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Environment Analysis

National Party waging war against Australian environment

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The National Party is intent on stifling meaningful action on climate in Australia (image by Dan Jensen)

The Australian environment cannot survive the National Party, writes Sue Arnold.

THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA is reporting that the Nationals are revolting on climate change, demanding the new $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund be allowed to invest in coal and nuclear power.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has lodged an amendment in Parliament to use the fund to build a coal-fired power station. National Senate Leader Bridget McKenzie argues the fund should be “technology-neutral”. 

An analysis of the comments and focus of National Party politicians provides an unholy comparison with the U.S. Republican Party’s support of irrational Trump policies.

National Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, is upset that the High Court ordered fresh hearings into approvals for the New Acland mine expansion in Queensland.

The Minister’s press release says the decision:

'... shows the urgent need for the Queensland Labor government to reform its approval process for resources projects ... This is a classic example of the Queensland approval process allowing activists to use the courts and legal system to delay legitimate resources projects.'

In fact, it was a group of dozens of drought-stricken farmers who won the latest round in a 13-year battle to stop the mine’s expansion.

Pitt’s leader, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, recently indicated his desire to see agriculture excluded from any 2050 climate target.

According to political commentator Michelle Grattan:

'The minimum price for a Nationals’ sign up would be the exemption of agriculture, which accounts for about 13 per cent of total emissions.'

In November 2019 McCormack slammed climate change concerns of “inner-city raving lunatics”.  

McCormack went further in his Radio National interview on climate change, claiming:

"People don’t need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital greenies at this time.” 

Apparently "people" was a reference to bushfire disaster victims.

Greens MP Adam Bandt copped a spray over “disgraceful” attempts to score political points by using the bushfires to prosecute the Greens agenda on climate and change and shut down the coal industry. 

McCormack’s deputy leader, David Littleproud, the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, claimed the 'UN is becoming irrelevant' when the organisation announced that the Australian meat industry is driving climate change, water depletion and deforestation.

Minister Littleproud said:

'The UN ought to stick to their knitting of promoting peace and prosperity rather than denigrating the work of our farmers, instead of pursuing political agendas on these important issues.'

In an interview with Guardian Australia in 2019, Littleproud admitted that:

'I’m just a poor humble bloke with a year 12 education but I'm prepared to accept what our scientists are telling us [on climate change].'

Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan is a big promoter of coal.  He’s called for new coal-fired power stations, acknowledging in an episode of Q&A his maiden speech referred to brother John’s involvement in the industry.

“I want to put on the record my admiration and support for our fossil fuel industry and the thousands of jobs it supports, including my brother's.”

In fact, his brother was an executive at Peabody Energy from 2011. In 2018, it was reported he had set up a new entity to bid for the Rolleston Coal mine.

Barnaby Joyce continues to make headlines with his response to climate change. 

In an interview on 2GB on whether agriculture should be included in Australia’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, he claimed:

There’s a much more pressing emergency to address: China’s rise.

 

They dominate global politics, global trade and they will dominate your children and grandchildren.  

 

That’s what we must be planning for, that is what a responsible government would be looking for, not trying to change the temperature of the globe, we’ve got no hope of doing that.


On ABC’s 7.30, Joyce was asked a similar question. He confounded viewers with his response to those "pushing for agriculture to be included in the climate change policy".

Mr Joyce said:

I might offer one word of caution for those who are jumping on board saying, "I want it, I want it, I want it".

 

You can’t say I’m going to marry a person and then say I actually want to marry someone else. Once you said you’re in, you’re in.

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie voted strongly against Senate motions on climate change including motions to act on the best scientific advice; to set 2030 targets and to take urgent action. McKenzie blasted NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean as 'irrational' for daring to link the NSW bushfires to climate change.

McKenzie stated that:

I actually have a science degree — I am one of the few in Parliament who does. That’s what gets me a little frustrated about the irrational conversation we’re having on this topic.

 

I accept the science of climate change. But do we need to shut down everything, turn off the lights and go back to grass huts? No.

In 2019, NSW national Senator Perin Davey was drafting legislation that would set a trigger for releasing water earmarked for the environment back onto the market for irrigators.  The measure would make a major change in how water is shared under the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

A former truck-driving army reservist and an African safari trail operator, she previously served on the NSW Irrigators Council and as a water policy advisor for Murray Irrigation Ltd.

Davey voted against motions on the transition to renewables, against revoking Adani’s environmental approvals and against climate change impacts to the Great Barrier Reef.

Senator Susan McDonald has not had the same level of publicity her National Senate colleagues have enjoyed. However, her policies are lockstep in with the party’s anti-environmental policies.

Last year, McDonald and Liberal Senator James McGrath gave notice of a motion to set up an inquiry into the existing evidence base on the impact of farm water runoff on the health of the Reef.

The inquiry was generally regarded by conservation organisations and scientists as a bid to discredit Queensland laws to protect the Reef.

Leading reef expert Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg described the inquiry as a:

'Politically motivated charade.'

Scientists giving evidence described the hearing as 'a shameless misuse of the parliamentary process by elected public officials'.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science twice wrote to the inquiry saying some of the evidence it had given, including statements about the impact of pesticides on inshore habitats, had been repeatedly misrepresented in subsequent hearings.

NSW and Queensland National Party politicians’ attitudes to the environment are equally disturbing.    Australia’s environmental future is in the hands of a minority party punching well above its weight. 

The only solution appears to be the ballot box.

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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