The situation is so bad that even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire has read the commercial tea leaves on climate change and rolled over. Not surprisingly Scott Morrison now also shows signs of a belated change of heart.
The news that the Murdoch empire has finally given up on climate denial and is signing on to the modest “zero by 2050” target came as quite a surprise to me.
Eighteen months ago I doubted that the Kevin Rudd/Malcom Turnbull petition protesting the extreme policies and influence of News Corp would have any impact; now I congratulate them both.
It is hard to forgive the opportunities we have lost in Australia by succumbing to this pressure. We scrapped a world-first “pollution pricing” model and passed up the chance to become a leading “green” industrial nation. We were fleeced by the power companies and have been paying the price ever since. In 2017 our (now) prime minister walked into the Parliament carrying a lump of coal boasting that it represented the future!
This ideological battle began in earnest in the federal Australian Labor Party (ALP) caucus in 1988. At the time we carried a close vote of support to sign on to the work leading to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This was the first time governments of the world were being asked to respond to the emerging science predicting accelerated global warming. The scientists said it was the result of a rapidly growing global population and centuries of highly polluting industrial expansion.
The early climate deniers were out in full force in the ALP caucus in 1988. “The science was crap, there had always been climate change, what difference would we make with such a small population; until the US, China and India stopped polluting why should we?” We’ve heard it all ad nauseum now for 33 years.
They lost that debate narrowly in 1988 and the Hawke government signed on to help build the protocol. But from that moment the nation had real problems because it meant we planned to take climate change seriously. That was easier said than done. The Coalition was heavily indebted to the big interests of mining, energy and agribusiness and the ALP was dominated by unions representing these industries — the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU).
This rare coalition of internal interests in both major parties meant that neither was heavily invested as a “believer”. Both have failed the test every time since. Rudd passed on a double dissolution after the Copenhagen debacle in late 2009. It became his greatest mistake. He would have won such an election easily. Australia would have progressed so far down the economic and social road of being a leading climate change nation that not even Tony Abbot could have turned it around.
The direct parallel is Gough Whitlam. In 1974 when the Liberals and Nationals blocked Medibank in the Senate — he called and won the double dissolution — got through the legislation and the Coalition has never been able to unwind our model of universal health care (not for the want of trying).
Rudd can be forgiven. He sought the advice of the ALP national executive — which counselled him against an immediate election on the grounds that Abbott was unelectable (sic), and he could use the extra time for more economic reform. That advice was of course heavily influenced by the big unions agenda to postpone a carbon price.
The rest is history. The ALP squibbed it — Abbot won — the script was handed over to the dark side and now we are back where we started in 1988! The difference now is that instead of leading the way Australia is being dragged kicking and screaming to the table.
It is ironic that after all these lost opportunities the situation is so bad that even the Murdoch empire has read the commercial tea leaves and rolled over. I hope we can salvage something from all this.
I’ve moved now to a home on a few degraded rural acres. We’ve planted 600 trees (so far), put in water tanks and installed solar (plus battery). The kangaroos and rabbits hadn’t left but the birds are coming back. At least it’s a start!