Australia’s climate delegation returns to a media blitz of self-generated glory. Hunt’s Heroes lead the world only briefly, however, before being upstaged by Scott Morrison’s MYEFO war on the poor. Although ScoMo continues to show no reason whatsoever to suppose he is any better than the treasurer he replaced, he is a great deal meaner and he is a past master in refusing point blank to be accountable.
Morrison brings new obduracy and condescension to the treasury portfolio as befits Joe’s successor and baton-carrier. He’s also booked savings which have yet to pass the senate and are most unlikely to. But that’s OK. We’ve had treasurers before like that. Costello was seen as mean and sneaky. But he had revenue. Morrison’s tank is empty.
ScoMo’s lame analogy that budget repair is like a trip in the family car demeans both his audience and himself. Treasurers love to talk down to us and labour false analogies but Morrison’s car trip is a lemon. Are we there yet? it presumes we are heading somewhere. Voters and investors can tell he’s only a P-plate driver.
Reductive, simplistic stories and slogans may work in Immigration but the economy is more complex and demanding. No-one is expecting a more nuanced approach, given Morrison’s performance in Immigration and Social Services. But when your own figures show you have a revenue problem, you need to admit it. Or you seem out of your depth. Or over-eager to support the wealthy in their tax breaks and other entitlements. And you can’t keep cutting the public sector s, however much your right wing-nuts love that stuff.
Our public sector is already leaner than most other comparable nations while an emaciated education, environment, foreign aid and transport infrastructure have been so under-funded as to impair their capacity to meet our needs, expectations and obligations. Hunt’s hideously extravagant Direct Action con, on the other hand, or the billions wasted on Border Force or the war on terror are expensive political sacred cows which weaken any case for cuts to real public services, even for governments with proven competence or political capital.
ScoMo’s fixation with expenditure causes him to turn a blind eye to the nation’s revenue problems and to completely misrepresent our economic situation. His party fought to prevent the wealthy from having their tax affairs scrutinised. Even the compromise, published today is a damning reminder of a whopping revenue problem. But he’s not interested in ‘political questions’, he says, talking down to Leigh Sales recently, just as he did to Gillian Triggs, as he dismisses Sales’ attempts to get him to explain his party’s inconsistency.
Morrison is interested only in ‘sensible, rational conversation’, meaning he will dictate the terms, such as in Health cuts where it he acts first and dismisses criticism later. In a surprise move to scrap bulk-billing incentives to pathology companies Morrison is gazumping a review still in process and picking a fight he can’t win with patients, the AMA and the pathology companies. The hapless, arrogant Hockey-like streak in Morrison’s makeup becomes more apparent by the hour.
Another hapless, neoliberal fantasist, Sussan Ley is demolished by the AMA when she defends what amount to Morrison’s pathology test co-payments by stealth in the name of competition. Companies will undercut each other to extract your blood or scope your bowel. Trust the market. Our supermarket duopoly reminds us that markets are not inherently trustworthy. Sick people will end up paying more for their tests.
The Coalition ‘hits those who can least afford it hardest’ says an independent senator who is right on the money. So, too is the opposition leader with the charisma bypass, Plain Vanilla Bill Shorten. But, with apologies to Hockey, pathology tests are another waste of money on bludgers without private health insurance. Poor people don’t thrive.
Also looking unwell is Australia’s wilful climate change denial. Hunt declares a target of 2% is ‘deeply personal’, yet he needs to meet a 1.5 % rise. Less about Greg. More about real targets. Yet selfies are his team’s standout achievement in Paris, apart from our rapidly increasing carbon dioxide emissions and our world-beating reputation as climate change cowboys and con-men.
OK there is also Greg Hunt’s stand-up routine at the screening of a documentary on the dangers facing the Great Barrier Reef, an echo of his earlier claim that the UN had given it a ‘clean bill of health’ . We approve massive coal mines because who are we to tell India to keep the world’s coal in the ground? Neo-colonialism is so yesterday.
Hunt’s account of how he spent his time includes a big white bwana style mediation between vulnerable countries and the powerful which seems a disingenuous posturing. Tony de Brum, for example, made it clear that vulnerable nations speak most effectively in their own right. Australia’s intercession on small islands’ behalf, moreover, is difficult to square with its setting carbon reductions targets which will surely drown them.
Yet we love to lead, even if it is only to lead astray. Malcolm Turnbull pledges Australia to a lead role in climate change policy, a boast echoed by Julie Bishop. Bishop goes further and asserts that we are leading already with our innovation. We will sit back, do nothing and hope something high-tech will turn up to save us all from our selfies.
You can’t rush hackathons. At the current rate of carbon emissions, the world will reach 450 ppm in 2040. Then it will be too late. In fifteen years, says the International Renewable Energy Agency, we take our chances on catastrophic climate change. Australia, however, lucky country to the last, prefers to gamble on human ingenuity galloping to our rescue.
Turnbull commits us publicly to a global ‘Mission Innovation’ in Paris, giving green, clean tech $200 million a year only to continue Abbott’s war on alternatives at home. A pledge to scale back government subsidies of fossil fuels is best left to other countries because our Liberal Party sponsors need handouts and handicapped alternatives to remain competitive.
Julie Bishop reprises Turnbull’s stale, empty rhetoric. You can bet she is planning another hackathon soon, the paperless passport for Kiwis, her latest innovation breakthrough, a real boon to DFAT as it is to our trans-Tasman relations, those whom we are not deporting via Christmas Island for at some time having served criminal sentences.
‘… innovation and technological breakthroughs … will ultimately be the game changer in our climate change response,’ Bishop claims in Australia’s ‘National Statement’ to the UN conference. Yet we will provide no help with organising finance. There’s a world of difference between a start-up and an upstart like wind or solar. Last week told parliament that her government would abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Shamelessly Bishop also spun Australia’s renewable energy target as ambitious, despite it requiring only 20 per cent of the nation’s energy to come from clean sources by 2020. ‘Ambitious’ also, according to the Foreign Minister, are our 2030 emission reduction targets which ‘will see us double the rate at which we reduce our emissions,’ she said as if our rate of reduction were anything but inadequate. Australia’s gutless 2030 target of 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels places the country behind all developed nations.
After Paris, other nations confirm their opinion of Australia as who just don’t get the gravity of the climate crisis. Our soft targets join our other notorious underarm delivery in the hall of infamy and brazen, shameless bending of the rules. Our big polluters are let off the hook. We are the only country ever to have abolished a price on carbon – and the first to have a net increase in carbon emissions to show for it. We are world leaders after all. We have crippled the uptake of clean alternative power sources such as wind and solar.
Abbott’s scrapped carbon tax boosted coal industry profits, but cost Treasury billions in lost revenue. Now ordinary Australians must make up the deficit with cuts to health and welfare. Fixer Scott Morrison’s MYEFO shakes down the poor, the sick and the elderly. And he has cheats in his sights again as a way to cut welfare spending.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter is eyeing off another billion and a half he reckons he can find from Centrelink recipients alone since last May’s treasure hunt of welfare bludgers. It’s not about cuts to welfare; it’s all about ‘better targeting’, he says to ABC listeners. Poor people vote Labor, anyway.
It’s business as usual for the LNP. Massive new coal mines will be approved, our carbon reduction targets will be fiddled and the disadvantaged will be squeezed to pay polluters. Direct Action won’t work and we can’t afford it. But Hunt has a solution. We will be able to buy international carbon credits. Way to go, Greg! Saves any fuss and bother about cutting pollution at home. The planet won’t even notice.
In a parallel universe of honest intentions and just desserts Hunt and our other brazen coal industry toadies would be ashamed to come home. They were disgraced in Paris. Australia is third last in action to curb climate change according to the Climate Tracker think tank.
Labor’s spokesperson for the environment and climate change Mark Butler sums up our commitment. ‘We have no five-yearly target whatsoever, no target for 2025 and instead of a commitment to net zero emissions by the middle of this century we have a target from this government of net zero emissions by the end of the century.’
Turnbull and his government will be undone by its Turnbull-shit and with the assistance of mainstream media. On ABC breakfast Monday an upbeat, on script Hunt assured listeners Australia would ‘meet and beat its targets’. He was not asked how.
What he has in mind is a hoax which involves first an accountancy trick which lowers the figure of our true responsibility in curbing emission and second the dodge which involves paying polluters to plant trees and better manage their land-filling which he calls Direct Action. Even if we could afford to go on paying polluters, Direct Action does not solve our increasing carbon emission problem.
Nor was Hunt asked why our target is so low as to be a doddle; so low, moreover, as to be lethal. Experts calculate that our 26-28 per cent limit would see the globe warm 3-4 degrees with disastrous results. Current emissions reductions targets in Australia would mean we would be the highest per-capita polluter in the G20 by 2030.
Hunt was permitted to announce that we would buy credits from overseas as if that were relevant to a discussion about curbing our own emissions – not how cleverly the books could be fiddled while we avoided real action of our own.
Nor was the Environment Minister required to explain why Australia is persisting with the accounting trick of carrying forward credits from Kyoto. Other countries with Kyoto credits abandoned them as a gesture of commitment to real carbon emission reduction. The reality is that despite meeting notional ‘targets’ Australia has been rapidly increasing its emissions since the repeal of the ‘carbon tax’.
When asked about coal, Hunt dipped into his cache of buzzwords and came up with ‘transitioning’. We are ‘transitioning’ from fossil fuel to renewables. Transitioning is a go to verb for coalition politicians caught having to defend bad policy. In this case coal-fired power generating. Hunt was permitted to use the buzz word to give the impression that Australia had policies to lead it away from coal. Or a plan. Or the intention. Does it? Nope. Nope. Nope.
ScoMo says our economy is transitioning when all he has evidence for is a rise in the volume of exports last quarter. Mining has upped its output despite falling prices in a last ditch attempt to survive. It is not a sign of other sectors taking up the slack unless we factor in Turnbull-shit. Spin is our real growth industry.
In the MYEFO and in the parading one more around the ring of our shonky climate policy, our one trick pony of a government continues to pursue bad policy with the practised ease of the entitled, a pathological indifference to others and all the ugly wrong-headed zeal and ultimately self-destructive arrogance of those who wilfully put ideology before any attempt at empiricism.