The canary is dying. No coal export rally 10 Dec 2013. Takver. flickr cc.

John Menadue

The government has thrown in its lot with climate sceptics, the loony right, which includes the Murdoch media and the coal miners.

We have a government with no policy on climate change at all. The responses by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Ministers for the Environment and Energy to the latest IPCC report, are a disgrace.

The government puts obstacles in the way of renewable energy when all the expert advice and information from around the world tells us that renewables with storage are the best and cheapest way not only to reduce power costs, but also to cut carbon emissions drastically. Clean energy is now the cheapest energy.

Renewables are forecast to halve wholesale energy prices in the next four years. That is dramatic. But the government wants to curb renewables in favour of coal. It is crazy stuff.

Scott Morrison tells us that we are not bound by the IPCC’s dire warnings and recommendations. In Donald Trump style with fake news he then says that we will make our Paris commitments in a canter when it is clear we will not. He misleads us by talking about per capita emission reductions due to population increase when it is total emissions that count. He talks about electricity emission reductions when again it is all our emissions that count including vehicles and agriculture.

Both coalition parties have got us into this mess

The Coalition and the miners

First the Nationals.

Increasingly the leaders of the National Party see their future with miners and not farmers With declining membership and with expensive elections to fund, the National Party is increasingly developing close ties with the mining industry at the expense of their traditional farmer constituency

The Federal President of the National Party, Larry Anthony, is a lobbyist for controversial coal mining company Shenhua Watermark that sought to build a $1.7b open cut mine on the Liverpool Plains. Santos and Delta Electricity are also clients of his lobbying firm SAS Consulting Group.

Former Deputy Premier and National leader, John Anderson, was a Chairman of the coal seam gas front-runner, Eastern Star, which was bought out by Santos in 2011. Former National MP and Energy Minister, Garry West, is Chair of the BHP Coroona project, adjacent to Shenhua. Former Deputy Premier, Mark Vaille, and National Leader is Chairman of Whitehaven Coal. Former NSW Deputy Premier, Ian Armstrong, is the Chair of the Shenhua Community Consultation Committee.

And the pattern continues. Barnaby Joyce called on the NSW government to expedite a coal-seam gas project to be built at Narrabri in the National Party heartland. In September last year Barnaby Joyce and Larry Anthony urged the National’s federal conference to put a freeze on renewable energy and phase out renewable energy subsidies while keeping fuel subsidies for miners.

More recently, Barnaby Joyce took a $40,000 gift from Gina Rinehart but returned it when it didn’t pass the pub test.

The Nationals have become avid supporters of coal as an energy saviour. The National Party Minister for Resources Matt Canavan despatched George Christenson to Japan recently to visit new coal generators and try to drum up finance for new coal-powered electricity generation in Australia.

In courting the mining sector, the Nationals are catching up fast, but the Liberals are still well ahead.

Alex Turnbull, told us about ‘an undue level of influence on Liberal Party policies by a very small group of miners’. He particularly referred to coal miners in the Galilee Basin who have obviously made some very bad decisions on possible new mines. He alluded to the influence of one particular mining baroness!

The Liberal Party devotion to the multi-national mining sector goes back a long way. The most blatant collaboration was the mining industry’s $22 million funding in cooperation with the Liberal Party against the super-profits mining tax proposed by the Rudd government. The mining industry/Liberals saved the largely foreign owned industry about $60 billion over ten years. That really sealed the Liberal Party and mining industry love-in. Then came the crazy and wilful attack on the carbon tax by both the Liberals and Nationals

In the last ten years, 81% of political donations from the mining industry have been to the Coalition and 71% to the Liberal Party.

The Grattan Institute has just told us that the mining industry has the most lobbying contacts with government. We know of a major multi national gas company that employed a former foreign minister as a lobbyist and selected a former head of DFAT to join its board The policy and politically corrupting lobby firms employ or have employed many former ministers.

The new Liberal Party energy minister, Angus Taylor is an anti-wind campaigner. By ‘fair dinkum’ power generation he means coal.How stupid and demeaning! The environment minister, Melissa Price is a former mining industry lawyer. Without reading the IPCC report she tells us about its ‘long bow’,whatever that means! It never rains, it always pours with mining industry apparatchiks influencing governments. Scott Morrison’s new Chief of Staff is John Kunkel, former Deputy CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia.

The Coalition and climate change

With their close connections to the polluting mining industry, it is not so surprising that both Coalition partners have been climate change sceptics. With the drought in Eastern Australia it is now notable that at last many farmers are expressing concern about the contribution of climate change in changing weather patterns with their contribution to the present drought. But leaders of both the Liberal and National parties are just not listening.

Depending on whether Malcolm Turnbull’s political trajectory was up or down, the Liberal Party has been expressing contradictory views on climate change.

But not the National Party. It has always ben solid in the ranks of the climate sceptics. In November 2009, the National Party told the Liberal Party that if they supported carbon pricing that would split the Coalition. That helped precipitate the first fall of Malcolm Turnbull .

Barnaby Joyce gave us all sorts of nonsense about carbon pricing and how the Sunday roast could cost $150 and slaughtering each cow would cost $575,000.

But nothing improved with Barnaby Joyce’s demise. The new National Party Leader, Michael McCormack shows no interest in the risk to farmers and others of climate change. In his maiden speech in 2010 he told us ‘not to listen to government grant-seeking academics sprouting doom and gloom about climate change’. (Mark Hudson – The Nationals have changed their leader).

And there is no sign that Michael McCormack has changed his mind in any way. In response to the recent IPCC report he said that Australia can keep on burning coal for decades and with no need to worry about tourism and the Great Barrier Reef

In this blog on 8 August 2018 (The National Party is dudding farmers), I quoted Professor Lesley Hughes in ‘Cognitive Dissonance in the Big Dry’ . Lesley Hughes who is the Distinguished Professor of Biology at Macquarie University and a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia said:

‘Climate change is worsening the drought now affecting huge swathes of the continent, bringing gut-wrenching misery for farmers and the communities they support. … But the science is clear – warming has contributed to a southward shift in weather fronts from the Southern Ocean, which typically bring rain to Southern Australian during winter and spring. As these weather fronts have shifted, rainfall in Southern Australia has declined, increasing the risk of drought conditions, including in agricultural heartlands such as the Murray-Darling Basin and the Western Australian wheat belt.’

But despite all the evidence the National Party remains solidly in the column of climate sceptics.

Malcolm Turnbull made a secret coalition deal with Barnaby Joyce in 2016. It must have ruled out any serious action on climate change. We can safely assume that Scott Morrison has made a similar and secret deal with Michael McCormack that sells out farmers. But we are not told. Just imagine how The Australian would go berserk if the ALP made a ‘secret deal’ with the ACTU or the CFMEU,

The Coalition has had over a dozen contradictory positions on climate change since 2009, more than the Kama Sutra. What is new is that for the first time the Coalition has now no policy on climate change at all , not even a fig leaf to pretend it has a policy.

With the coalition having no climate policy worth the name coalition supporters in business and Murdoch’s stenographers have the gall to tell the ALP that it should support a bi partisan climate policy. But that is not possible with crazy and often contradictory coalition policies. Who knows what the coalition’s climate policies will be tomorrow?

This article is republished from John Menadue’s Pearls & Irritations of 11 October 2018.


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