The Coalition’s newest member summed it up rather neatly earlier this week, when making his maiden speech in the Senate.
Queensland LNP senator Gerard Rennick said the greatest threat to Australia’s environment was not carbon dioxide, but unsustainable immigration – which he compared to the dangers of overstocking paddocks. A kangaroo loose in the top paddock, perhaps, but let’s not go there.
And just in case you thought that might not have been the official view, the federal minister for water and natural disasters, David Littleproud fell back to the old climate denial refuge of ‘the climate is always changing’ and that he doesn’t know, or apparently care, if humans are driving dangerous global warming.
“I don’t know if climate change is man made,” he told The Guardian.
“I have no idea, but does it really matter?” he later clarified to Sky News political editor David Speers. “I think these extremes from both sides have taken away the maturity of debate we should have about keeping, simply, a clean environment and making sure we give our people the tools to be able to go out and protect themselves in a changing climate.”*
And just to top it off, Scott Morrison’s office has confirmed to The Guardian that the PM won’t be attending UN climate summit despite being in the US at the time.
Apparently, he has nothing to say that the UN wants to hear. It is only interested in new commitments, and Australia, despite being – or more likely because it is – one of the biggest emitters per capita and biggest exporters of fossil fuels, has no intention of making new commitments.
This is now having its impact on the other side of politics.
Labor – on the one hand ridiculing the federal minister for emissions reduction Angus Taylor for giving a 10-minute speech on climate change on Wednesday “WITHOUT mentioning the term ‘climate change’ once” – is reportedly preparing to dump its 45 per cent emissions reduction target for 2030; partly because it is not sure what to believe in any more, partly because Australia’s inaction over the next three years will make it increasingly difficult to reach – despite technologies such as wind, solar and storage that are readily available.
And it is being mirrored in the state of New South Wales, where the Coalition government’s energy minister, Matt Kean, on Wednesday promised to guarantee generation from the state’s coal-fired power plants for decades to come, and confidently declared that voters cared more about their hip pockets than the environment.
So is it now up to the renewable energy industry, alone?
In a speech to the Clean Energy Council industry gathering in Canberra on Wednesday night – to discuss business and policy after the Renewable Energy Target – Greens leader Richard di Natale said, yes, it is. And he advised a stop to the softly, softly approach.
“Your industry is the biggest hope we have. …We need your industry to be strong and we need solar, wind and storage to be deployed rapidly right across the country,” he said.
“This investment cliff that the Clean Energy Council reported on today has been intentionally created by the Minister, just like it was by Tony Abbott in 2015.
“It is an intentional strategy because you are cheaper and more reliable than our coal fleet. You are eating their profits.
“So my advice is to stop the softly, softly approach. Get angry and speak up,” di Natale said.
“You need to call out this government instead of cuddling up to them. …You need to tell the public that the blackouts that are coming are because you can’t get finance for projects after 2020.
“…Make it clear this government is to blame for relying on an old, last-century, centralised energy system instead of ushering in the tens of thousands of jobs that your industry can create.
’”We don’t have time for another lost decade. This is the last decade we have left before the window closes on stopping a spiralling climate breakdown.”
*Editor’s note: David Littleproud has reportedly changed his tune on this point, telling Parliament on Thursday that he “accepts the science on man-made impact on climate change,” and always has. Apparently any impression given to the contrary was due to an interruption to the interview.
Asked to clarify, again, during question time by Labor’s Mark Butler, he then said:
“With respect to my response: I accept the science. I’m just a poor humble bloke with a year 12 education but I’m prepared to accept, prepared to accept what our scientists are telling us. As simple as that.”