The Politics    Thursday, October 28, 2021

Taking credit?

By Rachel Withers

Composite image of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson (image via Sky News) and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce (image via ABC News)

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson (image via Sky News) and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce (image via ABC News)

Unjustified policies and a lack of transparency are making it all too easy for hustlers to claim credit

It’s been a predictably messy final day of the parliamentary sitting week, as Scott Morrison prepares to jet off to Rome for the G20, before heading on to Glasgow for COP26 with his lacklustre “plan” to achieve net zero by 2050. The PM held a quick press conference this morning, hitting all his favourite talking points: Australians “taking their lives back” from COVID-19, the government’s crackdown on social media giants (which he intends to raise at the G20) and, of course, doing things the “Australian way” (otherwise known as waiting for technology to sort it out for you). Morrison, it’s been reported, intends to take his improved 2030 emissions projections to the UN talks in a “formal” proposal that still does not increase his pledge, “jazzing up” the target in the hope of saving a little face. That elusive modelling, meanwhile, may still be a work in progress, with a senior official from the Department of Industry telling Senate estimates that the modelling is still being written up, and was still being worked on when the so-called plan went to cabinet. Speaker Tony Smith has announced that he will chair his last sitting on Monday, November 22, to allow for a new speaker to be elected before his planned retirement at the next election. The outgoing member for Casey says he intends to finish his career as a backbencher, promising (pointedly) that he won’t ask questions to ministers unrelated to his constituents, raise points of order or interject. Much of the day, meanwhile, has been dominated by political gamesmanship over the government’s highly questionable voter ID laws, and its decision to not join a US-led push to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, first reported in The Australian this morning. In both cases, right-wing figures have sought to claim credit, with government leaders struggling to correct the record. That’s the price, one supposes, of trying to keep so much a secret.

Soon-to-be acting PM Barnaby Joyce was quick out of the blocks this morning, claiming credit for the government’s decision not to join the Global Methane Pledge. (Methane accounts for about half of the net rise in global temperature since the pre-industrial era; Meat and Livestock Australia has already pledged to try to be carbon neutral by 2030 – not that such a commitment ever seems to matter in Canberra.) In his first press conference since the Coalition’s “plan” was announced, Joyce insisted that the Nationals had ensured that methane targets were dumped from it, and that agriculture was to be carved out of Australia’s emissions-reduction targets altogether. “The Nats were absolutely implicit that no deal would go forward that we would support unless it was absolutely categorically ruled out, and we got that,” Joyce said.

Liberals have hit back on multiple fronts. Regional Liberals, reports Sky News Australia’s Trudy McIntosh, have “emphatically rejected” the idea that short-term methane targets were ever part of Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s plan. (Taylor is clearly not in favour of cuts to methane, having this morning penned a scaremongering op-ed on the subject.) Government leaders, meanwhile, have rejected the larger claim that agriculture has been carved out of the overall plan. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News that while they didn’t want to impose any “short-term burden” on farmers, the “plan” very much included ambition to “reduce methane emissions in the future and potentially to reduce them by up to 80 per cent”. Joyce’s efforts to claim a win on methane may have complicated Taylor’s ridiculous efforts to run a methane scare campaign, implying Labor wants to cull cows, with Birmingham’s comments clarifying that cuts to methane are absolutely on the cards.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, meanwhile, is eager to take credit for the government’s bizarre, culture war-esque push to require Australian voters to present ID before casting a ballot – which was introduced in the House of Representatives today to the horror of Labor and the Greens. Hanson has today told Guardian Australia that she made voter identification a condition for her support on another electoral bill, adding that she’d “had a gutful” of the government taking credit for her ideas. “I give the Liberal Party a lot of suggestions on their legislation, which they then implement – it wouldn’t be happening without me,” she said. In Senate estimates on Tuesday, the government denied that the policy was the result of a deal with the far right. But Hanson’s involvement checks out, with many wondering where the renewed momentum for the idea – a pet project of the US right aimed at disenfranchising minorities – came from (instances of voters submitting more than one vote are “vanishingly small”, according to electoral commissioner Tom Rogers). Efforts by Labor today to delay debate on the bill until 2023 did not succeed, nor did attempts to suspend standing orders for a motion accusing the government of seeking to “undermine our strong democracy and deny Australians their basic democratic rights”.

The Liberal Party, of course, has its reasons for wanting voter ID laws, and for not wanting to sign up to the Global Methane Pledge (mostly notably, its hopes for a “gas-fired recovery”). But the way that it chooses to operate, including secret dealings with the Nationals and One Nation, leaves it open to claims that it is beholden to those to the right of it – that government policy is being decided by the likes of Pauline Hanson and Barnaby Joyce. Hanson and Joyce were both eager to talk up their own importance today, although it’s pretty clear Joyce didn’t actually secure the methane protection (things are less clear when it comes to Hanson). But the government’s unjustified policies and its lack of transparency are making it all too easy to muddy the waters.

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers


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The list

“Created by Coogan and producer Armando Iannucci (In the Loop, Veep), Partridge has evolved into an iconic comic presence through a succession of television shows and specials. A self-obsessed and mistake-prone host, permanently on the precipice of self-perpetuated failure, Partridge is a lickspittle Tory who reveres the British royal family, ABBA and Margaret Thatcher. His failings range from the petty to the nightmarish – the 1995 chat-show parody Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge ended with Partridge accidentally killing a guest. It is hilarious.”

“Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier was a very busy man. The French mathematician and physicist was, at various times, a baron, imprisoned for his political activities in the French Revolution, and a scientific adviser to Napoleon during his Egypt campaign. Best remembered today for his eponymous mathematical and physical theorems about vibrations and heat transfer, Fourier also found time to play a pivotal role in our understanding of the Earth’s climate.”

“Last month the High Court, in a five-two judgement in Fairfax v Dylan Voller, told us that news organisations are liable for defamatory comments posted by readers on their Facebook pages. This is so even if the comments had not been approved, may well have been irrelevant to the news item, indeed may not have been prompted by the media story at all … Needless to say, it was a judgement conceived before the internet and social media and with very little relevance to either.” 

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.

@rachelrwithers

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