Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Today by Rachel Withers

Three billboards outside Glasgow, Scotland
Morrison will be shamed whether he goes to the Glasgow climate conference or not

Image of a satirical billboard reading “Australia: net zero by 2300!”. Image via the Truthful Billboard Project

Image via the Truthful Billboard Project

Shame rarely seems to be the most effective tool against Scott Morrison and the federal government, but many are nonetheless giving it a red-hot go regarding the upcoming Glasgow climate change talks. Following reports that the prime minister may not attend November’s UN COP26 climate summit – considered the most significant since the signing of the Paris Agreement – many have attempted to embarrass Morrison into confirming his attendance. Former foreign minister Bob Carr today tweeted that for the national leader to stay home, while claiming Australia to be a serious middle power, would send a message that we were nothing but a “feisty little deputy dawg”, while others noted that Morrison had had previously made time for Hawaii and family history trips. Former Greens senator Scott Ludlam went with the short and sweet “go to Glasgow, you massive coward”. The global chastening has also begun, with major outlets in both the US and the UK quick to report on Morrison’s potential “snub”. The BBC characterised the summit as a “burden” to Morrison, while CNN told readers that Australia was becoming “increasingly isolated” on climate, with both mastheads pointing to our lagging emission-reduction targets. But the greatest humiliation is yet to come, and it is not dependent on whether Morrison is there on the ground in Glasgow. Comedian and host of A Rational Fear Dan Ilic is planning to erect three “truthful billboards” around the host city during COP26, with satirical messages highlighting Australia’s abysmal climate record. Ilic has already crowdfunded tens of thousands of dollars for his efforts, far above his initial target, prompting plans for a projection on the side of the events centre where the summit is being held. If Morrison’s absence was already expected to stand out at the conference, this will surely make it the talk of the town.

Morrison’s attendance at Glasgow is widely expected to be dependent on whether or not he can get the target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 approved by his government. (The PM is seemingly only willing to go if he has “good news” to share, even if it’s the absolute bare minimum.) But it’s not looking especially promising: the Nationals yesterday delayed a partyroom debate on the matter until they can have an in-person meeting – something not due until October 17 – while promising they weren’t going to be “pushovers” on the target.

The most anti-zero Nats have continued making their concerns public through the sort of “inner city” slurs that are normally reserved for those latte-sipping greenies but are now directed at their more moderate Liberal partners. Nationals frontbencher Bridget McKenzie (who is also the minister for the management of emergencies, which are set to become alarmingly frequent under a warming climate) has penned an op-ed in the AFR, noting that it’s easy being green in Kooyong or Wentworth, when “there would be next to zero real impact on the way of life of their affluent constituents”.

Liberal MPs attempted to downplay the “city-country divide”, including Environment Minister Sussan Ley, North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman, and the member for the aforementioned Wentworth, Dave Sharma, noting that solving climate change was in all Australians’ interests. But others among their “inner city” colleagues have been less conciliatory, with Liberal MP Jason Falinski publicly rebuking Nationals senator Matt Canavan for his latest fact-devoid tweet, misrepresenting a UK story on the impact of Brexit and the pandemic as being about carbon emissions. “Matt,” Falinski tweeted. “It’s a free article.” As if this might encourage Canavan to actually read it. (Guardian Australia has put together an excellent summary of the UK energy crisis that Canavan and his leader have attempted to pin on net zero, for those interested.)

While it’s clear the Coalition is deeply divided, it’s not just Nats versus Libs on this one. Despite the prime minister’s efforts to keep backbenchers from sharing their position on net zero (the government’s chief whip reportedly sent out a message on Monday asking colleagues not to respond to journalists ringing around), The Australian has managed to paint a picture of the split. Out of 68 Coalition backbenchers, 12 have publicly thrown their support ­behind net-zero emissions by 2050, with another nine open to it. But among the six MPs outright opposed, three are members of the Liberal Party: Garth Hamilton, Gerard Rennick and Eric Abetz. The remaining 41 Coalition backbenchers are undecided or won’t say. No wonder the latest Guardian Essential Poll gives Labor a 13-point lead over the Coalition on voter trust to manage the climate crisis.

Shame may have little effect on the Coalition, but its electoral prospects certainly do. The Liberal Party is said to be rather alarmed by Climate 200’s $1.4 million election war chest, which will be used to target inner city Liberal seats, and Liberal Party federal director Andrew Hirst is now calling for contributions from members to the party’s own “fighting fund”. Ilic’s Glasgow billboards may not be able to shame the PM into action, or even into attending, but the signage he intends to put up around Armadale, Cronulla, Goulburn and Kooyong with his leftover funds just might.

“Does that mean that Annabel Crabb’s ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ could potentially be covered?”

Law Council of Australia president Dr Jacoba Brasch criticises government attempts to exempt national cabinet from scrutiny, suggesting it may set a precedent by which any “cabinet” could be kept confidential.

“We definitely focused them on residential aged care … but we continued to provide access to residential disability.”

Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy denies “deprioritising” vaccine providers from disability care, after the disability royal commission yesterday slammed the government’s handling.

Inside the COVID-19 outbreak in our prisons
As a COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread throughout the NSW prison system, family members of those inside Parklea correctional centre are now speaking out about their concerns over the level of care and treatment that COVID-positive patients are receiving.


The percentage of respondents who believe Australia was correct to pursue the nuclear submarine deal with the US and the UK – though 55 per cent said the arrangement would further inflame tensions with China.

“Opposition NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten has called for independent oversight of vulnerable National Disability Insurance Scheme participants living in poorly regulated accommodation in what he says is a ‘wild west’ part of the industry.”

Bill Shorten, who as disability minister helped design the NDIS, has called for a national community visitor scheme, modelled on Victoria’s, following reports of poor conditions and a lack of safeguards.

The list

“Biden says he has withdrawn from Afghanistan and forsworn further interventions so that America can focus on all these challenges at home and abroad. His wants to radically reform and rebuild America, and at the same time confront and contain China. It is an extraordinarily ambitious agenda, and there is no guarantee he will succeed in either goal, let alone both. Australia has a huge stake in the outcome, because we have bet our future on America’s ability to face China down and reassert its leadership in Asia.”

“Even when compared to Rio’s tactics, FMG’s conduct would become more extreme and aggressive than what has gone on else­where in the iron ore industry – and quite possibly the entire mining industry in this country. In media interviews and comments to share­holders, Forrest disparaged the benefits of royalty payments to traditional owners, glossing over the fact that this view also saved the company a great deal of money.”

“The Australian healthcare system is held in high regard internationally, scoring well on access, equity and outcomes. Although no system is perfect, until now there has been a general assumption that if you need care in Australia, particularly emergency care, you will get it. So it is shocking to read that intensive care beds are full, that there is trouble recruiting the highly skilled doctors and nurses needed to work in intensive care units, COVID-19 medical wards and emergency departments, and that paramedics are at breaking point. How has it come to this?” 

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Monthly Today.



The Monthly Today

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

The Nationals are worried about a net-zero backlash of their own making

Composite image of Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie (via ABC News) and News Corp presenter Andrew Bolt (via Sky News)

The little guys

A vocal minority that has for so long controlled the climate debate is now painting itself as marginalised

Image of federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne, July 30, 2019. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

A tale of two commissions

Support for anti-corruption initiatives shouldn’t rest on which side of politics is under investigation

From the front page

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 a tampon and a sanitary pad viewed from above

A bloody shame: Paid period leave should be law

Australia’s workplace laws must better accommodate the reproductive body

Image of Gladys Berejiklian appearing before an ICAC hearing in October 2020. Image via ABC News

The cult of Gladys Berejiklian

What explains the hero-worship of the former NSW premier?

Cover image of ‘Bodies of Light’

‘Bodies of Light’ by Jennifer Down

The Australian author’s latest novel, dissecting trauma, fails to realise its epic ambitions