Election 2010 update: Labour keeps dropping the ball, Liberal leader Abbott pushes denier “climate has always changed” line

Lacklustre, scripted and uninspiring.

That’s the consensus of most Australians and the media on the performance of both major political parties during the 2010 Federal election.

FYI for non-Australian readers, we are in the midst of a rather boring election down under. Both the Labor government (centrist-liberal leaning) and Liberal (right wing-conservative) parties are fighting the most uninspired campaign within living memory.

Indeed the campaign has been so uninspired that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised to unleash the “real Julia” in order to make the Labor party more attractive to voters. As Age columnist Michelle Grattan rightfully asks, just “who” have we been seeing if not the real Julia?

As the impact of climate change becomes more and more apparent, our federal politicians are proposing… banning the import of nasty looking knives.

/face palm

On tackling climate change neither party has been particularly inspiring. Labor has decided we need a “citizens assembly” of 100-200 representatives from all walks of life to examine all aspects of the science and how to respond.

Here’s a hint Julia: 97% of climate scientists accept the science.

Climate was a significant factor in the 2007 election. Labor, then lead by Kevin Rudd promised action and it helped then get into office. But then the wheels fell off…

As The Australian (not a paper normally friendly to science) reports, Labor badly fumbled the climate change issue. They had the public support but got spooked by a “small and vocal minority”.

Here’s another hint Julia: stop worrying about the insignificant, but noisy, cranks who don’t accept the science.

The majority of Australians want action.

That’s the “Julia” we want to see.

Abbott interview

Tony “Climate change is crap” Abbott (leader of the Liberals) was recently interviewed by Laurie Oakes, Australia’s most esteemed political commentators who pressed him on the climate change issue.

Abbott has long been regarded as a “sceptic”. His recent biography “Battlelines” has a few pages dedicated to the climate change issue in which he glowingly refers to the “work” of noted sceptic Ian Pilmer who pushes the climate has always been changing argument”.

Oakes (LO) addresses the climate change issues early in the interview, pressing Abbot (TA) on his understanding of climate change:

TA: Look I’ve always thought that climate change happens. The important thing, though is how do you deal with it? And I think that the best way to deal with it is to take practical action that will achieve the 5% emissions reduction target by 2020.

Anyone familiar with the climate debate will recognise this coded phrase.

It is one of the stock arguments used by the deniers, as provided by this example:

“Climate is always changing. We have had ice ages and warmer periods when alligators were found in Spitzbergen. Ice ages have occurred in a hundred thousand year cycle for the last 700 thousand years, and there have been previous periods that appear to have been warmer than the present despite CO2 levels being lower than they are now. More recently, we have had the medieval warm period and the little ice age…”

No one denies the climate has changed over the last four billion years. What’s crucial is the attribution of recent changes in temperature to human activity.

Abbot is threading the needle: he is signalling to the broader base of voters that he “accepts” the climate change while also dog whistling to the “sceptics” who have thrown their support behind Abbott because they don’t want to see any “big new taxes”.

He then goes on to push the lie that the science is not settled:

LO: That’s now, but last year, you wrote a “op ed”? piece in a newspaper saying that the best thing that for the coalition to do was pass the emissions trading legislation, get it out of the way?

TA: I was trying to support the leader, and obviously, the leader, then, had a rather different position to me on this.

LO: Then you said that climate change was crap?

TA: I think what I actually said was the idea of the settled science of climate change is a bit aromatic.

Actually the science is is well and truly settled. A recent report by an international team of scientists has confirmed climate change is undeniable:

An international team of climate scientists led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed that climate change is “undeniable” and clearly driven by the “human fingerprints” of greenhouse gas emissions.  The findings are based on new data that was not reviewed during the most recent 2007 report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

So the science is a “bit smelly” then Tony?

Abbot then goes one to push another misconception, that a tax on CO2 would badly hit household budgets

LO: And then you said you only said that, in fact, on this program, you said you only said that climate change was crap because you were trying to persuade a group of Liberals in Beaufort Victoria that negotiating an improved ETS scheme would be the best thing to do?

TA: Sure, Laurie. Look we can go …

LO: That’s four positions so far?

TA: We can go over all the history, but the important thing is…

LO: The important thing is that then you had another position where Malcolm Turnbull did negotiate a compromise, you pulled the rug out from under him and you became the leader and said no ETS now or ever.

TA: The important thing Laurie is what will happen if the Coalition wins. We will achieve our 5% reduction through some direct action measures. What will happen if Labor wins? If Labor wins, we will have a carbon tax. Simple as that and that will put up the price of everything. A $40 a tonne carbon tax will double the price of electricity.

As economist John Quiggin notes, Abbott is telling another porky:

What’s really striking about this is that it occurs in a context where Laurie Oakes is questioning Abbott about his credibility. The next question, referring to previous inconsistencies is “But, isn’t it important if you become Prime Minister, that Australians can believe what their Prime Minister says?”. Oakes is pretty good on who said what and when, but he lacks the basic arithmetic skills and policy background to call Abbott out on an obvious lie.

This is the quality of the debate we are having.

Did I mention in my last post the oceans are in a death spiral?

6 thoughts on “Election 2010 update: Labour keeps dropping the ball, Liberal leader Abbott pushes denier “climate has always changed” line

  1. Has anyone made a connection between Abbot’s view on climate change and his unconventional religious convictions?

    I’m not trolling, it’s just that I’m no longer in Australia so I’m not up with the play on these matters.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      As far as I can tell, religion is not a factor in his climate change denialism. From my reading of Abbott’s statements, book and his appearance in the media it is more a pro-growth and culture war issue. Like many conservatives he equates “belief” in global warming with green/left wing idealism. Parts of the Liberal party are still strong advocates of neo-liberal economics and thus have an inherent distrust government intervention in the economy.

  2. Tim says:

    It is a bit of a non-event, this election, isn’t it?
    She basically wants to sit the country on it’s arse and do nothing while he wants to take us backwards.
    You made a really good point here (and one I’ve been making also) that what Australia needs (if not all of us truly want) is a strong progressive leader. In both cases, it looks like the candidate pulled a dodgy to get their top-job position and neither seem to offer anything at all interesting.

  3. adelady says:

    I think she’s just a bit careful about scaring the horses. I cherish a secret hope that this 150 citizen bunfest will actually give tax and transer a bit of a hearing. So the choices will turn out to be between 2 courses of action rather than between do nothing and ETS.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      You may have a point there adelady… but we have to wait and see. With 60% of the Australian public supporting an ETS I think we have a good enough consensus.

  4. adelady says:


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