MARC HUDSON. Game over for the Nationals on climate change? Spruiking for miners instead?

The National Party’s battles over climate policy are becoming ever louder, ever more ludicrous. The consequences of thirty years of climate denial and spruiking for mining may finally tear the party apart. 

The attack on Bill Shorten was as desperate as it was predictable. Speaking on ABC,Michael McCormack said Shorten was “nuts” and “living in fairyland” for pursuing a 45 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. In time-honoured fashion (redolent of the ‘hundred dollar Sunday roast’) he said “I mean sure, go down that path, but forget night footy, forget night cricket”, then invoking the spectre of “pensioners turning off their power because they won’t be able to afford it, and they’ll be shivering all winter, and they’ll be melting all summer.”

McCormack is under intense pressure over his leadership, which he gained only a year ago when Barnaby Joyce was forced to stand aside last year after his relationship with a staffer became very public Queensland Nationals George Christensen, Michelle Landry, Ken O’Dowd, Keith Pitt, Llew O’Brien and Barry O’Sullivan have demanded that McCormack and the (Liberal) Energy Minister Angus Taylor take “immediate action” to underwrite the construction of a new coal-fired power station in regional Queensland and also pass a so-called “big stick” package of legislation before parliament rises for the impending Federal Election.

The rumours of a leadership spill – a journalist’s bread and butter – are growing by the day.

The Nationals’ long history of climate change denial

Climate change first reared its head as a public policy issue over 30 years ago, when Hawke and Keating ruled the land. Although the Liberal Party briefly made an effort to take the issue seriously,

the Nationals were always more sceptical, perhaps seeing the issue as just one more greenie scare and excuse for regulation. The Landcare movement notwithstanding, the relationship of the National Party to green issues has always been fraught. The early anti-climate change stance is best exemplified by the appearance of Tim Fischer, then Deputy Prime Minister at a Conference called “Countdown to Kyoto” in August 1997. The conference was organised by American anti-climate activists keen to have diplomatic allies for the battle ahead. Fischer did not deny climate change, but instead said that the “challenge is to reconcile economic and political realities with the environmental reality of global warming.”

It’s a challenge the Nationals have yet to rise to. In 2006, Barnaby Joyce, then a relatively new Senator, could not – or would not – join the dots, saying of the Millennium Drought

The drought really has to be seen to be believed. It’s a case of creeks that haven’t run for months, sometimes years, (and) bores that are going dry. There is a real concern amongst a lot that maybe there is a final change in the climate. That’s really starting to worry people.

Two years later, Joyce was hard at work trying to tear down Kevin Rudd’s notorious “Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme”, warning that it would result in “hundred dollar Sunday roasts”. In 2010, in his maiden speech, McCormack said

When it does not rain for years on end, it does not mean it will not rain again. It does not mean we all need to listen to a government grant-seeking academic sprouting doom and gloom about climate changing irreversibly.

The National Party has basically been in lockstep with the Liberals since then, deriding concerns about climate crisis and casting those who would take action as – in the words of McCormack – condemning pensioners to awful fates.

Why is it so?

The proximate cause may well be that the Nationals are fearful of haemorrhaging more votes to the Pauline Hansen One Nation Party,

with its adamantine resistance to any climate action. But there is a deeper trend that must be seen at play. The Nationals, whether the party of farmers or the party of miners (the issues of coal-seam gas and approval for new coal mines have brought that tension into sharper focus over the last decade) are indisputably a party of extractivism – the ideology that there are no limits on what can be taken out of the soil and sold for profit. The hatred of those who say that there are limits is long-rooted in Australian thinking.

As I wrote here

People who speak of limits are inevitably attacked. One good example is Thomas Griffith Taylor (1880-1963), an Australian scientist who fell foul of the boosters who believed the country could and should support up to 500 million people.

Having seen his textbook banned in Western Australia for using the words “arid” and “desert”, Taylor set sail for the United States. At his farewell banquet at University of Sydney, he reinterpreted its motto Sidere mens eadem mutate (“The same spirit under a different sky”), as “Though the heavens fall I am of the same mind as my great-great-grandfather!”

Last year Farmers for Climate Action tried to force the issue of climate change onto the agenda around the Nationals leadership contest. This year, Independent candidates are standing in a variety of regional seats with explicitly pro-climate action stances.

It may be that thirty years of denial is not, well, sustainable.

Marc Hudson recently defended his PhD thesis at the University of Manchester. It was on the “enacted inertia” of Australian carbon pricing politics 1989-2011.


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2 Responses to MARC HUDSON. Game over for the Nationals on climate change? Spruiking for miners instead?

  1. Michael Hart says:

    Marc I am afraid it is sustainable. These are people of a rigid misplaced mercantilist-colonialist mindset and belief system. The are effectively living in the 18th Century mentally, which makes them retarded. Regrettably they spring from a deep well of like people who have come to be the wheelers and dealers, plodders and battlers in rural Australia from North to South to East to West. Stubborn to the point of stupidity. They are all of the same ilk, they hate feminisim, socialism, secularism and any other form of englightened ‘ism’ you could care to list. As as result they aschew and chase donations from any source that produces wealth in rural australia, it used to be farming but that was busted a long time ago for anyone but the very large agribusinesses. Family farms, small farms and small enterprise vanished under their noses as the bush emptied out and the trek to the city began and the ravages of unabated free market activity and neoliberalism did its work, impoverishing the majority and reallocating the profits to rent seekers and financial interests. As the former Deputy PM and sundry others not just him they have an exploitative, disrespectful and arrogant view of women as chattels and house workers. They despise independent women and by default continue to foster the attitudes of violence between men and women that is the hall mark of life in rural Australia. Man or woman you do not get punched up like you do in the bush.

    They have done nothing for or have any conception of community welfare and inclusion. Their idea of inclusion is all the blokes at the pub agreeing that Greenies are bastards while the find a way to take down some fool for a buck. Aboriginal people have born the brunt of their racisim, mysogyny and violence. Stole their lands, stole their children, stole their wages and stole their right to participate. So while they will turn up at the Barbie for a few bucks for the RFDS the ignore the deplorable state of health and welfare in the countryside, youth suicides, dental decay, poor services, understaffed and ill equipped hospitals and so it goes on. You see these are blokes who hop a plane to the capital to see a Doctor and have a holiday. Not for them the local base hospital or overworked GP.

    And above all that they sore in a delusional world and have done since colonial days. Never understood the true nature of Australia’s climate and ecology but sought to over power it and change it into something quasi european. Just because you have done a few droughts and floods does not mean squat when it comes to understanding the fragility of our natural world and more importantly just some basic science. So they do not get nor cannot get the calamity that is about them instead they look into a broken mirror from the past.

    Despite what they say, there has been a subtle and low key change in attitudes of sensible and thinking people in rural Australia, they know we are now in a very dangerous place and they know it is not going to better and they have had enough, of the Joyces and the Christensens, McCormacks et al, of Glencor, BHP etc. Trouble is they are played off by the fact they are spread over many seats in Parliament, except in one house the Senate, then their vote gets to count because it cannot be gerimandered or ignored or played for the numbers by a special sort of manipulative creep.

    Joyce will keep his seat, others will not, but then Joyces electorate is special it never was a government town, it specialises in murdering aboriginals, letting mines rip, so in affect it is a hold out and it will to the bitter end. But that end is coming and fast trouble is it is going to get us all – it is called Climate Change and now it cannot be turned back and nor can the fabric of life be repaired, its burning. We are all going to Hell.

  2. Max Bourke AM says:

    The deep connection of the Country/National Party to mining goes way back. When I was CEO of the Australian Heritage Commission in the 1970s the then Country Party was seriously funded by, and supported the rutile mining of Fraser Island and the Hawaian company behind it was a major supporter!

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