Invisible substance: latest Abbottism slams together cheap slogans and willed ignorance

Pity poor Tony Abbott.

A little over a month ago there could be no doubt he would assume the mantle of Prime Minister.

Indeed, the long slow grind to the then proposed election date of September 14 was nothing more than a formality. The voters were weary of the election, and had tuned out – happily waiting for the whole thing to be over. The countdown to the election was shaping up to be nothing more than a prolonged victory lap for the would be PM.

But then things changed. Gillard was removed, Rudd reinstalled and suddenly – overnight – the political landscape was reshaped.

Yes, pity poor Tony Abbott – or not.

For over three years the Australian media gave him a free pass, especially on climate change policy.

But Abbott’s latest attempt to attack the carbon price did not merely fall flat, but resulted in gales of laughter and derision across Australia and the world.

No doubt feeling the pressure of a resurgent Labor and Rudd Mark II, Abbott committed what has to be one of the greatest political gaffes of the past few years by calling the ETS:

” [A] so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one”

I don’t think Abbott could have created a more ugly conjunction of three word slogans slammed together with willed ignorance if he tried.

If Abbott hadn’t killed the English language with his latest clanger, it is certainly spinning in its grave.  

It is clearly a dog whistle call to climate sceptics and grumpy old men like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones. But rather than becoming a new rallying cry for those opposed to a price on carbon, it ranks as one of the more hilarious own goals in recent Australian political history.

Mark my words, this one is going to haunt Abbott for a long, long time.

The experts have not merely been damning, but openly mocking Abbott

Tony Abbott’s insistence that Labor’s emissions trading scheme is an expensive exercise in buying and selling an ”invisible substance” has drawn derision from climate experts and industry.

As the Rudd government prepares to detail a path from the carbon tax to an ETS a year earlier than scheduled, the Opposition Leader faces claims he is treading his own path back to the ”politics of climate denial and scepticism”.

Mr Abbott’s assertion that an ETS – to be introduced on July 1, 2014, as the government will announce on Tuesday – was a ”so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one” sparked an immediate backlash, with critics pointing out that former Liberal prime minister John Howard designed a similar scheme.

Professor Richard Dennis, an economist at the Australian National University, said Mr Abbott should make it clear whether he thinks radiation was harmful or not.

”The notion that something now has to be visible to be valuable or harmful is an entirely new concept in Australian politics and one that will concern and confuse many,” he said.

”If Tony Abbott is concerned about people paying for invisible things, then anyone who owns intellectual property should be very concerned, likewise people in the futures and financial derivatives market.”

Martijn Wilder, a climate change lawyer at global law firm Baker & McKenzie, said: ”You might not be able to see carbon dioxide but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t regulate it.

Note to Abbott.

When people no longer fear your crude attacks on science, but instead openly mock you in the press, it’s a good sign that what ever shred of credibility you had on the issue has been lost.

Sure, CO2 is invisible to the naked eye – invisible stuff just like oxygen, germs and radiation. However if there is a lack of substance, it is clearly Abbott on climate change.

I’ve been saying for some time that the LNPs lack of real policy on climate change and its continual flirtation with climate change denial (if not outright support) would start to hurt them. Events are starting to show this.

The LNP is caught between a rock and a hard place – the reality of climate change and the willed ignorance of Abbott. You can’t wish away climate change. Having a serious policy in regards to climate change is now an  imperative for all political parties.

Abbott is in denial and the DAP is a policy mess.

Abbott is failing the leadership test on climate change.

And I’m sure one Malcolm Turnbull is smiling on the inside….

Addendum: Abbott v Turnbull leadership crisis brewing

Speculation about Turnbull has begun, as reported by The Age:

It would not be surprising were Liberal members of Federal Parliament feeling nervous, even skittish. Only days ago, they were considered all but certain to win the coming election. Tony Abbott now looks an even bet to emulate his former boss John Hewson (Abbott was Hewson’s media adviser), who in 1993 lost what was widely considered an unloseable ballot against Paul Keating. 

The game-changer, of course, has been the painful and pragmatic decision by the ALP caucus to return Kevin Rudd to the prime ministership. In so doing, they followed advice Keating was given long ago by former NSW premier Jack Lang: in politics you should always back the horse named self-interest. In their own self-interest, the Liberals would be wise to at least consider replacing Tony Abbott with Malcolm Turnbull. It has long been clear the two leaders Australian voters would like to choose between are Rudd and Turnbull…

I think Abbott and the Liberals are about to learn constant speculation on the leadership cuts both ways.

What have I been saying for the last year?

For over a year now I’ve been arguing Abbott and the LNP have a growing problem on their hands. Their opposition to the carbon price (Ax the tax!) and Abbott’s “Blood oath” is a trap they have made for themselves. While ditching a price on carbon may be to the liking of far-right-wing columnists such as Andrew Bolt and eccentric mining billionaires, it turns out the vast majority of business in Australia is happy with an emissions trading scheme (see below). 

While “Axe the tax”. “Ju-liar” and “Ditch the Witch” were effective (but ugly) slogans they lacked substance. Simple opposition and the proposed Direct Action Policy are now being seen as lacking substance. Abbott has a growing problem, and it is a problem of his making. 

I suspect the vicious opposition to the “carbon tax” will prove to have been useful in giving the Coalition a useful short-term tactical advantage, but in the end a strategic blunder. China and now America are now moving towards more vigorous action. This now leaves Australia and Abbott the laggards. The world is moving, and Abbott still thinks it is 1955. 

My advice: watch this space. 

I’m growing increasingly confident that Abbott may have to breach his “blood oath”. The moment Abbott baulks he is in deep trouble: the hypocrisy will be obvious to all. 

Here’s another thought… imagine what Malcolm Turnball, the man Abbott deposed with the backing of climate sceptics, is thinking after watching the return of Kevin Rudd. 


50 thoughts on “Invisible substance: latest Abbottism slams together cheap slogans and willed ignorance

  1. john byatt says:

    he is also coming under media attack for his “stop the Boats” with another Indonesian broadside

  2. uknowispeaksense says:

    I hope Malcolm sits back and watches this trainwreck and doesn’t decide to challenge. With Abbott making all the calls and uttering every brainfart that enters the empty space. he will lose the unloseable, just like Hewson did.

  3. Gregory T says:

    Makes you wonder, who he prays to.

  4. Gregory, Abbott prays to his own image in the mirror. He is arrogance personified. It’s going to be fun watching him publicly dismantle himself to the point that only the ultra-denialists and Murdoch hacks invent ways to prop him up. Just watch the increasingly dirty tactics from the opposition as it dawns on them that they could well lose the coming election.

    Abbott is paying the price for policy laziness and intellectual dishonesty over the last three years. He is his own worst enemy – watching him and Hunt get more and more desperate could become quite entertaining.

    • Gregory T says:

      Blair, so if it all goes to plan, he will slowly disappear, until be becomes an invisible weightless, nonentity. In the words of Mr. Burns, ” Excellent “

  5. Rachel says:

    I’m impressed by how much Kevin Rudd has managed to claw the labour party back from almost certain death. I hope it continues.

    • john byatt says:

      and you have also proved that you are not a Labor party hack Rachel

      • Rachel says:

        What’s a labour party hack?

        • john byatt says:

          In australia we use Labor party not labour party, a labor party hack, a Writer who always takes the Labor party side in any debate.

        • Rachel says:

          Oh god, you sound like my mother but thank you for the correction. I haven’t lived in Australia for many years and so do not follow the politics very closely and no longer vote there. I know enough about Tony Abbott though to hope that he loses the next election.

        • Gregory T says:

          Loved you play on words regarding Salby’s transgressions.

        • john byatt says:

          cannot remember Helen Clarke copping the sexist abuse that Gillard suffered.

          It be will remembered as a regrettable period of Australian politics

        • Rachel says:

          Thanks, Gregory. I wasn’t sure whether it was bad taste to make fun of someone’s misfortunes but he’s not the most likable character.

        • Rachel says:

          I don’t think Helen Clarke was ever treated quite as badly as Gillard was. It was headline news over here but this might be because New Zealand doesn’t have much news to report.

  6. Steve says:

    Of course this isn’t the first time the invisibility of carbon dioxide has been used to suggest it is unimportant. Unfortunately I have been unable to find the link I was looking for, but it seems that the idea has been used many times, somertimes with the connected (but incorrect) idea that we can see water vapour.

  7. john byatt says:

    One of the big problems as I see it is getting people to recognise that a 4DegC warmer world is not waking up with a temperature in Sydney of 14C and then comparing that to 18C at lunchtime,

    would like to see that get more public attention


  8. K largo says:

    As a political statement, not made at a science conference, saying CO2 is an invisible gas is quite acceptable. What is less acceptable is climate activists using pictures of power stations belching out water vapour and implying it is CO2. THAT is assuming the general public is dumb. Or pictures of polar bears stranded on a ice floe when polar bears are quite able to swim. Or calling Carbon Dioxide a pollutant. All are political images and anti-science, aiming to get a political message across.

    The finance brokers who gave us the GFC do no favours by quoting other invisible products such as derivatives and futures.

    Even leftists don’t like Carbon trading.
    The Green Left Weekly repported back in 2010 that “on December 9, 2009 the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol estimated up to 90% of all market volume was fraudulent in some countries”.

    They further noted:
    “In a November briefing titled “Carbon credit fraud: The white collar crime of the future”, accounting firm Deloitte said the Rudd government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme could also be open to fraud.

    Deloitte Forensic’s Chris Noble: “An emissions trading scheme may well attract highly organised fraudsters from overseas and Australia prepared to exploit arrangements that will be trading in billions of dollars.

    “The warning signs are already apparent, with many schemes falling into the traditional rationalisation approaches”.

    Abbott has put the finger on the crucial issue. How real are the CO2 futures being traded? Will the market be as well regulated as the CDO markets? These are legitimate political questions.

    • uknowispeaksense says:

      *sigh* I get the impression Tony Abbott could say anything outrageously stupid and there would be people like you to justify it. If you don’t think CO2 is a pollutant then stick a bag over your head and breathe deeply.

    • john byatt says:

      “What is less acceptable is climate activists using pictures of power stations belching out water vapour and implying it is CO2.”

      power stations do belch out CO2, that is the problem.there you have learnt something today,

      Should pictures of power stations only be used when they are not operating.

      i thought that the picture of a Polar bear on the iceberg was a powerful and honest depiction of the plight they face, I saw it more as the last piece of ice left for them.

      you do not dismantle the global markets because some trading is fraudulent.

      increasing CO2 has a pollutant effect in the ocean, water is a pollutant if it gets into your fuel system, too much of anything putting pressure on a system is usually regarded as a pollutant,

      I think that you are the one pushing an anti science agenda and understanding

      • K largo says:

        Yes, they do emit CO2. But it is invisible as Mr Abbott rightly said. It is the water vapour which condenses to steam which is visible and is so useful for those wanting pictures of “dirty coal power stations”.

        • john byatt says:

          this garbage is the result of think tanks like the IPA coming up with giving the deniers something to whine about, How many people would have thought that the steam was CO2? no one even a dullard like Abbott knows that it is invisible. ” look they are trying to make out that water vapor is CO2, give us a break.

          until the deniers were told to think that, it was a depiction of a power station in operation

          how many people looking at the polar bear sitting on an iceberg would have thought, oh polar bears cannot swim, again no one,

          try to think for yourself in future. instead of just bleating on with what you have been told to think

        • K largo says:

          “How many people would have thought that steam was CO2?”.

          Plenty of environmental activists and their PR men apparently. Power stations emitting steam is the favourite pin-up image for anti-fossil fuel activists.

          Have a look at this image:
          Wind turbines with blue sky on left and Coal fired power station with dark “smoke” on the right.

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          Yes. Clean power with no emissions and dirty power with emissions. If your complaint is about honesty in the messages, perhaps you should cast your critical eye over the arguments put forward by deniers. You’ll find plenty of dishonesty and verbal pollution there.

        • K largo says:

          And who can forget the “Say yes” campaign with Michael Caton standing in front of a coal-fire Power Plant with dark “CO2 pollution” bellowing from its chimneys.

          The problem is that the pictured power station, Battersea, was decommissioned 30 years previously.

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          again, go and test the arguments put forward by the Koch and oil-funded deniers for honesty. I suspect when you compare their nonsense to the overwhelming science it will be found wanting.

        • K largo says:

          So dishonesty in climate activist messages is OK because others are doing it.

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          It is your claim that showing towers spewing steam into the air is dishonest, not mine. I am just suggesting that you pass your seemingly myopic glare over the arguments put forward by deniers if you’ve got a bee in your bonnet about perceived dishonesty.

          On pictures of power plants, are you suggesting that perhaps pictures be taken of power plants when they are not operational? Would that make you feel better? Maybe we could try and frame a tree in the foreground? Children playing on swings nearby? Butterflies? Perhaps car manufacturers should show dust spotsandroad grime ont he cars they are trying to selll and toothbrush manufacturers film people brushing their teeth in bathrooms with overflowing laundry hampers. I know, lets go the whole hog and get real with advertising and show women in sanitary product ads doubled over with abdominal cramps. But finally, let’s also get oil companies to show pictures of dead seabirds and mammals from their pollution in their advertising. Let’s get them to show human victims from record extreme weather events in their advertising. If you want complete honesty in the messages we are shown, these are a few suggestions I am certain you would be keen to embrace. Oh, and if you’ve got one of these ads that actually says the stuff coming out of the chimneys is smoke, I’d love to see it and I’ll be more than happy to criticise the publishers.

        • K largo says:

          “if you’ve got one of these ads that actually says the stuff coming out of the chimneys is smoke, I’d love to see it and I’ll be more than happy to criticise the publishers”.

          Putting the rest of the obfuscation and verbosity aside, it seems you did not see the Say Yes to Carbon Tax TV advert.

          Caton stands in front of a power station which is the non-operational Battersea coalfired station. However dark gases are emitted from the chimneys and envelope Caton. Across the screen is written in giant letters CARBON.

          “Cheap slogan and willed ignorance” describes this perfectly.

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          I don’t watch commercial television. I spend my time undertaking my research and much of my spare time reading scientific papers. So, sure, if what you say is correct…. ummmm..that’s…ummmmmm terrible. No really. Now its time for you to move on to the misinformation, lies and obfuscation spewed out by all those denier dens.

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          hang on…did those big letters say CO2 or CARBON? Carbon is indeed black. Perhaps the coal companies could advertise with pictures of dissected lungs that have been exposed to coal dust?

        • john byatt says:

          I think that K largo’s basic complaint is that there should be no advertising at all using polar bears and power stations, after all god put fossil fuels there for our use and would not make it dirty or cause it to harm us,

        • Yes, they do emit CO2. But it is invisible as Mr Abbott rightly said.

          But how is CO2’s invisibility relevant to the question of its regulation? Can it also be used to attack Abbott’s “Direct Action” policy? “Ha! Stupid Abbott – Offering to buy emissions which are INVISIBLE!”

          It is the water vapour which condenses to steam which is visible and is so useful for those wanting pictures of “dirty coal power stations”.

          So coal power stations can’t be considered “dirty” since you can’t actually see the substance that is causing a problem? This must be one of the lamest objections to climate change campaigning:

          “It’s not fair to show pictures of coal fired power stations in operation when talking about emissions because people might mistakenly believe that the water vapour visible in the pictures is CO2 which admittedly is also being emitted at the same time .”

          Of course, if the photo was taken when the power station wasn’t operating to avoid the “misleading water vapour” charge the response would shift to:

          “More propaganda! That station’s not even emitting CO2 because it’s not even running! I can tell ’cause there’s no water vapour coming out of the chimneys!”

        • john byatt says:

          you got it sammy, think tank distortion

    • zoot says:

      So K, a market based solution is just a recipe for disaster.
      Does this mean your preferred mechanism is a carbon tax?

  9. Moth says:

    Turnbull on Q&A recently has, in my opinion, been working against his leader. His body language and tone constantly suggests unease, disappointment and embarrassment; he’s saying, without say, “Abbott’s an idiot… Help the LNP, Australia!”

    His tone on the Real Solution’s booklet was a dead give away if nothing else has been.

  10. jasonblog says:

    Realistically the best way to address a changing climate caused by Western industrial practices is achieved by utilising both the ‘market’ approach and ‘direct action’. I’m a big believer in a mixed economy! Reducing emissions here and there means utterly nought if there is a business as usual approach to ‘development’. An ETS won’t save the Great Barrier Reef. If bringing the ETS forward by 12-months means having $1 billion ripped out of significant and needed environmental projects then Kevin Rudd is indulging in the great Wank-Fest of Australian politics. He’ll save the environment by profiting the banks!!!

    From a strategic point of view Rudd has cleverly managed to change the whole conversation around the ETS. Any changes to the ETS won’t happen until after the election and ‘business’ is now in a position to properly and openly discuss the ‘pro’s’ and ‘con’s’ of a carbon tax. For some businesses, such as those looking to develop renewable energy technology or carbon farming, they may prefer the continuance of the carbon tax.

    Abbott’s attitude to the entire issue has been retarded (in the full and true sense of the word). His policy is based on appeasing those elite corporate clients of the IPA. There are many small businesses, landholders, land managers, and communities in rural Australia that can benefit from innovation in how to profit from marginal farm land. Abbott’s rhetoric is professionally ignorant and deliberately unhelpful. Australia’s future economic potential is diminished by Abbott’s involvement in politics.

    Rudd is definitely backing Abbott into a corner.

  11. […] own Nemesis in the form of rival Malcom Turnbull, whom he unseated as NL leader by a single vote. Invisible substance: latest Abbottism slams together cheap slogans and willed ignorance | Watching t… Rudd has brought forward the introduction of a carbon trading scheme in order to neutralise the […]

  12. This should be on the front of every newspaper tomorrow. While the Coalition holds its breath and stamps its feet over the transision to an ETS (which was their policy until the denialist faction installed Abbott), the University of Melbourne publishes a study reconfirming that the central pillar of the Coalition’s emissions reduction strategy under “Direct Action” simply won’t work:

    The Coalition’s plan to store carbon dioxide in soil as a central plank of its climate policy has been thrown into further doubt by new research showing Australian soils are unlikely to offer low-cost emissions cuts.

    A University of Melbourne survey of hundreds of Australian studies going back three decades found that using the country’s soils to offset a significant proportion of national greenhouse gases “is technically limited and economically unviable at the present time”.

  13. john byatt says:

    will the NSIDC extent drop below 2stddev for the second year in a row?

  14. john byatt says:

    Acceleration of SLR increasing

    [1] Sea level observations suggest that the rate of sea level rise has accelerated during the last 20 years. However, the presence of considerable decadal-scale variability, especially on a regional scale, makes it difficult to assess whether the observed changes are due to natural or anthropogenic causes. Here we use a regression model with atmospheric pressure, wind, and climate indices as independent variables to quantify the contribution of internal climate variability to the sea level at 9 tide gauges from around the world for the period 1920–2011. Removing this contribution reveals a statistically significant acceleration (0.022 ± 0.015 mm/yr2) between 1952 and 2011, which is unique over the whole period. Furthermore, we have found that the acceleration is increasing over time. This acceleration appears to be the result of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, along with changes in volcanic forcing and tropospheric aerosol loading.

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