DAVID SOLOMON. The climate strikes.

The political consensus on climate change is changing – has already changed. Prime Minister Scott Morrison knows it, but is in an awful, strangling bind. He knows he has to adopt policies that recognise climate change and will help alleviate its impact (all the while remaining reluctant to join those countries trying to reduce its seemingly inevitable progress). But he is trapped by his coalition partner and, more important, the baying hounds within the Liberal Party’s parliamentary ranks and their media whippers, who could destroy him if he were to give any significant ground.  

The man who devotes so much time and effort to trying to wedge the Labor Party on everything from national security and asylum seekers to union bosses and tax cuts, has himself been excruciatingly and seemingly inescapably wedged by the troglodytes on his own side of politics. [Indeed, while on the subject of wedging, what policies are emerging from the Morrison Government that are not, primarily, intended to wedge his opponents? What positive policies, aimed at promoting the public interest, have emerged since the election? Not of course, that any were promoted during the election campaign. There is one issue, however, that he has been unable to ignore – the economy – but more on that later.

The Prime Minister even finds himself being wedged on his home turf – religion. It was easy enough to go along with the reactionary campaign to secure freedom of religion in the aftermath of the same sex marriage referendum and legislation, but delivering that particular reform has proved far from easy. And then from nowhere comes Israel Folau. Morrison was able to side-step Folau’s epic clash with the Rugby authorities over the evils of homosexuality and same sex marriage, but then Folau goes over the top with a sermon claiming the bushfire disasters were God’s punishment for legalising abortion and same-sex marriage. The best Morrison could say was that the comments were ‘appallingly insensitive’ and not representative of his community.

As for the bushfires, Morrison has spent a fortnight on the defensive, caught between the climate deniers on his own side, and the science (and the experience of the expert firefighters) on the other. He comes across as weak and powerless. The best he could do when the Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader, Michael McCormack, blasted away at ‘inner city raving lunatics’, and McCormack’s predecessor Barnaby Joyce made an incoherent statement seeming to belittle two of the fire victims because they might have been Green supporters, was … to say nothing of any consequence. He wanted the inflammatory insults being hurled in both directions between the Nationals and the Greens, to cease. ‘I think it’s important that at moments like this, everybody take it down a few notches,’ Mr Morrison said.

What matters is people who are in need and ensuring the operational support is there for the services they need to ensure that we can address this crisis. There is a time and a place to debate controversial issues and important issues, right now it’s important to focus on the needs of Australians who need our help.

As numerous people have pointed out, it appears there is never a good time or place for Morrison to take up the issues that the fire emergencies have brought into focus. A group calling themselves Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, 21 people who have been in leadership position throughout Australia in fire and emergency services, contacted the Prime Minister in April and then again immediately after the May election to request an emergency meeting, warning about the coming bushfire season. They was fobbed off with a proposal to meet with lesser ministers – meetings which did not happen.

You can understand why. They used the dreaded term, climate action. Not on – go away. And there were no fires in April and May.

No doubt they’ll get a meeting or two now, but they won’t get far on climate action. More money for firefighting, no doubt. Some bigger aircraft.

The fires have prompted others to talk about climate change. A dozen mayors from Queensland and New South Wales took up the cause calling on the government to limit the contribution of climate change to the fire emergencies they have faced and will continue to face. As the Byron Shire mayor put it, ‘

Everybody who’s involved with the bushfires is talking about climate change, the only people who aren’t talking about it are the politicians and their media supporters.

That can’t and won’t continue, no matter how much the Prime Minister wants it to. While some Nationals try to put the blame on greenies, for halting or resisting hazard reduction (primarily, controlled burning) this is rejected by the authorities who say that weather conditions (the unfavourable climate), not political action, reduced their ability to do as much burning as they would have wished.

People in the bush are less convinced than the National Party leadership that climate change isn’t happening. Wine growers in some states, for example, say that in recent years harvesting has been brought forward not by days but by many weeks. In some areas, growers who don’t rely on irrigation are experimenting with planting different grape varieties to meet the challenge of higher temperatures and less rainfall.

Sooner rather than later the Nationals are going to have to face up to the fact that their policies on climate change need to change. But its unlikely to happen with the current leadership.

It will be interesting, though, to see whether McCormack and co. follow the lead of President Trump and try to have Australia withdraw from the Paris agreement. Surely not.
Climate change isn’t just the subject for last week and its bushfires, when the Prime Minister and his colleagues urged everyone to concentrate on more uplifting (and less divisive) subjects, but also for this week and the next and the next. Certainly right through the bushfire season. And then beyond. It won’t stop, unless Mr Morrison’s prayers are answered and climate change is reversed. Unlikely.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister has finally addressed growing concerns about the dismal state of the economy by bring forward infrastructure (mainly road and rail) projects worth $3.8 billion. Typically, in Trumpian fashion, he couldn’t resist attacking his critics, denigrating the ‘panicked reaction’ of those who had cast doubt on whether the government was doing enough to stimulate economic activity. ‘The appetite for crisis popular amongst some these days, on so many issues, reflects an immaturity demanding urgent action regardless of the consequences.’ So much for the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the bank’s Board.

David Solomon was formerly a senior journalist in the Canberra Press Gallery


David Solomon is a former legal and political correspondent. He has degrees in Arts and Law and a Doctorate of Letters. He was Queensland Integrity Commissioner 2009-2014.

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10 Responses to DAVID SOLOMON. The climate strikes.

  1. Avatar Chris Mills says:

    A case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.


    ANd yes, he is really fiddling at the edges of an existential threat to humanity.

  2. Avatar Charles Lowe says:

    “the Prime Minister has finally addressed growing concerns about the dismal state of the economy by bring[ing] forward infrastructure (mainly road and rail) projects worth $3.8 billion. Typically, in Trumpian fashion, he couldn’t resist attacking his critics, denigrating the ‘panicked reaction’ of those who had cast doubt on whether the government was doing enough to stimulate economic activity.”

    Who’s panicking now?

  3. Avatar Andrew Glikson says:

    The PM’s position was made clear when he introduced a lump of coal into parliament.
    It was a black day …

  4. Avatar Max Bourke AM says:

    Agree with the general thrust of David Solomon as usual but one little tweak, when or if those guys who ran emergency services do ever get to meet with Ministers of the PM they would be absolutely right to argue for much much more for funding of emergency services, whatever these drongoes running the country do now we are going to need a lot more emergency services in coming years and at present so much of it depends on an aging voluntary workforce.

  5. Avatar Ken Russell says:

    I’m not sure that the PM is wedged by elements in the Coalition on climate change. He infamously waved a lump of coal in parliament and has surrounded himself with advisers from the fossil fuel lobby. He is a strong supporter of fossil fuels, and as such will never have any desire to reduce fossil fuel exports. What he is more likely to do is take some token action that appeases the public but achieves nothing meaningful.

  6. Avatar Ken Oliver says:

    ScoMo must by now be bitterly regretting that lump of coal he brought into parliament – it seemed such a terrific stunt. Not that he was ever a convinced climate denialist though, because he is never convinced of anything (and yes, I do doubt his sincerity on the faith he was brought up in).

    He’s the opposite of a conviction politician. He believes in whatever seems to be in Scott Morrison’s interest at the time.

  7. roger scott roger scott says:

    David’s comments are as usual spot-on, revealing an undiminished grasp of the limitations of the current leadership. The ABC survey of public attitudes reveals growing condemnation of climate science by all those quiet Australians who voted for varieties of conservative parties. Their criticism is focussed on the teaching profession and its wilful promotion of the views and certainties of climate scientists. This has all the echoes of attacks on social scientist and curriculum designers of the 1970’s, suggesting that key elements in geology and biology were mere matters of opinion and equal time should be accorded to the doubters. So Morrison’s denialism or studied indifference might make political sense.

  8. Avatar Malcolm Crout says:

    Don’t give him any credit for being wedged. He put himself firmly I this position with his ties to the Business Council of Australia and Mining Inc. This is the man who brought a lump of coal into Parliament and baited the Opposition. He’s not under threat from the right wing of his party. He’s a card carrying member for heaven’s sake!

    Despite the scientific evidence and the drought and bushfires obviously made worse by climate change, he clearly has no intention of bringing forward any policies to mitigate climate change. At the last election the Australian voters had a chance to rid the country of these people and they squibbed the decision out of pecuniary self interest. They deserve what is happening now.

    What an opportunity for the ALP if only they could find the stomach to challenge the LNP over this issue. But I don’t think voters are intelligent enough anyway. Suck it up!

  9. Avatar Felix MacNeill says:

    Could we please grow out of the lazy and frankly irresponsible false equivalence of referring to inflammatory insults being hurled in both directions between the Greens and the Nationals. The difference is that the Greens were telling the truth and the Nationals were lying.
    Or doesn’t truth matter any more in journalism?

  10. Avatar Michael Hart says:

    The PM and his coalition government are firmly ‘ deniers’ of the need for change whether it be economics, ecology or climatology or social justice. They do not do change – they do the status quo and they do the politics of the status quo. The rest is all pretense because in their minds and hearts the past is what is now not the present. The present does not exist, there is no climate emergency there is no climate catastrophe, there is no social inequality there is no abuse of the elderly, employees or the disabled they are but unfortunate aberrations – it is all good. God will take care of those who take care of themselves.

    The man who laughed and joined in the Joycian coal show in Parliament, the man who only yesterday made clear in no uncertain terms that he and his government continue to play the game of not changing, well no, they are going to change. Using dodgy data accounting they argue now Australia can comfortably increase GHG emissions, that we make no difference and the science and linkages to a damaged world of those emissions of course are not certain enough, yet! We can therefore continue to run damaging and crippling austerity when it comes to social and economic policy. We can heap insult and abuse on our major customer for our only industry holes in the ground and we can ignore the reality of our changing environment. Lets be quiet and comfortable. No unlike all governments of a totalitarian and authoritarian bent we will now legislate to silence and prevent protest, criticism and to prevent ordinary citizens using due process and our legal institutions to arrest the decay or to ameliorate the future by taking into account ecology and climate.

    No let it rip is the meme. Australia so southern almost Latin American these days and rapidly becoming so.

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