Queensland looks set to send a contingent of not one, but two, additional climate change deniers to Federal Parliament, with the likely election of One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, and the Liberal-National Party’s Gerard Rennick, who has pushed climate change denialist conspiracies before the election.
After a week of counting ballots, a clearer picture is emerging of who will be taking a place in the Federal Senate. With Tony Abbott booted from the seat of Warringah, there was at least some prospect of a more rational conversation around climate change.
However, the Coalition’s strong showing in Queensland looks to have delivered a third senate seat for the LNP. The LNP is currently sitting on 2.76 quotas, which should be enough to beat Labor to the final seat, sending Rennick to Canberra.
Rennick has flooded his Facebook page with a stream of misinformation and conspiracy theories about climate change, renewable energy and electric vehicles, in much the same way as the Coalition’s member for Hughes, Craig Kelly.
Many, including many within the Coalition, have hoped that the defeat of former prime minister Tony Abbott in Warringah would bring about a more rational approach to the issue of climate change from the coalition.
One Nation candidate Malcolm Roberts, also looks set to win a senate spot. Roberts’ view on climate change are well known, who has repeatedly claimed that: “There’s not one piece of empirical evidence anywhere, anywhere, showing that humans cause, through CO2 production, climate change.”
Roberts was significantly out-matched when he attempted to challenge Australia’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel during a session of Senate estimates in 2016 on the science of climate change. The scientific evidence for climate change is unequivocal.
Unfortunately for Roberts, his denial of the evidence for his British citizenship wasn’t enough to protect him from being booted from parliament as a result of a challenge to this eligibility under Section 44 of the Australian Constitution.
His unconstitutionality seemingly resolved; Roberts is set to return after One Nation secured just above 10% of the senate vote in Queensland and the Coalition are likely to rely on Malcolm Robert’s vote to pass legislation through the senate.
Rennick, an accountant from Chinchilla, effectively bank rolled his own campaign, donating $35,000 to the LNP, prior to being pre-selected to the winnable third spot on the Queensland senate ticket.
In the lead up to the election, Rennick was enthusiastically sharing blog posts and images to facebook promoting conspiracy theories and climate change denial, claiming that the Buearu of Meterology was manipulating climate data to “perpetuate global warming hysteria”.
“The Bureau of Meteorology should not be fudging records to perpetuate global warming hysteria.” Rennick posted on Facebook.
“Rewriting weather records to fit in with the global warming agenda! Our public servants are out of control.” Rennick said in another post.
The Bureau of Meteorology has maintained a high quality climate and weather dataset, which undergoes regular, independent expert, review.
If successful, both Roberts and Rennick are ultimately successful, they will each win six-year terms in the Senate, cementing their place as two of Australia’s most annoying Parliamentarians for some time to come.
While the House of Representatives ultimately decides who will form Government, the senate has a powerful role as the ‘house of review’, and has the same power to pass, block or amend legislation as it passes through the parliament.
Almost 75% of senate votes have now been counted, and the results will not deliver outright control of the senate to any of the major parties.
The Coalition looks set to hold 35 senate seats, with Labor holding 26 seats. The Greens will maintain a steady contingent of nine seats after facing a tough battle to re-elect senators in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, who all look to have been returned.
A depleted crossbench will continue to hold the balance of power in the Senate. The election saw the departure of Tim Storer, Duncan Spender (who replaced David Leyonheljm as the Liberal Democrats senator), Brian Burston (UAP), Derryn Hinch and Fraser Anning.
All of the outgoing crossbenchers had entered the parliament through a combination of lower senate quotas due to the double dissolution election and the disqualification of predecessor on constitutional grounds.
The crossbench will now likely consist of the two One Nation senators (Hanson and Roberts), two Centre Alliance senators, Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi and Jacquie Lambie.
On current numbers, the coalition will need the support of at least four of the six crossbench members to pass legislation, without the support of Labor or the Greens, needing a total of 39 votes to guarantee the passage of bills through the senate.