You have to wonder if some with a high profile in the ALP have a political death wish. Recently, the government’s performance was summed up by the Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck sitting at an enquiry into aged care, speechless for half a minute because he couldn’t answer a pretty obvious question on the number of deaths in aged care homes due to COVID-19. Rather than kicking back and watching the train wreck, Agriculture and Resources Shadow Minister Joel Fitzgibbon sticks his head up the next day and suggests that the ALP will split at some point over environmental issues, but not in his political lifetime.
Fitzgibbon represents a large chunk of the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, and anyone who has ever driven through that area will attest to the extent of the mining infrastructure. Apparently Fitzgibbon has been arguing for a while that the ALP needs to support the continuation of coal mining in Australia. Regardless of Fitzgibbon’s opinion, the use of coal has been falling for years in most parts of the world, with demand likely to fall further — for example Japan has announced it will close its older and inefficient coal fired power stations by 2030. It’s ridiculous to plan to maintain or increase the production of a product when there is no demand.
We live in a world that is constantly changing. If we go back to the beginning of the 20th century there was a considerable industry in horse drawn transport, from farriers to wagon builders to the people who supplied the hay used as ‘fuel’ for horses and those that cleaned the hay up after ‘processing’. While the horse drawn wagons still exist, they are more an advertising medium rather than a genuine attempt to move the product from point A to point B. Those supporting the horse drawn transport industry had to adapt as the internal combustion engine gained popularity.
In the 21st Century, renewable energy production is increasing as evidenced by the Clean Energy Council claiming that 2 million Australian homes now have solar panels on the roof and
An average of six panels per minute are being installed in Australia, with the Australian Energy Market Operator estimating an average of 10-20 panels per minute if large-scale solar projects are factored in.
which suggests we won’t be taking up the slack locally as our coal exports reduce.
Regardless of the machinations of those that want to keep the status quo, a number of institutional investors and financiers have announced that they will no longer invest or insure fossil fuel infrastructure. While there might be a commercial advantage to the promotion of a newly discovered environmental focus, if there wasn’t a business case to be made for a swift exit from fossil fuel investments, it wouldn’t be happening.
Surely, someone like Fitzgibbon is supposed to be a leader in his community. He should be having discussions with concerned residents that his side of the political fence is aware of the problem, working on ways to adapt the local and national economy to ensure continual growth when the inevitable happens. Rather, he seems to be sticking his head in the sand and humming ‘Kumbaya’ in the vain hope that the world will go on as it has without radical change. Is it any wonder that the ALP’s primary vote has declined? About 10% of the population now vote for the Greens — a lot of them probably used to vote for the ALP but shifted on the basis that the environment is changing for the worse and some in the ALP seem to be hoping for a miracle (or even hoping and humming Kumbaya), which really isn’t a great mitigation strategy.
What makes Fitzgibbon’s publicity stunt even less intelligent (if that was possible), the government isn’t looking all that good at the moment. We’ve already mentioned Colbeck’s failure to remember details of his portfolio. Let’s face it, if Colbeck was asked if Mrs Jones’ en-suite door was on the left or right wall in Room 15 at the Happy Valley Aged Care home, he would be forgiven for not having a clue. The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in his care — aged care is a federal responsibly and he is the responsible minister — shouldn’t be an obscure fact that requires the ruffling of what appeared to be numerous briefing notes before he could answer. On August 21 (the day Colbeck couldn’t recall the number), Morrison claimed he had confidence in his Aged Care Minister.
Ahead of the August 21 ‘National Cabinet Meeting’, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton re-entered the fray claiming that Queensland’s ALP Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was playing populist politics in the lead up to the October state election by keeping the borders closed to those from New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT. Queensland’s Chief Medical Officer responded, demonstrating that pandemic management is yet another thing that Dutton is clueless about. Queensland Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles offered to accompany Dutton around some shopping centres in the northern outskirts of Brisbane (where Dutton is the federal representative and Miles is the state representative) to actually ask the public. Dutton seems to have crawled back into his box and Queensland announced an unknown origin COVID-19 cluster the next morning, giving further fuel to those demanding the borders remain closed.
Morrison has some problems with his trusted ministers which the ALP has been capitalising on by generally keeping quiet and enjoying the show. However, when ‘the other mob’ are continually demonstrating they can’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag, let alone a pandemic, why on earth would you tip a bucket on your own side of the political spectrum as Fitzgibbon did, giving ‘the other mob’ a chance to point and suggest that we all look over there?
We all get that the transition from a fossil fuel economy to one based on renewable energy is not business as usual. Nor will it be stress free for all involved. Certainly, there needs to be a discussion on how the ALP will manage a transition to a renewables based economy while supporting workers that are in sunset industries, but surely it should be behind closed doors until there is a policy.
Then, and only then, there needs to be a public discussion on what the problem is, what the ALP has planned to mitigate the problem and help those adversely affected. That would explain to a lot of their supporters past and present why the ALP is a far safer environmental bet than the Greens who seem to have a problem articulating agreed policy in a number of areas. Both however are a better option than the Coalition that wants to fund the business case for construction of new a coal fired power station as a sop to vested interests who can’t see the wood for the trees.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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