Deers in headlights: Abbott’s government of “grownups” losing control of climate change narrative


To the horror of the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Environment Minister Greg Hunt and the conservative media, everyone is talking about climate change.

If only they’d shut up about it!

Maybe it is folly to try and stop people talking about climate change when significant parts of the country are burning in early spring. Reality, unlike a compliant and supportive News Corp journalist, is not in the business of denying global warming.

And yet it was supposed to be easy for Tony Abbott once he’d parked himself in the big chair.

All he had to do these past three years was run a great big scare campaign against the great big tax. Who would have thought the tricky part would come after taking government?

Mr. Abbott seems to have assumed that simply warming the chair of his predecessors would magically fix things to his liking. The nightmare years of Labor in government and the inconvenience of having to do anything about climate change would be magically wiped away.

Repeal this, slash that and hey presto we’re back to Howard’s glory years.

But what exactly Abbott is doing in government is anyone’s guess. Outside of repealing legislation, dumbing down the NBN, jumping on a fire truck for a spot of back burning and cutting the Climate Commission there doesn’t seem to be much of that “vision thing”.

However to his increasing frustration, the more people talk about the connection between the fires and global warming, the more the Abbott’s agenda to scrap the carbon tax comes under scrutiny.

What’s a PM sceptical of climate change to do?

Well, if you’re Mr. Abbott you’re desperate to stop people talking about “it”. And by “it” I mean the reality of climate change.

Thus we owe Adam Bandt a great deal of gratitude for daring to suggest a link between the NSW fires and the badly conceived and ineffective Direct Action Plan.

What Bandt did what was both brave and necessary. He made explicit the obvious link between the fires and global warming. He also drew attention to the incongruous situation of the government tearing down Australia’s response to climate change as some of the worst fires seen in NSW history ravage the state. Here merely pointed what folly such actions are.

Did I also mention we’ve seen the hottest day, hottest month and hottest year on record during these past 12 months? And that we’re due for a horror fire season? Gosh, it’s almost like there is a link.

Thus, when highly placed UN official Christiana Figueres also drew the same connection to the unpredicted scale of the fires and questioned the government’s plans, she drew the ire of the PM:

Mr Abbott batted away the comments on Wednesday, saying that Australia had had ”bad fires” since the beginning of European settlement.

”Well I think the official in question is talking through her hat, if I may say so,” he told Fairfax Radio.

”Climate change is real as I’ve often said and we should take strong action against it. But these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they’re a function of life in Australia.”

It is patently clear the government is losing control of the climate change narrative.

In fact it is getting impossible to wave away peoples concern about the issue, especially during extreme weather events. Over the next few years the Abbott government is going to find the politics of climate change even trickier to manage as incidents such as the NSW fires happen with greater frequency and ferocity.

Climate change will define this government.

So far it looks like Abbott & Co are floundering badly. On this and a range of other issues the government is looking out of touch and ill equipped to manage the act of governing Australia in the 21st century.

Wasn’t this supposed to be a government of grownups?

Then why do I get the impression they’re more like a bunch of timid deers caught in headlights, transfixed by the oh-so-shiny-but-dangerous-glare of forces greater than them?

Rather than embracing challenges as grownups should, the response of Abbott & Co is to stay in denial, attempt to shut others up and pretend the problem will go away. In the long run this strategy is bound to fail.

Still, along the way we’re promised many fine and amusing incidents as senior members of the Abbott government try wave the issue of climate change away.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt was in especially fine form today, dismissing the connection between global warming and the fires by doing (wait for it) a quick scan of Wikipedia:

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has hosed down suggestions of a link between climate change and increased bushfire intensity, saying he had ”looked up what Wikipedia” said and it was clear that bushfires in Australia were frequent events that had occurred during hotter months since before European settlement.

Given he has access to experts at the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian scientific community, Mr. Hunt seems satisfied with a quick Google search.

And yet somehow such a person managed to get elected to high office?

Grownups eh?

Deers in headlights.



56 thoughts on “Deers in headlights: Abbott’s government of “grownups” losing control of climate change narrative

  1. john byatt says:

    another petition out but this time avaaz has taken it up, it will be delivered to senate opposition by firefighters asking theyreject Abbott’s demolishing ETS

  2. john byatt says:

    “The Age believes Mr Bandt has a valid point. Rather than politicising on his own behalf, his criticisms draw necessary attention to the Abbott government’s own politicising: the swift fulfilment of its election promises to downgrade the prominence of science in general and the effects of climate change in particular. As we wrote a month ago, ”It is reasonable to fear that science and the science portfolio are being sacrificed to politics.”

  3. Stevo says:

    I reckon the Wikipedia moment is the beginning of the end for Hunt. It will come to dominate the narrative around him. There are shades of the hapless Ian Campbell. Remember the Orange Bellied Parrot? He never got over that and was shuffled out of environment.

    • Bernard J. says:

      The Coalition are rapidly finding themselves painted into a corner by their own collective hand. Hunt is indeed becoming a liability given the untenability of his denial of science and his clumsy use of Wikipedia and of logical fallacies. I’m not sure though that the government can afford to ditch him – that would be tantamount to admitting that Hunt cannot do his job, which is probably worse than having him continue with the portfolio and persisting with these demonstrations of his incompetence.

      Political satirists around the country must be salivating at the richness of this lode. All except for the Murdoch lackies, who will have their orders to leave off Rupert’s pets.

      And Abbott… so far he’s shown himself to be a hemming-and-hawing, three-word-slogan repeating, camera-seeking, hypocrite who can’t grasp that the election is over and that it’s time to prove that he can actually do some real nation-building. Rather, he seems hellbent on destroying not only the country but the planet as fast as he is able.

  4. Bill Stocks says:

    Absolute Bloody ******* Our Tony Talks! [Edited ~ Mike @ WtD]

  5. john byatt says:

    “An unknown person on Thursday updated the Minister’s Wikipedia page to note that he “was quoted as saying he uses Wikipedia for important policy research”. Wikipedia later posted a message saying that editing of Mr Hunt’s page had been disabled for new or unregistered users due to vandalism.”

  6. john byatt says:

    are senators who’s party leader will make millions from abolishing carbon price and mining super profit tax actually allowed to vote on such issues ?

    • Bernard J. says:

      I’ve been wondering about this. There is a demonstrable and extremely serious conflict of interest here, and it point directly to a grievous flaw in the democratic process.

      I’m curious to know if there’s any avenue for legal redress…

    • J Giddeon says:

      The page has now been fixed and placed on protection mode to “because of increased vandalism” (ie children being children).

      Did you actually listen to the recording of what he said to the BBC? Of course not.
      If yo listen to the full text with an open mind….oh sorry, forgot who I was talking to.

      • john byatt says:

        I consider this a troll comment, of course we listened to Hunt on BBC he quoted the first para of wiki but not the next part

        he only read the first paragraph

        next came this
        “In truth there has been a significant change in Australia’s bushfire season. Examples from past records are clear evidence that much has changed and this is as a result of human activity.[1][2]
        In 2007, a CSIRO study concluded that there is evidence for anthropogenic climate change being a driver of a worsening of fire weather conditions including increases in very high and extreme fire danger rating days and earlier onset of the fire season. [3]

        sorry to reply to this troll but it just shows what a utter waste of time he is and just how deceitful hunt was

        last time to reply . nick can have you and your garbage

  7. Michael Marriott says:

    Hilarious stuff!

    • Nick says:

      Ideology dumbs him right down: the misdirection in his answer is straight out of the rejectionist song-book:

      -“Minister, what is the connection between climate change and bushfire?”

      -“Thanks for asking, I looked it up and we’ve always had bushfires.”

      -“Minister, that wasn’t the question. BTW, why have you ignored Australian and international research on the subject?”

      -“Thanks, no more questions.”

      Arrogant, out of touch…a disgrace.

    • Nick says:

      Old news. Several papers have been published that disagree with Mann’s hypothesis. That’s science: someone advances an idea and it gets played with. You seem to be clinging to an idea that Mann is regarded as infallible, or that people need to believe in his infallibility, just as folks like you are dependent on the mantra that he’s always wrong. Tiresome you.

    • Nick says:

      More on topic, and also relevant to research, is Hunt’s repudiation of the findings of his thesis in order to fall in with the rejectionism behind Direct Inaction. Whatever it takes, eh, to grasp that prize. Brings a smile to my face, and I know you’ll feel the same.

      Seriously, expedience trumps knowledge all too often with this class.

      • Jennifer says:

        I’ve been wondering about that.
        Hunt understands climate change. What’s he doing???

        • Bernard J. says:


          I can only put it down to two things:

          1) Hunt must know that his party’s responses to the science and the to best international economic advice are garbage, in which case he is consciously lying as well as deliberately supporting bad policy, or

          2) he has had a brain aneurism or another dementing neurological condition that has excised the higher functions of his mind.

          Either way, it doesn’t instill confidence that he can produce satisfactory outcomes for the common weal.

  8. Debunker says:

    Abbott during Fairfax interview:

    ”Climate change is real as I’ve often said and we should take strong action against it. But these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they’re a function of life in Australia.”

    I would hope that the credulous reporter doing the interview had the balls to ask the following questions:

    If Abbott now believes that Climate Change is real, why is he previously on record as having stated that “Climate Change is crap”, and:

    If he believes that strong action should be taken against it, why has he abolished the post of Science minister and defunded the Climate Change Commission?

    Sadly, mainstream media interviews fail to hold the political class to account for the totally contradictory positions they seem to hold most of the time.

    • Nick says:

      “..totally contradictory positions..” This is the critical issue,indeed. Modern conservative governments are often made up, bizarrely, of anti-gov types who, because of a fixation about tax philosophy and the supremacy of God the Entrepreneur, see no way forward but to withdraw and shrink services,and privatise the commonweal as much as possible. They also know that most people fundamentally object to this course when they really think about it. Thus the urge to political deception becomes irresistable.

      The modern ‘conservative’ ideological bloody-mindedness demands the construction of parallel realities ,and in too many cases. The application of simple power can protect and enshrine totally contradictory positions, nonsensical political narratives and stupid ideas, simply because power can. Particularly if the media is low on talent, and high on self-satisfaction.

      Parallel realities are horribly corrupting of public discourse, and dishearten and alienate many from engagement with politics, leaving the field to the sociopathic wretches who revel in doublespeak and bafflegab….and their sycophants in the media, who are satisfied with proximity to power, and are liable to applaud what is in reality duplicity.

      Governments of neo-lib small gov persuasions will prattle about accepting the science, honoring the public need for services, governing for all, and seeking the best advice, etc. while having very little intention of doing any of it. They tell us that it is too costly, but when the idea is put that we close loopholes, and reform taxation and the contract between captalism and society, they tell us that taxation is unpopular with everyone,and that money is a flighty horse. And ‘socialism’, Great Big Tax, Budget Crisis, Direct Action and Operation Sovereign Borders.

      • Nick says:

        On cue, Barrie Cassidy opines that Abbott’s info shut down is ‘smart’, though he does not agree with it. IOW, ‘smart’ for a while, then obstructive and controlling later.

        Why call it smart at all? Aren’t journalists allowed to advocate for information access from the get go?

        • Chris O'Neill says:

          “Why call it smart at all?”

          As long as people realize that means “smart-arse”.

    • Chris O'Neill says:

      “If Abbott now believes that Climate Change is real”

      So now the position seems to be: We will take “direct” “action” to mitigate global warming even though there are no potential harms such as an increase in bushfire risk.

      I wonder how this will play out.

    • toby52 says:

      Climate change is real … but it is not having an effect?

      Really, Prime Minister, how can something “change” yet leave no trace of change? Something must be actually … changing!!

    • Bernard J. says:

      The question that I’d have liked to have been posed to Abbott by way of response would be:

      If you accept that “climate change is real” can you explain why it has in fact had no modifying effect on the severity of the fires that are currently occurring along the eastern seaboard of Australia?

      There are plenty of supplementary questions that could follow on, depending on the nature of Abbott’s answering prevarication.

  9. Stuart Mathieson says:

    I think the problem you have in Australia is the same one we have in New Zealand; a collective dogma the lads are terrified of expressing doubts about. Certainly of being the first to and then to risk being subject to howls of derision. That’s what it amounts to dear friends. This conformist habit of mind Is inculcated in privileged boarding schools and campus house life. It probably made sense in our low tech Pleistocene past when coordinated behaviour was crucial at times. But in this the Anthropocene we have a whole lot of unfamiliar cliffs to plunge over.

  10. john byatt says:

    Mckew “the science is never settled”
    wanted to throw my shoe at the TV

    • Nick says:

      Useless natterers to the last. The guy in the middle is a chump, all over the place. Talking about perception without bringing expertise.

      Priest even allows the News Ltd misrepresentation of Flannery’s remarks, though he does not make much of it once he introduces it. It’s all mired in climate/weather confusion, and the pretense that there is some climate technical content and purpose in political [and their own] discussion…when it’s clear that sound-bite pollies act to exclude technical content /uncomfortable ground at all times.

      Priest effectively blames concern over-reach on climate /extreme connections for retarding action! The idiot completely exonerates deliberate government inactivism over the last decades. Implicit in his position is the Populist Defence: that government is a slave to ‘majority’ opinion,and cannot act on ‘best advice’, which they actually have in spades if they care to access it.

      A prime minister can provide direction very effectively with statements and actions. Abbott’s actions clearly says ‘no’ to climate change, and a faux contest about this fire is a simple reminder of that.

    • Gregory T says:

      It’s amazing, for months, the ABC had no problems giving unsubstantiated sprays at labor, over anything. And now they’ve become pedantic in their attempt to appear impartial. Throw a shoe, I wanted to throw the whole wardrobe.

    • astrostevo says:

      Lateline used to be really good at taking down climate deniers notably Tony Jones interview with Durkin some years ago and a few other good reports on Catalyst and 4 corners.

      I wonder if they’ve been or feel threatened by the new government& told to downplay and ignore or “balance” this issue? Wouldn’t surprise me if so.

      • astrostevo says:

        See for instance in this clip :

        at the 2 minutes 22 seconds mark onwards.

      • Bernard J. says:

        Tony Jones and his Lateline replacements have been quite soft on climate change deniers for the last few years. I suspect that it’s in part from a desire to keep controversy in the political arena (they don’t want to completely hose down the fire that warms them…) and partly because it was apparent several years ago that the Australian electorate was hooked by the Coalition’s smear campaign and the writing was on the wall.

        Kerry O’Brien is by far a more principled journalist when it comes to properly weighing the science, but as he is more a host (+ producer?) these days his voice in addressing political climate change denialism is muted. It’s a shame, because someone of O’Brien’s calibre and veritas is sorely needed in proper investigative and interrogation journalism.

        Of course, in the eyes of the Coalition that would be to promote an excessively small “L” liberal bias (with the irony completely lost on them), but that’s only to be expected from a government that, along with its state counterparts, is orange-lining on the Hitlerometer.

        [I reckon that “Godwin” will become an unavoidable clichéd byword in the Australian blogosphere over the next three years. We need a caveat that Godwin’s law has no jurisdictional validity in any discussion of the Abbott government… ]

  11. Dr No says:

    I must say that Greg Hunt is a bit of a disappointment if he thinks he can speak on science matters.
    Is it true that he has a PhD?
    Has somebody actually read it and checked it out?
    I would love to see his list of references.

    Is it possible to withdraw a doctorate from somebody if they behave in a matter which disgraces the science, the university and the profession? (I know the answer is no, unfortunately)

    • john byatt says:

      wiki has put the reference back up on greg hunt’s page

      Wikipedia comments controversy

      See also: Reliability of Wikipedia
      In October 2013, while being interviewed by the BBC, Hunt said:
      “Australia has since European settlement and obviously well before that, had a history of recurrent bushfires. I looked up what Wikipedia says, for example, just to see what the rest of the world thought, and it opens up with the fact that bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires. That’s the Australian experience.”[4][5][6]

      of course he missed the second para about climate change in wiki bushfires in Australia

  12. Chris O'Neill says:

    “disgraces the science, the university and the profession”

    He’s just another scientifically-ignorant lawyer, like virtually all the government:

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