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Climate wars – vested interests shape politics while Australia burns

Fire fighters battling flames on the Woombah to Iluka road in November 2019. Photo Ewan Willis.

Keith Duncan

In November 2007, with enormous enthusiasm, Australian voters elected a Kevin Rudd-led Labor government in a landslide, with a huge mandate to implement an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to deal with anthropogenic climate change. John Howard took much the same policy to the same election.

Kevin Rudd immediately signed the Kyoto protocol and a bipartisan ETS was looking a certainty, with new Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull giving his support. Fate however intervened, by September 2008 the entire world was in financial meltdown owing to the global financial crisis (GFC), and governments everywhere were struggling to save their economies.

By 2009 the world had changed, and opposition to carbon pricing was growing within the Coalition; and in the Senate, the Greens were demanding increasingly unrealistic measures to support the ETS.

The Rudd government was acutely aware that introducing huge cuts in carbon emissions in such a short time would damage the economy, and cost the government politically. Rudd again turned to Malcolm Turnbull to support his politically acceptable ETS that could be strengthened over time. But the inept and dangerous form of Tony Abbott replaced Turnbull as leader by just one vote. This catastrophe would change the course of history, and unleash a decade-long climate war, aided by the Murdoch empire using weaponised misinformation and absurdities.

Choice in hindsight

The Rudd government was short on options when both the Coalition and the Greens were unmoveable. Rudd could either call a double dissolution election, with no guarantee of success, or drop the ETS. He chose the latter, which ultimately cost him his job and cost Labor all credibility regarding climate change policy.

Bob Brown and the Greens should also hang their heads in shame over their intransigence. Had that ETS passed into law in 2009 and became embedded, we would not be in the dire position we are in today.

The introduction of the carbon tax in 2012 by the Gillard Labor government brought short-lived success. When the Abbott government was elected in 2013, the carbon tax/ETS was immediately scrapped and our carbon emissions have risen ever since.

By now it’s painfully obvious that both Labor and the Greens made monumental mistakes, and absolutely nothing has been gained. The Greens seem to prefer 100 per cent of nothing to 80 per cent of something, and as a consequence, Australia has been the big loser – we now have ‘direct action’ (no action) under which the polluters are paid to pollute. In addition, we gifted the Coalition with a decade to brainwash, lie to, and frighten the crap out of the average voter at every election about the ‘dangers’ and ‘high’ cost of renewable energy.

Manns Road at Rowlands Creek Road is the shortest road link between Byron and Tweed Shires and was closed owing to this massive landslip during the March flooding. Photo Will Matthews

Action wanted

It’s time for the Greens and Labor to have a serious re-think on strategy, because what we’ve been doing for the past decade clearly isn’t working, in fact, we’re up shit creek.

Every opinion poll indicates that Australians want action on climate change, but it’s not that simple. Convincing entire regional mining communities whose livelihoods depend on mining coal, to suddenly stop mining coal, is a problem (they vote), and Pauline Hanson is usually the beneficiary. We also can’t continue to inconvenience the general public when going about their business with counter-productive protests – looking at you XR – because they vote too.

The only hope of ever getting back on track towards a low carbon future is to re-elect a Labor government, and keep it there. But the issue is now so politically charged we’re all going to have to expect there are no quick fixes.

The Labor Party, often with Greens preferences, can usually win most city-centric seats that want action on climate change, but that doesn’t necessarily give them government – they must also win regional seats, especially in Queensland. 

A return to a LNP government at the coming election in Queensland would be a disaster. They would immediately repeal current environmental and land clearing laws, and give the green light to Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer to open ever more coal mines.

The LNP, who are terrified of renewables, would also immediately stifle the massive solar farms the Queensland Labor government is currently building, to replace domestic coal use. The total demise of export coal may have to depend on the eventual collapse in world demand.

With Angus Taylor now loose in the energy sector, Australia is about to be locked into a coal, gas and nuclear future – from which we may never recover. The only option is to remove this appalling government.

A realistic policy set is needed so that voters are not fearful for their personal economic future.

Labor and the Greens need to arrive at a compromise, because neither can afford to go to the 2022 Federal election at each other’s throats over coalmines.

Australia is at a tipping point regarding climate change, and out of time and options: as Kevin Rudd famously stated, ‘climate change presents the great moral challenge of our generation’.

♦ Keith Duncan is the vice-president of the Ballina Labor sub-branch.


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9 responses to “Climate wars – vested interests shape politics while Australia burns”

  1. Well put Keith. Frightening the hell out of voters with
    lies & more bloody lies is something the current
    half-smart smart arses are more than good at. But
    I can’t see – due to the virus – that the public who
    bear the brunt of virus/flood/fire & near drought
    are going to focus on renewable energy when so
    many of them have empty pockets & ‘bruisers’
    for leaders. Abbot the rabbit – the greatest fool of
    all got away with his lies & bull-s. ScoMo & CO
    plus Murdoch have the country in a strangle-
    hold. Those who can will rise up in whatever
    way they choose. The Southern Lands is in
    great danger of being totally controlled by
    money or ‘the gun’. Australia deserves
    better.

  2. Ken says:

    Well Keith,
    Your accurate appraisal of the problems with the Greens ( who ” were demanding increasingly ‘unrealistic’ measures ” by unrealistic of course you mean real and effective measures ) and “the inept and dangerous form of Tony Abbott” and Murdoch’s megalomania pushing the LNP and the likes of Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, on to evermore evil excesses, are all well accepted as a devastating problem.
    I suspect though, your affiliation with Labor, and as a candidate, has blinded you to the deplorable performance of Labor, ever since it was sacked by a Governor General who Gough had appointed. Despite his crime being merely implementing the traditional and foundation policies of Labor with the greatest mandate ever accomplished by any party, the LNP and the press easily managed to remove this inconvenience, hornswoggle an imbecilic public and reduce Labor to a bunch of dithering, ineffectual poll-driven career politicians without the courage of their convictions.
    Well lets be honest , no courage or conviction and no understanding of Labors role of standing FOR the people, against the vested interests and crooked capital. Now however this once promising movement has been reduced a bunch of public relations bean- counters ,more than happy to be content with 50% of nothing.

  3. Michael Lake says:

    Well said Keith.
    Yes unfortunately the Greens and Labor lost their way, they were heading in the right direction with the ETS policy but because of in fighting within the Government they lost the next election. That is how the budgie smuggler, onion eating, pushbike riding PM got in under the leadership of Peta Credlin, not the other way round. Labor has been struggling to get a foot in the door ever since. Now we are being ruled by the right wing side of politics who are hell bent mining the crap out of the country for profit. The Aboriginal Custodians and the voting public should be able to benefit from the royalties of mining but only a few benefit, we are all left with huge holes in the continent and polluted water and air affecting the environment. Renewable energy has been like a breath of fresh air but the climate deniers are keen on giving it bad publicity for their own purposes. We have been thru a dramatic drought, horrendous bushfires and a human crises with the pandemic, but the current government are still pushing thru climate destroying policies.

  4. All too true, Ken. LNP’s can go find many Duttons,
    ScoMo types & play-mates to wreck the country
    while filling their own pockets because it’s the one
    act they can pull off. Sadly – this land cannot find
    another Gogh Whitlam because he remains such
    a rare species. I can well believe how Gogh would
    deal with these mugs. They’d be less worthy in a
    verbal stand-off pub-raffle at Taronga zoo. The GG
    & the Monarch have not managed to save grace:
    either. We do need to remember that. No-one’s
    been saved except Gogh.

  5. Wanda says:

    Good article. I always thought the Greens and Labor should put aside their differences for the greater good and form a Green Coalition – they seem to be more aligned ideologically than the Libs and Nats. I agree that sometimes the Greens would prefer 100% of nothing than 80% of something…their refusal to compromise when it mattered has cost Australia dearly in terms of real action on climate change, and they should learn from such mistakes – there’s no room for Puritans in politics; 80% of what you want to achieve is a good bloody start, which can be built on. God I hope Labor wins the next federal election – can’t bear to think of the alternative…

  6. How about… we set out & search the land High
    & Low until we find what we’re looking for. Male
    or female. Someone who is not afraid to speak
    precisely. Who can intelligently debate what
    this continent represents – or ought to. A well
    informed truly unafraid states-person who’s
    reliable. Who believes in free entrance to
    Aussie universities – Native Title – plus a doer/
    a talker/ a listener. A believer in a Science
    portfolio & a Climate Change Government
    despite the ‘non believers’. A leader of note
    who will place all beliefs before the public &
    not shy or run away at difficult times. Yes, a
    believer in this land’s people… reinventing
    the label ‘made in Australia’. He or she need
    not belong to our ‘tired & torn’ manipulated
    parties who act & sound like punch-drunk
    pundits. We live in a chilling reality. We are
    herded just like sheep. Let’s start searching.

  7. Barrow says:

    Yes Wanda labor and the Greens are aligned
    More than ever , and they should form one party
    Policies are very similar, as you can see as above with Keith Duncans article.. and this is the reason why labor will be in opposition for a very long time
    And it will all start once again in a few months in QLD ..

  8. Labor & the greens are not aligned. The Greens
    will always accept a little of ‘nothing’ [a pity] &
    Labor needs another saviour… perhaps a ‘drop
    the pilot’ may just drop in.

  9. Craig Potter says:

    “Every opinion poll indicates that Australians want action on climate change, but it’s not that simple.” The last Federal election result suggests that those Australians are not in the majority. I wonder whether the Greens et al would be better focusing on pollution reduction, land regeneration, wildlife protection and saving natural waterways as policy platforms? Programmes like Peter Andrew’s ‘natural sequence farming’ give huge improvements in biodiversity, water quality and drought resistance without mentioning climate change. Vastly improved natural environment and better agricultural results at the same time. Even the most conservative rural voters are onboard. I like to think that the many voters who are not convinced by the climate argument would find little to question with that angle. Tell the Hunters and Fishers that your policies aim at returning huge amounts of fish and wildlife to the environment. Same aims, different focus.

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