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Groundhog Day

How appropriate that federal parliament is to resume on February 2, Groundhog Day, as the Australian public will be facing their 4th election in a row based on climate change policies.

In 2006 southern Australia was in the grip of a prolonged drought, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was released and the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change was published. Public concern and media interest in climate change was on the rise and Kim Beazley’s Labor Party saw the chance to expose the inadequacy of the government’s greenhouse policy by announcing plans to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, introduce an ETS and set a target of reducing Australia’s emissions by 60 per cent on 2000 levels by 2050.

When Rudd took over as leader in December 2006 he painted Labor as the pro-climate alternative to the Howard government describing climate change as the ‘great moral challenge of our generation’ and going on to win the 2007 election convincingly.

In February 2008, the Prime Minister told Parliament that ‘the costs of inaction on climate change are much greater than the costs of action’ and that ‘Australia must…seize the opportunity now to become a leader globally’.

The May 2008 budget was supposed to set the platform for the Rudd government’s climate agenda. The three pillars of its climate policy would be: reducing Australia’s emissions; promoting adaptation to unavoidable climate change; and ‘helping to shape a global solution’. The centrepiece of its emissions reduction strategy would be the ETS, which would be introduced by 2010. This would be complemented by a number of renewable energy, energy efficiency and research, development and demonstration programs.

We got very close to agreement in 2009 until the dinosaurs in the Liberal Party decided to offer Abbott a bag of silver coins to become a climate change denier – an offer he grabbed immediately even though he had, until that day, been a supporter of carbon pricing.

High expectations quickly dissipated as proposals were watered down under intense industry lobbying, heightened by the global financial crisis, culminating in the government’s decision in April 2010 to shelve its plans to introduce an emissions trading scheme. Mismanagement of other climate programs – particularly the home insulation and Green Loans programs – left the Labor Party open to criticism.

Progressives felt abandoned, conservatives felt duped, and Rudd’s popularity plummeted. Gillard steps up and goes to the 2010 election saying that, despite edited clips implying otherwise, she would take victory as a mandate to introduce carbon pricing.

A hung parliament then dictated what form that carbon pricing would take but that one edited clip, “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”, and the government’s inability to explain the meaning of a fixed price ETS, meant Gillard was doomed. (It is worth noting that Turnbull, in exchange for the leadership, has put the same promise in writing.)

Murdoch had his boy in place and Credlin had her attack strategy planned. Truth went out the window. That one word, tax, was honed in on and increases in electricity prices that happened long before the introduction of the carbon price were incorrectly attributed to it.

Shock jocks and conservative commentators went into overdrive, rejecting scientific evidence to quote fools like Christopher Monckton. The fossil fuel industry went on a huge cash splash donating to conservative parties and paying anyone to write contrary papers. The fact that these people were never climate scientists, and that their theories and cherry-picking were easily debunked, did not seem to get through to a public who were barraged with an advertising campaign that had unlimited resources.

Instead of prosecuting a case that had all the evidence on its side, Labor were focused on internal squabbling and handed government to the worst PM this country has ever seen.

Abbott was one step too far in the misinformation campaign. He can’t even tell when he is lying anymore it has become so natural to this most political of animals. He ‘axed the tax’ but prices didn’t go down. The people drew the line.

So now we have a new Prime Minister with the same Environment Minister telling the same bullshit lies when trying to sell the line that increasing emissions by 6% over today’s level by 2020 is something to be proud of. He seems to get away with it domestically but on the world stage the questions are getting more strident. You can’t con the experts and you can’t expect others to take action without sanction against those who are not pulling their weight.

For the fourth time, the Australian public will be going to an election where action on climate change will be a clear difference between the two parties. So fickle are the voters that the result could very well depend on how hot the summer is.

Must we get to the brink of cataclysm before politicians are capable of standing up to short term profiteers? Must we watch our homes burn and our livestock die before we are ready to tackle the challenge?

We will never get the runs on the board when the batsman making the call is going yes, no, maybe. We need a decisive YES and some hard running if we are to give ourselves a chance of surviving let alone winning.


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  1. flohri1754

    With you entirely ….

  2. Ruth L

    Kaye Lee your comment re Abbott being the ‘worst PM ever’ should have been written in PAGE SIZE print.I am fully aware that comments like mine do not add anything to the ‘political debate’ we should be having, but in the light of Kaye L’s (and several other AiMS bloggers) comments what does the ‘average’ reader write ?

  3. Miriam English

    I think if the election is about climate destabilisation the LNP will definitely lose.

    I predict they will be pulling out all the stops, doing everything they can to change the topic to terrorists, or jobs, or anything that will keep people away from climate. We can expect dirty little Murdoch to do the same.

  4. Roswell

    I also hope it’s about climate change and it will be interesting to see which way Turnbull leads it. I just can’t see him playing the race/asylum seeker card like Howard and Abbott did. But he still might. It’s worked before. And of course, he hasn’t got any other weapons like Abbott had, such as promising to repeal the ‘carbon tax’.

  5. jim

    I can only conclude that the Liberals think they have a “god given right to lie” as one day Abbot say;s “climate change is crap” and then next he say’s ” the best way to tackle climate change is to put a price on carbon” Another Liberal Dr Brian Fisher recommends putting an end to solar subsidies at the same time as asking his solar installer to rush his installation in order to get the subsidies. No Gods please.

  6. Kaye Lee

    Hunt described the idea that the government should consider actual emissions rather than achieving a target via accounting rules as “one of the oddest and strangest and I’ve got to say … desperate arguments” he had heard.

    Tell the truth? You’ve got to be kidding. That would be an enormous waste of the thousands of spin doctors we employ.

  7. Kaye Lee

    As Laura Tingle observed this morning, we have gone from three word slogans to 300 word slogans. Listen to this for a bunch of hot air said to people making actual commitments to reduce emissions…

    “Mr President, Secretary General, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

    From Australia we come with confidence and optimism.

    We are not daunted by our challenge. It inspires us. It energises us.

    We do not doubt the implications of the science, or the scale of the challenge.

    But above all, we do not doubt the capacity of humanity to meet it — with imagination, innovation and the prudence that befits those, like us, who make decisions that will affect not just our own children and grandchildren but generations yet unborn.

    Here in Paris, Australia supports a new – and truly global – climate agreement.

    It is an agreement that must drive humanity’s capacity for inventiveness and a new wave of technological advances.

    Good for our environment, good for our economies.”

    We then go on to vote against eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and insist on counting our overshoot on previous targets towards our next target, unlike other countries.

    It’s an exciting time to be Malcolm Turnbull….not so much for the rest of us.

  8. Miriam English

    There is always the possibility that Turnbull will defy his paymasters and ride to victory by actually doing something real about climate. He certainly doesn’t need the money, and I’ll bet he wants to go down in history as actually doing good for Australia.

    We already know he privately understands that climate destabilisation is a real and growing problem and thinks we need to be doing something about it. We also know that, unlike Abbott, he is actually interested in what ordinary Australians think. Maybe he will buck the corruption and kick big fossil in the nuts. It’s about time somebody did. Their end is coming. Everybody knows it. And if he takes LNP to victory what can they do?

    Another nice thing it would do is to force Labor to do a rapid rethink and come up with more effective policies to contain climate change too.

  9. Miriam English

    Oh… after reading your comment, Kaye, I think we can dismiss mine. 🙁

  10. paul walter

    Rudd was undermined by the right faction, because he threatened their power base. Gillard in turn was undermined by Ruddites. Turnbull undermined Abbott, although Abbott did a good job with that anyway, without his help. Now, Abbott and co undermine Turnbull and this government is paralysed also.

    The wealthy stringpullers behind the scenes have their IPA wish for weak government so that terms that suit them don’t change.

  11. Douglas Pye

    ….. whilst $$ Money $$ … and …the ability to splash it around funding the ‘ intense ‘ airing of — half truths — outright lies — rediculous promises — tax cuts — new dams — and anything in between & further out … 😉 … our political fate is in the hands of fickle events … e.g. think ” Tampa ” episode !!

    I’m not being any ones ‘ agent ‘ here, I sincerely hope that one of the ‘ parties in the making ‘ ( in the wings ) can make it to centre stage and deliver a credo removing $$ Money $$ from the Governing process ! … Starting with the Election process being Publicly Funded ! … with a cap in place !! ….

    O.K doing this is not such a simple affair, however it could be the most effective … given that it appears $$ Money $$ speaks and must be answered by delivering on exclusive $$ Money $$ specific undertakings … scratch my back & I’ll rub yours !! …… e.g. social media / independent press overflowing with complaints about the likes of mining ( Q’ld ? .. NSW ? ) making huge contributions to both/all parties coffers ! …

    Frankly whilst the voting public of Australia allows the above to run the show it will remain Vaudeville !

    We could go a lot deeper here ( conspiracy — George Orwell etc. ) however my thought is the basic as above is a real start …. I’m in my early 80’s … of keen mind and body ( blessed ) … so I look back a long way and noticed the days when politicians complained ( rightly) about public apathy !

    Of course the media ‘ conspiracy ‘ will remain in place until such time as a form of awakening emerges, however much can come into being once ACTION occurs.

    I come in peace and wish peace upon you … AIM & friends … sincerely …


  12. Joe Abfalter

    Douglas impressive statements lets hope more of you guys last to remind us all and regards to the $ well we have along history of the good ol US of A as precedent why we Aussies should cap & publicise all election criteria

  13. Sen Nearly Ile

    Dear Kaye lee,
    if the piece was written by one of the vertigris boys, disingenuous would have sprung to mind.
    For you, was something not better than nothing, when the greens, in 2009, joined the abbutt coalition to reject Labor’s bill?

  14. Miriam English

    Douglas, I could not agree more strongly. We desperately need to get money out of politics and fund elections publicly.

  15. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Principals, policies, politics.

    That’s the order of significance for the Greens, Labor and even LNP to be expected by us voters to measure every political move they make.

    This means that despite the potential losses of being brave to take a principled stand to attempt to combat human-induced climate change, they are expected to take those steps.

  16. king1394

    I just wish you would not repeat the garbage about pink batts, that is the home insulation scheme, being mismanaged. Many houses across Australia were improved at no cost to their owners. Quite practically, it was put into the hands of private enterprise (who are always telling us how efficient they are) and they ran out of control with it.
    Currently I’m a Green Army supervisor. This is part of the Direct Action scheme, and no one is having a close look at how this is being run. Notably Workplace Health and Safety takes such a big role that practically nothing much can be done. The money for this could have been spent on real bush regeneration workers to carry out the projects.
    It’s better than nothing, but not much, and I suspect that when someone looks at how much we/the environment get for the cost of the scheme, it will clearly be one of the more wasteful programs ever.

  17. Kaye Lee


    I agree much good was done with the HIP but they should have anticipated that in a deregulated industry, a windfall like that was going to lead to a lot of dubious contractors with untrained employees. Perhaps the contracts should have been given to firms with a proven track record with some sort of approved installer status.

    It’s interesting what you say about the Green Army. Defunding Landcare was a crazy thing to do – dedicated volunteers with expertise and passion.

    Sen Nearly Ile,

    I have mixed feelings about the failure of Rudd’s CPRS. If Labor had stuck to their guns they only needed to convince the Greens and two crossbench Senators, instead of which they got scared about industry lobbying so they chose, against advice, to give free credits to polluters to court a deal with the Coalition instead who then, with the installation of Abbott, double-crossed them by voting against the watered down package anyway.

  18. jimhaz

    [I can only conclude that the Liberals think they have a “god given right to lie”]

    I think this is quite a pronounced effect. Both parties will lie when it is just about political strategies such as leadership business, but unlike the LNP, the ALP does not lie much about specific policy issues – they may omit and obfuscate, but not lie much.

  19. Pingback: Groundhog Day – » The Australian Independent Media Network | olddogthoughts

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