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What we’re reading: Turnbull pulls trigger for July poll, Hunt downplays coral bleaching

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It’s beginning to look a lot like a July election, after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that his government would attempt to pass legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission as well as a separate bill, already rejected twice by the Senate, that toughens standards for union governance.

If the Senate does not pass the ABCC and Registered Organisations bills, a double dissolution election will be called for July 02. The PM – who Tweeted that time for game playing was over – has also brought the budget forward a week to May 03 and both houses will sit for an additional three weeks before that time, to allow for adequate consideration of the bills.

Crikey’s Bernard Keane described the move as a bold attempt by Turnbull “to correct the sense of drift and indecision in his government.” As The Conversation’s Michelle Grattan points out, the move could have dire consequences for several key crossbench senators, some of whom “face a choice between seeing out the remaining four years of their terms, or risking likely or probable defeat at the double dissolution.”

Some of these cross-bench senators have been a thorn in the side of Australia’s renewable energy industry, particularly as anti-wind energy campaigners, so the result will be watched with interest.

Hunt for a pulse on coral bleaching

Meanwhile, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has declared severe coral bleaching to be underway on the reefs north of Cooktown, driven by water temperatures at 1.0-1.5℃ above seasonal averages since mid to late January 2016, and calm and still weather conditions over recent weeks – aka, global warming.

As University of Queensland’s Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and Tyrone Ridgeway write in The Conversation, this latest coral bleaching event underscores “the importance of adopting the pledges made ahead of the 2015 Paris climate conference – and indeed going even deeper. This is a time for action, not business as usual.”Greg-Hunt-Liberal-MP-climate-change1

Thank goodness Greg Hunt is remaining calm and unsciency.

“So the reef is still the great majestic reef,” the federal environment minister reassured ABC Radio this morning. “But what happens is that you will have areas where the bleaching, which comes from water which is warmer than usual temperatures because of El Nino multiplied by the number of days at which it’s at those higher temperatures – that then increases and you have a broader problem, which can either lead to coral stress, or in some cases coral mortality.”

“So it’s an El Nino event, and at this point not as bad on the advice of GBRMPA as 1998 or 2002, but it is continuing.”

The government’s formal response to the level 3 bleaching event has been to put money towards new research that will survey 40 sites in the far northern section of the reef. The Australian Greens are not impressed.

“Increased monitoring is important but if we continue to open new coal mines the monitoring results will only get worse and worse,” Greens senator Larissa Waters said in a statement on Monday.

“Scientists are clear – we can have coal or the Reef,” Waters says.

“The old parties must break their addiction with fossil fuels and dirty donations in order to save the Great Barrier Reef and our very way of life.

“Economically, the choice is obvious given the coal industry is already dying, sacking thousands of workers and is reliant on government subsidies.

“We have viable renewable alternatives that won’t cost our Reef or the 67,000 jobs it provides and will create jobs for people who have lost work in the dying coal industry,” Senator Waters said.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific Ocean…

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has become the third country to ratify the Paris Agreement, following closely in the footsteps of its Pacific island neighbors Fiji and Palau, which both completed their ratification processes in February. The move comes just a week after the country was put on high-alert for widespread king-tide inundation, and 10 days after the government declared a State of Disaster in response to worsening drought conditions that threaten to leave the atoll nation’s capital Majuro without any fresh water supplies in less than three months’ time.

“No President wants one of their first acts in office to be to declare a state of disaster,” said new Marshallese President, H.E. the Hon. Dr. Hilda Heine. “But by becoming one of the first countries to ratify the Paris Agreement, we have shown our determination to continue to lead this fight from the front.

“The big tasks now are to ensure that the Paris Agreement enters into force as soon as possible, and that governments move quickly to realign their emissions targets with the new 1.5ºC warming limit the world agreed to pursue in Paris.

“To that end, we are pleased to see the UK move to legislate a date for achieving net zero emissions, which the science says must be no later than 2050.”

Bolt from the blue

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt will soon have a new avenue for airing his climate denialist musings, after his TV show The Bolt Report – dumped by the Ten Network last year, for being too costly – was picked up by Sky News. Via the pay television platform Foxtel, The Bolt Report will air live at 7pm every weeknight starting in May, according to this Guardian report, and “with fewer produced packages or prerecords, it will be a cheaper proposition.”

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