of order, after McKenzie turned a question about Matt Canavan’s views on net zero into an opportunity to accuse the Opposition of having no plan or concern for regional jobs.

Independent MP Zali Steggall, for her part, is fed up with waiting for the Nationals to be ready. The member for Warringah has today reintroduced the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2021, including a net zero by 2050 target as well as a 60 per cent target for 2030, and is calling for a conscience vote. Not that it would likely get very far. Despite a number of “moderate” Liberals claiming to be firmly behind net zero and stronger action on climate change, every single one of them, she noted, voted against Labor’s (wholly unsurprising) attempts to suspend standing orders to vote on net zero by 2050. “For stunts, leave is not granted,” said leader of the house Peter Dutton, when asked by the Speaker. Only stunts pulled by the Nationals, it seems, will be indulged.

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers


“We have seen a great investment from previous plans go into putting more police into communities … That’s not the solution that’s needed, because of the fear and the lack of trust of white authorities.”

Djirra chief executive Antoinette Braybrook says police are not the answer, as an open letter to the federal government calls for a “truly self-determined” plan to prevent violence against Indigenous women.

“I was in shock; I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t have enough detail. I hadn’t read what was happening. I can’t remember what I thought at that time.”

ICAC’s inquiry into former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has kicked off, with a portion of her private hearing, conducted last September, played aloud. Asked repeatedly whether she had ever “suspected” former boyfriend Daryl Maguire of engaging in misconduct, Berejiklian said she couldn’t be sure, before eventually saying no.

A temporary stay in a ‘land of fairytales’
When Afghanistan fell back under Taliban control earlier this year, the Australian government announced it would evacuate more than 4000 people. But despite being promised safety here, some are concerned they could be sent back to the country they fled.

The one-off payment that women attempting to leave violent relationships will have access to from Tuesday, under a new trial scheme.

“The father of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme says a similar system should be put in place to help small and medium-sized businesses emerge from the pandemic, arguing it will do far better than the federal government’s existing loan guarantee program.”

Bruce Chapman, who designed the HECS system, says the business loan scheme should be replaced by an income-contingent program.

The list

“It is with this third season that Strong’s performance as Kendall Roy truly situates itself among the all-time greats, in conversation with James Gandolfini, Jon Hamm and Michael K. Williams. Kendall is full of deep-seated contradictions, and yet Strong somehow never fails to make them make sense  It may be impossible to fix a fundamentally broken system from within. And it may be impossible to fix a family whose history is tainted by a legacy of guilt, hurt and pity. But when, like Kendall Roy, one does not see any other way out, it is painfully human to try.”

“Space commerce boosters often describe space as the new Wild West, enthusiastically comparing the Moon boom to gold rushes of times past, with little awareness that this is not the most inspiring analogy for those who are aware of the social and environmental harm – and economic inequalities – caused by resource grabs on Earth. The trouble is, when it comes to mining the Moon, the pro-mining camp likes to claim that they are the ones who will save the Earth.”

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been infected with COVID-19 at a rate between almost two and three times higher than that of non-Indigenous Australians, according to confidential briefing papers from the federal government. The analysis of vaccination and infection rates, provided to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 this week, is marked ‘in confidence: not for further distribution’ and provides the clearest picture yet about critical failures across multiple levels of government.” 

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.

@rachelrwithers

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