Morrison refuses to discuss climate change as Tasmania burns, Townsville floods

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After a particularly harsh summer of extremes, climate change is emerging as a key battleground in the upcoming election. But our PM doesn’t want to talk about it.

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Five elected cross–benchers made it very clear on Monday night that climate change would figure large in their election campaigns in the upcoming poll. Prime minister Scott Morrison, the man who waved the lump of coal in parliament, has made it very clear he doesn’t even want to talk about it.

On two occasions in the last two days – in visits to Tasmania on Monday to witness the bush-fires threatening thousand-year-old forests, and to Townsville on Tuesday to observe the record floods – Morrison refused to mention climate.

Morrison said he was offended by a Tweet from Greens senator Nick McKim, who claimed Tasmania’s fires – which have now burned an astonishing 3 per cent of its territory – were “made more dangerous by [Mr Morrison’s] love affair with coal”.

Morrison said many bushland areas in the state were unaffected by fire,” Nine Media reported. And on Tuesday, while visiting Townsville, Morrison refused to answer a journalist’s question about the impact of climate change, because he didn’t want to discuss policy and politics.
The Tasmania bush fires are causing huge distress – not just because of the ongoing threat to precious wilderness reserves, such as the 1,000-year-old King Billy pine forests, which do not regrow after fires – but because of what it means for the future of the island state.
As author Richard Flanagan writes in a powerful piece in The Guardian on Tuesday, Tasmania has experienced its driest January and average temperatures 3.2°C above the long-term average.
During a recent visit to Bruny Island, RenewEconomy was told that water temperatures have jumped 2°C in the last four years, and the giant kelp forests are dying.
Flanagan was equally damning of Morrison.
Scott Morrison Coal
(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
“Two years ago the then treasurer Scott Morrison picked up a large lump of coal. Perhaps he thought it was a great joke for Australia at the expense of a few weird outliers like the Greens and the global scientific community,” Flanagan wrote.
“Or perhaps Morrison wasn’t really thinking anything. Perhaps the greatest error of journalists is thinking people at the centre are more than they seem. The problem with people like Morrison, the true terror, is that they may be so much less.
“He waved the piece of coal around like it was the sacred Host itself, he swung it high and he brought it so low that for a moment it was as if a wildly guffawing Barnaby Joyce seated next to him might lick it. How they laughed! The ranks of the Liberal party assembled around and behind, how they all laughed and laughed that day.”
Little wonder, then, that the elected cross-benchers who appeared on ABC TV’s Q&A program on Monday night said climate change would be a key focus in the upcoming campaign, as it is for new candidates such as Zali Steggall and Oliver Yates, who are seeking to unseat Tony Abbott and Josh Frydenberg respectively, and Get-Up which is targeting Abbott and Peter Dutton.
“I think this will be the climate change election,” said Kerryn Phelps, the independent who took Malcolm Turnbull’s former seat of Wentworth, a Liberal Party bastion.
“There’s no question that the Wentworth by-election was substantially about climate change action and a frustration by the people in Wentworth about a paralysis in policy for the last decade.
“The science is unequivocal. It’s no point denying it. It’s no point questioning it. We need to go forward with solutions.
“And the sorts of solutions are to ban donations from fossil fuel companies, to stop new coalmines, to stop putting taxpayers’ money into shoring up coal-fired power stations to quarantine them against future changes in government policy. We need to get serious about renewables.”
Her comments were echoed by independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Liberal defector Julia Banks, who will challenge former environment minister Greg Hunt in the seat of Flinders, and Rebekha Sharkie, who holds the former Liberal Party seat of Mayo in South Australia.
Greens MP Adam Bandt said: “I hope people take the opportunity to kick out this rotten, climate-denying, inequality-turbo-charging government, but the next lot needs to be told.
“The scientists have told us not only that climate change is real, but if we’ve got any hope of winding it in, we need to replace one coal-fired power station with renewable energy every year between now and 2030.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten, who is taking to the election an emissions target of a 45 per cent cut and a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030, also visited Tasmania, and linked it to climate change.
“Even the most extreme climate deniers are probably at the point of acknowledging that we are having more and more extreme weather events. New weather records are being set and the economic cost is growing … I think it is legitimate to talk about climate change.”
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