Category Archives: Election 2010

The Ides of March come more than once a year down under

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

And so it is done.

We have removed another Prime Minister from office. I was also part of the chorus calling for her resignation.

Did I feel my reasons were justified?

Perhaps.

Pragmatism tells me a hard choice had to be made.

Pragmatism tells me it was needed to avoid a forthcoming decade or more of conservative rule.

Without doubt we would have seen the stripping away of environmental and social protections under an Abbott led government with a super-majority.

Pragmatism told me something had to be done to avoid – or blunt the scale of – the victory of politicians beholden to mining billionaires.

Pragmatism called for the sacrifice of the individual for the sake of many.

But my conscience knows something very wrong took place, that all of us – every adult Australian – was complicit.

Every politician, every journalist, every pundit and every voter: we all have blood on our hands.

The Ides of March come more than once a year down under.

We have revealed our dark hearts: a nation of assassins.

Carbon tax destroys jobs?: Oz economy refuses to surrender to “great big tax on everything” by adding 50,000 jobs

Since the introduction of the carbon tax, children have been forced to line up for servings of thin, watery gruel...

Since the introduction of the carbon tax, children have been forced to line up for servings of thin, watery gruel…

Remember the hysteria prior to the introduction of that “Great Big Tax on Everything”, when the Australian economy was going to spiral into not merely a recession – or even a depression – but back into the Dark Ages?

It was going to usher in a period of madness: men and women impoverished by the tax would be forced to live on the street; cats and dogs living together in sin; fire and brimstone and the wrath of economic gods; parents forced to sell children into bondage; a leg of roast lamb to cost over $100!

According the alarmists such as Tony Abbott, the Liberal National Party and the entirety of News Limited (or so said Andrew Bolt, Terry McCrann and the other lessor lights in its stable of culture-warrior hacks) the very modest price on carbon was going to be the “roon of us!”.

Time and time again the claim was made the tax was going to destroy jobs:

“The coal industry will step up its campaign against a carbon tax, seeking to highlight job losses that will be caused by such a scheme…”

It is an article of faith among all the die-hard climate sceptics. Only a few weeks back the Astroturf and fossil fuel funded Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) claimed such a tax would destroy American jobs:

If you want to know what a carbon tax on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would do to America you need only look at the destruction of industry and business in Australia, along with the soaring costs for energy use it imposes on anyone there. 

“The carbon tax is contributing to a record number of firms going to the wall with thousands of employees being laid off and companies forced to close factories that have stood for generations”, Steve Lewis and Phil Jacob reported in a March 18 issue of The Daily Telegraph, a leading Australian newspaper.

Oh my god its true!

According to CFACT and the Daily Telegraph (Sidebar: Australians’ call it the Daily Terror for its tabloid, over the top style) we poor Aussies are suffering under the carbon tax. In fact, you can see the long lines at the soup kitchens already…

But is that true? 

How does the claim a carbon tax will destroy jobs?

Recent employment figures show the Australian economy has added 50,000 new jobs. Here is the data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for those interested. Numbers – not assertions.

Pesky things numbers: they often refuse to conform to our opinions.

Here is the truth – not the “truthiness” of CFACT and coal miners.

The Australian economy is doing OK.

Now there are a number of challenges facing the Australian economy due to the high dollar (vis-a-vis the USD) and the end of the mining boom. Government revenue has taken a hit due to the aforementioned reasons; also the mineral resources tax has woefully underperformed. I guess that’s what happens when you invite the mining companies to effectively write the law.

Surprise! They don’t get taxed!

But how does the economy-wreaking carbon tax fit into this picture?

Not at all.

Remember the hysteria, the public protests and the shrill braying for blood by the likes of Alan Jones who stated PM Julia Gillard should be stuffed into a bag and drowned?

Ruined?

End of life as we know it?

Hardly.

However, both Abbott and the hacks at News Limited have moved onto their next meme: “The Great Big Deficit on Everything”.

Yes, it will be the “roooooon of us!” again.

Australia has accrued a very modest deficit during a period when most of the global economy is sputtering: actually this is quite an achievement. Australia has had 21 years of continuous growth. The size of the public service, compared to other OECD countries is also modest – despite the fact both population and the need for services has grown, public services numbers have remained stable for years.

There is not a surplus of fat-cat public servants down under. But hey, wasn’t that another thing the carbon tax going to do? Create a unwieldy, bloated bureaucracy?

But let’s not get facts in the way of a good waging ideological warfare eh? There’s the free-market to evangelise and climate science to disparage!

I joke of course. The truth is this: all the posturing, sound and fury generated by the likes of Abbott and his cheer squad at News is divorced from reality.

Indeed, if there are any alarmists in the climate – or any other debate – I think we know where to point the finger.

But don’t believe me.

We’ll be roooooooned! Roooooooooned I tells ya!

It’s about climate change stupid: the Australian election is a major blow to the denial movement

Quite a few commentators have stated what was obvious to voters, but some how eluded the major parties.  

Climate change is a real issue to Australians. In ignoring it both the Liberal and Labor parties got punished at the ballot box.

Tony Abbot thought the old “Stop the boats!” mantra would allow the Liberals to tap into Australia’s perceived xenophobia and win him the election as it did his political mentor John Howard. Labor thought the promise of really fast broad band (compromised by repressive censorship) would appear visionary.

No one talked about the elephant in the room: climate change.

However, in ignoring climate change both parties got a rude shock: a hung parliament and the rise of the Greens.

It would appear the Australian public is more visionary and “big picture” than most of our politicians.

Says Nature:

“Although Australia’s national election has failed to produce a clear winner, the result is pushing climate change up the political agenda once more.

Both the incumbent Labor party and the Liberal–National opposition failed to secure an overall majority after this weekend’s vote. That means that the Australian Greens, who now have a record 11% of the vote and advocate aggressive action on climate change, could become key players. Along with a handful of conservative rural independents, the Greens are being wooed by both major parties to help them form a government.

…The swing towards the Greens represents a direct message from voters to their politicians, says Glenn Albrecht, director of the Institute of Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University in Perth. “Australians are telling their parties that they take climate change seriously and they take the science seriously.”

  John Hepburn over at Rooted calls it the second climate change election:

“…When Kevin Rudd won the 2007 election in a landslide, it was heralded as the world’s first climate change election. Three years later, having squandered their mandate, the ALP went to Saturday’s election having tried to bury the issue. With little clear difference between the offerings of the two major parties, and neither pushing their climate change credentials as a strong point of difference, it was little wonder that climate change didn’t feature strongly in the media coverage of the election campaign.

But with the results almost in, it is clear that climate change once again played a major role in the election, but in a very different way than 2007.

In 2007, the Greens got 7.8% of the primary vote, a disappointing increase of only 0.6% from the previous election. Public concern over climate change was channelled into a vote for Labor – which was promising strong action and a clear alternative to Coalition inaction. But in 2010, with both major parties failing on the issue, the Greens were the only party promising strong and credible action on climate and their vote jumped 3.6% to 11.4%. Of the 5.4% swing against Labor, nearly 70% of it went to the Greens.

The result is a hung Parliament for the first time since 1940 and the clear emergence of the Greens as a third political force in Australia.

It shows that climate change is an issue that can’t be ignored. It can’t be dismissed with a talk-fest, a grab bag of half baked ideas, or pork barrels. Concern over global warming has entered the bedrock of the Australian body politic and politicians ignore it at their peril.”

George Monbiit sums it up nicely:

It’s not difficult to see why this is a hot issue in Australia. The country has been hammered by drought and bushfires. It also has the highest carbon dioxide emissions per person of any major economy outside the Arabian peninsula. Australians pollute more than Americans, twice as much as people in the UK and four times more than the Chinese. Most Australians want to change this, but the coal industry keeps their politicians on a short leash. Like New Labour over here, Rudd and Gillard’s administration was a government of flinchers. It has been punished for appeasing industrial lobbyists and the rightwing press.

Message to politicians: it’s about climate change stupid.  

While the political parties might think this is a crises most Australians are pretty pleased they’ve delivered such a strong message.

While the political class is absorbed in the drama in Canberra, the sun still shines and we go about our lives. Crisis? What crisis?

We’ve told you want you want.

Now act.

What does it mean for the denial movement? Politicians should stop listening to the denial machine  

The Australian public is very clear on climate change: they accept the science and they want action. They just given both major political parties the equivalent of an electoral backhand.  

“Are you paying attention now?”  

For far too long our politicians have listened to the vested interests and the climate change denial lobby.  

“It will cost too much….”  

“The science isn’t settled…”  

“We have to wait for the US and China to act…”  

This election sends a clear, powerful message: stop listening to the deniers, and act on climate change.  

Otherwise we will vote you out of office.  

It’s that simple.  

As a consquence the election result is bad news for the denial movement.

Politicians will simply look at the numbers and decide there are no votes in climate change denial. After all, the Australian Climate Skeptics Party received a paltry number of votes compared to the Greens.

This election has rendered climate change denial the political movement irrelevant.

At this point it will start degenerating into a niche “culture war” issue, the preserve of cranks and fools.

“Sound and fury, signifying nothing….”

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?

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