For almost a decade, Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce have been hugely instrumental in the destruction of bipartisan support for action on climate change (and a lot of other things). They have both now had their power stripped from them by their own parties for showing a stellar lack of judgement.
This presents an opportunity for a reset that should be grasped.
But will they?
No more money has been committed to Direct Action which has seen billions spent by the government resulting in a 3.6% (so far) increase in emissions since the abolition of the carbon price in 2014.
Minister for Agriculture and Water, David Littleproud, and his Assistant Minister, Anne Ruston, are at least mentioning the words climate change now but they remain unwilling to commit to government policy and regulation to tackle it.
Despite farmers’ increasingly urgent call for good, consistent policy, Mr Littleproud rejected calls for an agricultural climate change adaptation plan, saying farmers will need to do it themselves.
Ms Ruston told agricultural stakeholders they cannot rely on government and said “Industry should be allowed to explore the opportunities” to respond to the risks of climate change.
“We’re not investing specifically in programs, our response to climate change is embedded in everything we do,” she lamely said.
They certainly aren’t investing in programs. They are terminating them.
The 2017 federal budget axed funding for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), an agency that provides information to decision-makers on how best to manage the risks of climate change and sea level rise.
The NCCARF received A$50 million in 2008 to coordinate Australia’s national research effort into climate adaptation measures. That was reduced in 2014 to just under A$9 million. For 2017-18, a mere A$600,000 will be spread between CSIRO and NCCARF to support existing online platforms only. From 2018, funding is axed entirely.
This “do nothing and leave it to a future government” approach is typical of the Coalition who are all about the now. Company profits are up. Agriculture had bumper crops last year. Fossil fuel exports are riding high. Debt is unimportant now as the government spends up big to help boost growth figures. Let’s do some tax cuts real quick before the Chinese economy slows down, the drought bites, commodity prices go down…and still no wage rises.
“I think we are already reducing emissions. We’ve made a commitment under the Paris agreement and we are moving towards that in a sensible and methodical way,” said Mr Littleproud.
Except we are not even going to meet our 2020 target of 5% let alone the inadequate commitment for 2030.
According to the Department of Energy and Environment’s own website, “Australia’s annual emissions for the year to December 2017 are estimated to be 533.7 Mt CO2-e. This figure is 2.4 per cent below emissions in 2000 (547.0 Mt CO2-e).”
If it’s taken us 18 years years to reduce emissions by 2.4%, how likely are we to reduce them a further 2.6% over the next two years? I doubt the Snowy-Hydro 2.0 feasibility study will even be finished. Is there another plan?
Mr Littleproud is a fan of renewables, perhaps unsurprisingly as his electorate will soon be home to large solar and wind farms, but he also has four coal-fired power stations so he treads the fine line of saying that economics should determine our future energy mix.
The men who thought wind farms look ugly – Abbott, Joyce and Hockey – have all been dumped by their own. Their loudest coal supporters are men like Craig Kelly and George Christensen, hardly your go-to men for evidence-based decision-making. Oh, and the overly ambitious Matt Canavan who will always say whatever he thinks is in his best political interests but who had little support in the recent leadership change.
The Coalition invested a great deal of energy into promoting Abbott’s attack dog style of politics and Barnaby’s public bar ‘beer with the boys’ porkbarrelling antics. But the spin of best Opposition leader and best retail politician was exposed as having no substance. These two were just not up to the job of governing in so many respects.
So why does the Coalition remain hamstrung by their policies?
And more to the point, why do they listen to the IPA who seem to come up with most of these whacky ideas?
The only Coalition policy, aside from increasingly intrusive attacks on our privacy, is tax cuts. So what does the IPA, who recently made a submission to the Senate inquiry into the proposed changes to the taxation laws, have to say on the matter? This one ranks up there with their most hilarious.
A progressive tax system, the IPA argues, discriminates against rich people.
“Other forms of discrimination, such as by skin colour, race, or ethnicity, are rightly abhorred,” the submission says, “yet the income tax system openly discriminates against people by income”.
We’ve got rid of Tony and Barnaby. If they ignored Rupert, Alan, Ray, and the creche for aspiring Young Liberals – the IPA – we might just have a chance of resetting political discourse in this country so we could actually make some progress on the things that matter.
Time for a reset. Please.