Category Archives: LNP

The boys are back in town: Abbott’s dumps science and women, gives industry portfilio to Greenhouse Mafia

Firstly the good news.

Despite some initial speculation (and concern), Denis Jensen did not land the role of science minister. Placing a climate sceptic in charge of policy would have been a disastrous for science in Australia. Not to mention somewhat embarrassing.

Newly incumbent Prime Minister Tony Abbott neatly side-stepped the potential embarrassment of having a sceptic heading up the science portfolio by doing away with the science portfolio:

The country’s top science bodies have expressed concern over Tony Abbott’s  new ministry, which has omitted a dedicated science minister for the first time  in more than 80 years.

Not since 1931, and for six weeks during World War II, has an Australian  government been without a minister with science in their portfolio title. Under  the incoming Abbott government the minister for industry, Ian MacFarlane, will  be responsible for some areas of science including the main scientific  organisation, the CSIRO.

The Australian Academy of Science’s Les Field was disappointed Mr Abbott had  not appointed a science minister and hoped one would be announced in the coming  days.

”A scientifically literate society is a society which is equipped to hold  informed debate and make intelligent decisions about big issues that affect us  all,” said Professor Field,  the academy’s secretary for science policy.

See, problem solved!

Silly, silly scientists. What importance could science be to Australian society in the early 21st century?

Some commentators have noted that Macfarlane is a better choice than Jensen.

Really? Those of us with long memories and some insight into climate politics in Australia have grave concerns.

MacFarlane was once described as a member of Australia’s “Greenhouse Mafia” – part of a select group of men (surprise!) who worked behind the scenes in the Howard Government to block attempts to put a price on carbon or ratify the Kyoto agreement.

As Clive Hamilton noted in 2007:

“As industry minister in the Howard Government since November 2001, Macfarlane has been the greenhouse troglodyte of the Government. Even after the Prime Minister and the environment minister had accepted (at least in public) that climate change is real and potentially damaging, he continued to deny that there is a problem. MacFarlane has worked hand-in-glove with the fossil fuel lobby to sideline climate change. When the issue is unavoidable, he engages in policy window dressing in order to fool the Australian public into believing that the Government takes its responsibilities seriously…”

OK, now I can see how science fits into the industry portfolio.

Macfarlane’s mates get a free pass on polluting the planet, while science is muted and subservient to the needs of the fossil fuel industry.

Binders full of women, I mean women knocking at Cabinet’s door

In addition to this incumbent Prime Minister announced a ministry lineup which comprises of 95% men.

Memo to Australia: Afghanistan has more women in senior government positions than Australia.

Abbott sensed it may cause a perception issues stating:

“Nevertheless, there are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the Cabinet and there are lots of good and talented women knocking on the door of the ministry.,”

Phew! Glad Mr. Abbott cleared up the impression he had a problem with women. 

Yep, the boys are well and truly back in town.

 

Turnbull vs Abbott: DAP a policy mess, time to speculate on LNP leadership?

Lenore Taylor asks five pertinent questions about the LNPs Direct Action Policy (DAP) in a recent Guardian article, stating:

“Malcolm Turnbull raised a very good question about Tony Abbott’s climate change policy on the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night when he said the Direct Action policy wasn’t a long-term one. We’ve asked four more questions of our own…”

Malcolm did raise a good question. And it seems Malcolm has set people talking. All good-natured and innocent I’m sure…

In addition to Turnbull’s public musing about the DAP, The Age reports the return of Kevin Rudd has now firmly placed the spot light on Abbott and his lack of credible policy alternatives.

Long-time Liberal Party scholar Judith Brett, of La Trobe University, says  the return of Rudd, who is already well-known to voters, has actually increased  the scrutiny of the alternative prime minister.

”Mr Abbott can’t just rely on falling into office, which is what was going  on before, and so he’s going to have to start developing and putting forward  some policies, which he doesn’t seem very keen to do,” she said.

Brett said  Abbott’s refusal to debate Rudd on the very things he had made  such articles of faith against Julia Gillard was ”instructive” to voters.

She says the difficulty for Gillard was she never had a full grip on the  public agenda because whenever she attempted to seize the initiative, Abbott was  able to say ”Yes but what about the boats? What about the carbon tax? What  about the surplus?”

Rudd has turned that on its head with his offer to facilitate televised  debates on those issues. ”I think it’s actually quite damaging for Abbott … he’s trying to do his normal thing of controlling the agenda by saying ‘oh no,  we’re not having a debate until you call an election,  my sense is that that is  not playing very well because it actually looks like he’s squibbing it.”

There is a great deal of nervousness in the LNP at present.

And for good reason.

How soon before a leadership crisis engulfs the Liberals?

Things are getting interesting – recall Abbott won the leadership ballot by a single ballot to assume the mantle of Opposition Leader.

However Abbott remains a viable Opposition Leader only as long as he can lead the Liberal’s in the polls. His authority stems from that.

The ebbing away of the LNPs once dominant lead in the polls, and the collapse in public support for Abbott as an alternative Prime Minister, will likewise undermine his authority.

Abbott’s authority and ability to impose discipline on the LNP rests upon shaky foundations: the poll figures.

What are seeing are the first cracks in that once impressive discipline the LNP exhibited. Politics is brutal and bloody on both sides, despite each party calling the other a nest of vipers.

How the worm turns.

The relentless focus on Gillard and her standing in the polls by Abbott, the Liberals and News Limited is now a problem Abbott faces.

Like K_Rudd, Turnbull is an ambitious and capable politician.

And like K_Rudd he has been biding his time.

The question is: what will Turnbull do?

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.

Let’s end the pseudo debate: ask your politician if they accept the scientific consensus on climate change

“Belief” is a troubling word when used within the context of the climate debate.

Frequently people will ask me “Do you believe in climate change?” as if it is a matter of personal opinion.

I always answer (politely of course) “I accept the 97% consensus of climate scientists”. My personal views are of no consequence to the reality of climate change – it is simply what the overwhelming evidence has told me.

Facts are independent of opinion. And while every one has a right to accept or reject the evidence of climate change, personal belief does not alter the robust and well-tested scientific theory (not hypothesis) that humanity is changing the planet’s atmosphere.

Within the scientific community this fact is a no longer controversial – nor has it been for decades. The fact that the science is settled has been obscured by the denial movement, sceptical politicians and the Murdoch press. In doing so they have impeded action on climate change.

As we head into Election 2013 climate change will be front and centre once more with Tony Abbott swearing a “blood oath” to axe-the-tax. The Coalition’s attack on the “carbon tax” has been central to undermining the Gillard government’s legitimacy. Their scare campaign – in addition to Labor’s own incompetence and failure to explain their policies to the electorate – has more than likely delivered them office in September.

However, the Coalition’s climate policies are now coming under increasing scrutiny – especially from business who regard their ‘Direct Action Plan” as either inadequate or a bit of a joke. The business community prefers an emissions trading scheme.

Climate change is central to discussions about our nations future; it will impact business, individuals and communities. Thus we should be asking our politicians if they accept or reject the scientific consensus.

It is time for the pseudo debate to end.

Let’s stop talking about whether or not global warming has “paused” for 17 years or if climate change is a Marxist/Rothschild plot to take over the globe.

We should ask our politicians “Do you accept the consensus of 97% of climate scientists?”

Australia’s politicians in the spotlight: uknowispeaksense survey

I highly recommend the research on the acceptance or rejection of climate science of our politicians by Mike from uknowispeaksense. See his work here:

He has represented this a couple of graphs. What is surprising is that most politicians accept the science, as indicated in the following pie charts.

House of Representatives:

all-members-2

And in the Senate:

all-senators

However if you dig into the numbers, far less conservative politicians accept the scientific consensus. Still, it is worth noting both the majority of voters and politicians accept the science.

So why the hold up?

The denial movement has created a powerful aura of invincibility around itself and that we should all pay attention to their arguments. However, the reality is that they are tiny in numbers but extremely vocal. What they lack in numbers they make up for in the vehemence in prosecuting their anti-science campaign.

The article below from The Conversation is also relevant to this discussion and proposes eight questions we should be asking of all our politicians (see below).

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By Brad Farrant, University of Western Australia; Fiona Armstrong, La Trobe University; Karen Kiang, University of Melbourne, and Mark G Edwards, University of Western Australia

As we head into an election, you’d be justified in asking what your local member is basing their climate change decisions on.

If your MP says “I don’t support policies to prevent dangerous climate change” because “I don’t believe climate change is occurring” or “I’m not sure climate change is human caused” is this position justifiable simply because it’s his or her personal opinion?

While everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, are our elected leaders being ethically responsible when they justify inaction on climate change based on personal opinions? Sustainability ethicist Donald A. Brown, from Widener University School of Law, emphatically argues, “no” – they are not.

In a recent widely republished blog post on ethicsandclimate.org, Brown argues government officials have an ethical responsibility to understand the state of climate change science. Politicians hold crucial leadership positions where they can enact policies that can prevent or minimise great harm. These policies, to put it bluntly, affect millions, if not billions, of people around the world.

Governments and elected officials cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uninformed opinion or ideology instead of the scientific consensus.

The long-standing consensus of climate scientists and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence warn us that constituents and governments are causing great harm through greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, Brown says, politicians may not appeal to their personal opinions on climate science. They are not justification for not taking action.

Brown refers to a number of US politicians who hold the position that they don’t support climate policies because they are not convinced by the science. Brown argues that the media has largely failed to hold them accountable.

The same issue afflicts many Australian politicians – and the Australian media. Very rarely have politicians who reject climate science in Australia been asked to explain their justifications on scientific grounds.

According to the Political Leaders and Climate Change Index (PLCCI) published in 2010 by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the number of politicians in the parliament who either don’t or won’t accept the science of climate change in Australia is significant.

Of course, this can change over time. Recently the new Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Gary Gray renounced his previous position that climate science was “pop science” and a “middle-class conspiracy to frighten schoolchildren”.

However, there are many other politicians who have not changed their opinions as Gray has done. In 2010 around 40% of Liberal/National politicians held the view the world could warm by 3-4 degrees Celsius before the situation became dangerous. The actual scientific consensus is a mere 2 degrees. Another 40% professed not to know what a safe global average temperature increase might be.

The likelihood of a Coalition government winning in 2013 makes the public statement of personal opinions on human induced climate change an issue of national and global importance.

The risks posed to the Australian and international communities by the uninformed opinions of our national leaders are significant. They cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uniformed opinion or ideology instead of science. Because of those risks, the role of responsible and well-informed media is crucial. The media has the civic and moral obligation to be a watchdog on society and its institutions.

Journalists have a duty to question politicians who oppose action based on uninformed opinions. The public has a right to be informed, and to question, a politician’s justification for putting current and future generations at risk.

Following Brown, we propose a series of questions that journalists (and the public) should be asking politicians on global warming, and how governments should respond to it.

  1. Are you aware that over 97% of climate scientists globally, the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science and every major national science academy in the industrialised world (whose membership includes climate scientists) agree that the planet is warming, that the observed climate change is mostly human caused, and that if we continue with business as usual, harsh impacts and irreversible changes to the climate system will occur?
  2. Do you accept that climate change is occurring? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  3. Do you accept that the human population is making a substantial contribution to climate change via our greenhouse gas emissions? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify going against the scientific consensus?
  4. Is it your position that Australia and the rest of the world need to urgently adopt policies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific recommendations? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  5. Are you aware that the impacts of climate change in terms of increased risks to human health and climate change related deaths is already being measured by medical and public health professionals worldwide?
  6. Do you accept that anyone who argues that we continue with business as usual and emit greenhouse gases beyond levels that the consensus of climate scientists says is dangerous for humanity (and the ecological system on which humans depend) should bear the burden of proof to show that this is safe?
  7. Do you accept that, in light of the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and the long-standing consensus of climate scientists, politicians have a responsibility to immediately implement strategies to prevent dangerous climate change?
  8. Given that climate scientists have been advising the urgent reduction of greenhouse gases for decades, do you accept that politicians who fail to implement policies to prevent dangerous climate change should be held responsible for harm that results from this inaction?

We might ask politicians a few of these ourselves. Have a go yourself – and let us know how you get on. We’d be pleased to write about it.

Karen Kiang is affiliated with Royal Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

Brad Farrant, Fiona Armstrong, and Mark G Edwards do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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