Prime Minister: Saying you no longer intend to cheat on climate change does not merit applause

Dec 15, 2020

The Prime Minister has brushed off his failure to gain a speaking role at the Glasgow global warming summit as inconsequential. But the reality is that the Prime Minister and his government continue to fail us.

The rest of the world concludes we are pariahs with nothing worth saying or hearing.

Scott Morrison, you have failed even by your own benchmark. You have said you will not be dictated to by voices external to Australia but will be answerable to Australians alone. Good! The facts are that between 60% and 70% of Australians have made it clear they want a far stronger response to carbon emission reductions to tackle climate change than you are prepared to make.

So Mr Morrison, you have made it clear you are not accountable to Australians either. To whom are you accountable? Presumably, it is your friends in the mining industry whose financial interests are expected to be hit in the transition to renewable energy.

Mr Morrison, you have also failed those employed in the mining industry, and more specifically the coal mining industry. I spent eight happy and productive years in the Hunter Valley at the start of the mining boom. Prior to this the valley flourished on its dairies, equine industries, and vineyards. It is facing the next inevitable transition and desperately needs energy and investment in new industries based around a carbon neutral economy.

In maintaining your position against all the economic evidence to the contrary, you are denying these women and men a smooth transition starting now, leaving them with the prospect of falling off a cliff in the foreseeable future. This is both cruel and unnecessary. We know coal is in decline. We know there will never be another coal-fired power station. We know Liddell is closing. We know Bayswater will not continue indefinitely. Why are you leaving these employees directionless when they could begin to be excited about a future as equally prosperous as the past, without the ugliness in which the valley is now being left?

Mr Morrison, you have failed the scientists. The science of global warming has been clear for decades. Strategies to meet the challenge have also been clear. Because of policy failure by successive governments over decades the challenge is now infinitely more demanding than it need have been, the seriousness of the situation more acute, and the cost of action far higher.

Mr Morrison, you have failed your two daughters, indeed all children who face a monumental task if their world is not to be a shadow of the world we have been accustomed to enjoy. It is no wonder that children are taking the lead in demanding action. I hope the action currently before the courts, taken by children who claim government inaction is stealing their future, is successful.

Mr Morrison, you are failing the Australian economy. By now we should have been well down the track in the development of new industries and new exports such as liquid hydrogen. You may think you are doing the right thing by protecting current sources of income, but in reality you are failing to build strong foundations for the economies of the future which Australia is more than capable of leading.

Mr Morrison, you are failing our neighbours in the Pacific. How you can attend meetings with Islander leaders without severe embarrassment I do not know. You know full well that some Islander nations are already in real peril.

Mr Morrison, you are failing the conservative tradition. A true conservative is one who wishes to conserve, who wants to protect culture, values, traditions and resources that are meritorious. Are you a conservative only in the sense that you wish to protect what is held in private hands? Our most precious commodities are common and protecting them is the solemn duty of those who govern.

Mr Morrison, you have said the most sacred duty of government is to keep its people safe. The greatest exponential threat facing Australians is climate change. We are already reaping its fury. We are sadly on the threshold of a new normal, and it is not a pleasant one. If you seriously believe you have a duty to keep us safe, then you are bound, by weight of office, to act.

Above all, Mr Morrison, you are failing the total environment upon which we all depend for our wellbeing. In Covid you and the premiers wisely concluded that putting health first was the best way to shore the economy. Put the economy first and both health and the economy would collapse.

How can you not see the same parallel with climate change? Human economic activity is completely dependent upon the health and balance of the natural environment. We have no resources other than those that are drawn from the natural order. Prioritise the environment and long-term economic health will be protected. Ignore the health of the environment and the foundations of civil society will crumble.

Mr Morrison, it is not at all surprising that you have been denied a voice at the table. You have nothing to say; nothing worthwhile to offer. It is reported that you wanted to say that Australia would not depend upon its Kyoto credits to meet its 2030 target. In school, students are not considered meritorious simply because they announce they are not intending to cheat.

In one sense federal energy and climate policy is increasingly irrelevant. The states are taking the lead. Farmers are taking the lead. Householders are taking things into their own hands. The business council is setting ambitious targets. But the national government should not be irrelevant. We look to you to lead, set a standard, stretch our ambitions.

Why you continue to fail us I simply do not understand.

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