Climate denial extremists storm the Senate

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Given the possible infiltration of the Senate by a new crop of climate deniers thanks to Turnbull's ill-judged Double Dissolution, real leadership on climate change will be bigger hurdle for the PM. DeSmogBlog's Graham Readfearn reports.

AUSTRALIANS WENT off to vote in a general election last week, but five days later and the country still doesn’t have a result.

As things stand, there appears to be every chance that neither of the two main party groupings – Labor on the left and the coalition of Liberals and Nationals on the right – will win enough seats to form a government in their own right.

But one result in the country’s upper house has sparked a wave of discontent, reflection and rage — the election of the right wing anti-Muslim, anti-Halal, anti-vaccination firebrand Pauline Hanson.

Hanson, who leads her own One Nation party, has won election to Australia’s Senate and, as counting continues, she could bring more candidates with her.

But as well as pushing xenophobia and division, the Queensland politician will also take a most extreme brand of climate science denial with her into the Senate. 

As I wrote on The Guardian, Hanson’s party has been taking cues on climate science from one of the country’s most enthusiastic and relentless pushers of climate science denial, former coal miner Malcolm Roberts.

Roberts is the volunteer project leader of the Galileo Movement, a Queensland-based project launched in 2011 to fight laws to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

Roberts is also standing as a Senate candidate for One Nation and still has an outside chance of being elected, although Hanson is more enthusiastic about his chances than some analysts. The “wacky world view” of Roberts has since been reported by the Courier-Mail and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Conspiracy climate

If you hang around the climate change issue for long enough, then at some point you’ll likely come across the extreme end of science denial and the conspiracy theories that Roberts represents.

It goes a bit like this. Humans are not causing climate change. Government-paid climate scientists and their agencies are corrupt. The United Nations is in league with international bankers to defraud the world. It’s all about control. 

That sort of stuff.

The Galileo Movement was founded in 2011 by Queensland retirees Case Smit and John Smeed.

A year earlier, the pair had organised a speaking tour for British climate science denialist Lord Christopher Monckton — a tour that attracted sponsorship from mining billionaire Gina Rinehart.

Roberts became the project manager. The group pulled together an “advisory council” that includes the likes of Fred Singer, Monckton, Pat Michaels and Richard Lindzen

The advisory group once included influential political blogger Andrew Bolt, until the News Ltd writer claimed Roberts had been spreading anti-Jewish conspiracy theories — a charge the Galileo Movement denied.

The climate policies of Hanson’s One Nation party have been quite literally cut and pasted from the Galileo Movement.

Those policies include calls for investigations into the “corruption of climate science” and the teaching of climate “scepticism” in schools.

After gaining enough votes to secure her own seat, Hanson told The Saturday Paper:

“This whole climate change is not based on empirical evidence and we are being hoodwinked. Climate change is not due to humans.”

Elsewhere, One Nation also reflects Roberts’ paranoia over United Nation’s policies to support environmentally sustainable development — known as Agenda 21. In the eyes of One Nation, Agenda 21 morphs into a sinister control program leaving “no person outside of its reach.”

Conservative denial

But what should be remembered is that many of the conspiracy theories pushed by Roberts and One Nation are happily repeated by figures in mainstream Australian conservative parties.

Maurice Newman, the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s top business advisor, also thinks the world’s climate scientists are all wrong while the UN is trying to instil a “new world order”. He also thinks there’s an ice age coming. 

Coalition MP George Christensen, just re-elected, ridiculed climate science in a 2014 speech to the Heartland Institute’s conference for climate science denialists.

In 2012, the Queensland state branch of the Liberal Party voted to

“remove environmental propaganda material, in particular post-normal science about 'climate change', from the curriculum and as adjunct material at exam time”.

The motion, passed by party members, was proposed by a local member who had claimed to have disproven the greenhouse theory with a kitchen experiment using rolls of cling film and two fish boxes.

In September 2015, the ABC reported how one branch of the Liberal Party in Tasmania declared climate change was a “furphy” — Aussie slang for a rumour that turns out to be false.

Only a few months ago, root and branch members of the New South Wales Liberal Party called for national debates on climate change to see if the science was “settled”.

Liberal Senator-elect Cory Bernardi is another staunch climate science contrarian and another former Heartland Institute speaker. 

Also re-elected is Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who last year invited climate science denialists from think-tank the Institute for Public Affairs to a briefing to try and “balance” the views of genuine climate experts.

In recent hours, it has emerged that Bernardi is to launch a new group to unite conservative elements across Australia — a group that the Sydney Morning Herald reports could turn into a new political party

This could be especially galling to Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, who only a couple of months ago spoke at a fundraiser for another of Bernardi’s groups, the Conservative Leadership Foundation (CLF).

The CLF was a key force behind online campaigns in 2011 to fight the introduction of laws to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. The campaign came with a misleading leaflet claiming carbon dioxide was a harmless trace gas that was not driving climate change.

Turnbull himself was once considered a progressive conservative voice on climate change. But some believe he was forced to pull back in order to win support from the more conservative elements of the coalition, in return for winning the party leadership and becoming Prime Minister. 

So as the Australian political turmoil continues, it appears there will be plenty more climate science denial to come from the country’s conservative wings. 

Either that, or the genuine progressives among Australian conservatives need to push for some real leadership on climate change.

This story was originally published on DeSmogBlog.com on 6 July 2016. You can follow Graham Readfearn on Twitter @Readfearn.

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