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Issue 17: Coalition climate deniers fail our farmers

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From the editorIn this issue we look at the political window-dressing of the Coalition's new drought
 

SundayFocus

November 10 · Issue #17 · View online
Your weekly wrap of national affairs, society, culture and politics, published by UnionsACT.

From the editor
In this issue we look at the political window-dressing of the Coalition’s new drought plan, Labor’s election review, and the latest on the campaign to stop the “Ensuring Integrity” legislation. Also this issue, in response to feedback that we tend to focus too much on the ills of the world and not enough on the good stuff, we’ve made a minor format change to the “other news” section. We hope you like it.
Last, a reminder to please forward this issue to friends and family, encourage them to read our back catalogue, and invite them to become a Solidarity Subscriber. And if you’re not one yourself, please consider signing up so we can keep delivering SundayFocus to you every week.
Enjoy the issue!
Guy Mosel, Editor

Coalition climate deniers fail our farmers
by Guy Mosel
Photo by Jasper Wilde | Unsplash
Photo by Jasper Wilde | Unsplash
“What this is doing is supporting farmers and graziers who know they have a future … and are committed to getting to the other side of this drought, and knowing that better days are on the other side.”
This was the prime minister during his announcement of the government’s billion-dollar drought support plan on Thursday. The plan, a response to what is now the worst drought in Australian history, is largely comprised of redirected infrastructure spending and cheap loans to help farmers stay afloat until these so-called “better days” arrive.
Being seen to help farmers is always good politics. It gives politicians the opportunity to be photographed frowning with concern while listening to weather-worn blokes in battered Akubras, and it plays well with Alan Jones.
But as a response to an entrenched and deepening natural disaster the announcement was fairly underwhelming. Linda Botterill from the University of Canberra described the plan as “ad hoc”, saying, “There’s no underpinning, cohesive rationale to drought policy in Australia at the moment.”
Noticeably absent from the announcement was any mention of what was being done to tackle the factors contributing to the frequency and severity of drought. Climate change, in other words.
But then perhaps we shouldn’t be that surprised. None of the five ministers fronting the media for the announcement have what you would call solid climate credentials:
Scott Morrison recently accused Greta Thunberg of causing needless anxiety about climate change and infamously brought a lump of coal into parliament.
Deputy PM Michael McCoramck casually dismissed Pacific nations’ fears of rising sea levels because they could simply come to Australia to “pick our fruit”.
Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud told Sky News that he’s “not a scientist” and doesn’t have “an opinion one way or the other” about whether human emissions contribute to climate change. 
Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie has dismissed a link between climate change and drought as a “long bow to draw”.
And Education Minister Dan Tehan scolded student activists participating in September’s climate strike, linking the global strike movement to flagging test scores.
Howard, Abbott and the end of reason
The Coalition’s track record on climate action has never been great, but its recent performance is noteworthy for its utter wretchedness.
Under opposition leader John Howard the Coalition’s 1990 election platform actually called for greater emissions reductions than Labor, but by 1997 Howard, then prime minister, had regressed on the issue and refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
A decade of inaction followed, and it was only in the dying days of his government in 2007 that Howard caved on climate and took an emissions trading system to the federal election.
Yet it wasn’t until proud climate sceptic Tony Abbott romped home to victory in the 2013 election on the back of his cynical anti-carbon tax campaign that the Coalition began to fully embrace its denialism.
In the years since we have been treated to a steady diet of scepticism and outright conspiratorial nuttiness from members of the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments.
In 2014 backbencher George Christensen compared warnings of impending climate disaster to a science fiction movie and wondered if it would lead to “a zombie apocalypse, cannibalism, a prostitute shortage in Bulgaria and the death of the Loch Ness monster”.
In 2015 Senator Ian MacDonald told parliament that “Australia was once covered in ice” and described the idea of human-caused climate change as “a fad or a farce or a hoax”.
The IPA has proudly claimed that more than half of Liberal MPs don’t trust climate science, while deposed PM Malcolm Turnbull told a climate summit in December that, “There is a significant percentage of the Coalition members who do not believe that climate change is real, who believe that we should get out of Paris (agreement).”
If the Liberal and National parties were indeed genuinely “conservative” then you would expect them to commit to climate change mitigation in order to protect the economy and preserve our natural assets.
The fact that they aren’t doing this means they either genuinely don’t believe in the existential threat that climate change poses, or they do believe it poses an existential threat and are content to sit on their hands. The former seems unlikely, given how much established science is available, which means it must be the latter.
And if it’s the latter, then they’re either utterly beholden to fossil fuel donors, lobbyists and the mining interests that bankroll their parties, or they’re literal psychopaths.
Either way, it makes any talk of a deep and abiding concern about the welfare of farming communities pretty hard to swallow.
Read more
Clive Hamilton’s essay on the roots of climate change denial within Australian conservatism digs deeper into some of things alluded to above.
And Annabel Crabb’s history of the climate policy debate and the political scalps it’s claimed is a reminder of how close we’ve come to substantive, bi-partisan progress on an emissions trading scheme.
Week in review
Good news… Renewables briefly produced 50% of energy demand on the national grid last week. It’s the first time ever that the combined output of rooftop solar and large-scale wind and solar has passed this mark. Also last week Ross Garnaut made the argument that the move to net zero carbon presented Australia with huge economic opportunities.
Bad news… ASIO officers broke the law on a “multi-faceted, multi-agency” operation, collecting intelligence without a warrant because they believed they didn’t need one. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security concluded that the officers had been provided “little, if any” compliance training on new laws.
Good news… The gender pay gap between our elite male and female football players has been dramatically narrowed with a new collective bargaining agreement announced last week. The Matildas, one of Australia’s most successful international sporting teams, will also now have the same access as the Socceroos to off-field benefits like business-class flights and training facilities.
Bad news… The anti-union "Ensuring Integrity” bill may be one stop closer to passing the senate with the Centre Alliance senators negotiating an amendment to the bill. Don’t forget that you can do your bit to try to prevent that happening by contacting the crossbenchers and asking them not to support the legislation. Find out more below.
Good news… UK Labour has declared war on the billionaire class, which made many British journalists (not least of all this BBC interviewer) very upset indeed. Hugh McDonnell in Tribune explains Labour’s plan to “rebalance a grossly skewed and dysfunctional economy and shore up flagging public services”.
A bit of both…Searingly honest” assessment or missed opportunity? The release of the ALP’s internal election review produced an avalanche of hot takes. The party has done its best to sheet the blame onto Bill Shorten, which you’d expect, while the conservative press has interpreted the findings as proof that the party had been captured by the left. Anthony Albanese said the party had got it wrong, which seems pretty self-evident given they’re in opposition for another three years.
Workers' rights under attack! Take action now!
Tomorrow is the start of a Senate-only sitting week, and the Morrison Government is very likely to try to push through their proposed anti-worker “Ensuring Integrity” laws.
These laws will be passed or blocked by just a handful of votes from the crossbench senators: the Centre Alliance, One Nation, and Jacqui Lambie.
We need your help to convince these senators to block these laws. Click here to send them a message right now.
The proposed laws are the most regressive in the Western World, and even more draconian than the WorkChoices laws introduced in 2005 by John Howard. Find out more about them here.
Longreads
What is a billionaire?
The myth of ‘the most successful multicultural country in the world’
Sortition and the joy of participation
For your bookshelf
Best Australian Political Cartoons 2019, edited by Russ Radcliffe
Nuking the Moon, by Vince Houghton
Men at Work: Australia's Parenthood Trap, Quarterly Essay by Annabel Crabb
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