Our political leaders will do anything to stay in positions of power, including deceiving the voting public on urgent matters of climate change, writes Sue Arnold.
PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT issue facing this nation is not the pandemic, economic scenarios or nuclear submarines but a perilous lack of critical thinking and analysis by political parties, the mainstream media and a large majority of Australians.
The latest media drama over whether Prime Minister Scott Morrison will succeed in bringing the National Party to the climate change table is entirely focused on political gains and losses. We've seen divisions, articles on Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, Senator Matt Canavan and MP George Christensen, with absolutely zero focus on the extreme urgency of the situation facing our planet.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed Morrison as “leading the way” on climate with his spoken importance of countries “meeting and beating” their climate targets. One can only speculate on the calibre of her advisors and whether Australia’s right-wing Government has any bandwidth in U.S. politics.
It was an extraordinary statement given the overwhelming evidence that Australia is a climate change outlier under the Morrison Government, an embarrassment to nations taking steps to address a “code red” issue.
Listening to Joyce, now elevated to Deputy Prime Minister, cements the fact that Australia is now in the hands of politicians whose only goal is staying in power at any cost. Their focus is entirely dismissive of the catastrophic environmental impacts outlined by the U.N. report.
IA has compiled a shortlist of Joyce media statements and threatened actions on climate change.
Mid-June, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Joyce warned against a target of net zero by 2050 and joined Senator Canavan in signalling he was willing to cross the floor on the issue. Wikipedia indicates Canavan’s brother John is a mining executive.
In early September, The Guardian reported that Joyce ‘declares he won’t be “bullied” on climate science’, likening questioning on his stance ‘to a baptism where parents were required to “denounce Satan and all his works and deeds”’.
Joyce further declared that he won’t be “berated” or participate in a “kangaroo court”.
He also indicated that the Nationals would work to ensure urban Australia, not regional Australia, paid the price “if there’s a price to be paid”.
More recently, the SMH reported that ‘Joyce is said to be driving a hard bargain with his cabinet colleagues with one saying he was demanding “bucket loads of cash for the bush” to justify any agreement’ to zero emissions by 2050.
SMH reported earlier this month that Joyce has suggested a $5 billion extension of the Inland Rail into Queensland coal country in return for the Nationals backing a commitment on net zero emissions by 2050.
On reclaiming the National Party leadership, Joyce demanded security for regional jobs and industries. Exactly what these regional jobs and industries are is difficult to pin down.
Who owns Australia’s agricultural lands? Who is Joyce representing when insisting he’s protecting the bush?
Climate change policy a la Joyce cannot be a series of smart remarks on mainstream media combined with wearing a gigantic, ridiculous hat on television. Does he ever look in the mirror?
Livestock makes up about 10% of Australia’s emissions, mainly due to methane from manure which has 28 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
A fascinating gallery of Australia’s biggest private landowners reveals a dog’s breakfast of international actors, major multinational companies, Australian billionaires and millionaires owning a significant wack of agricultural lands. Plus, mega political influence.
A Guardian team also attempted to establish who owns Australia, experiencing the same roadblocks and conflicting information as IA. However, facts dug up by the Guardian team are interesting.
Pastoral leases cover 44% of Australia; the data obtained showed more than 400 owners together owned about a quarter of the country.
The biggest pastoral leaseholder is Western Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart who controls 1.2% of Australia’s landmass.
The Age said of Rinehart:
Over the years, her ardent support for Joyce has included $40,000 on National Agriculture Day in 2017 which the magnate billed as an award to the New England MP for being a “champion of our industry”. Amid fierce political criticism, Joyce returned the cash.
In 2013, Rinehart donated $50,000 to his election campaign and in 2011, Joyce was one of three Coalition MPs flown on Rinehart’s private jet to Hyderabad in India for a mining associate’s wedding.
The biggest corporate landholder is Australian Agricultural Company, its biggest shareholder the Bahamas based AA Trust controlled by British billionaire Joe Lewis.
According to Federal Government data, China is the biggest offshore holder of Australian farmland in 2019-2020 with 9.2 million hectares, followed by the UK, the Netherlands, the U.S. and Canada.
Morrison’s latest line, which no doubt he will use as “Australia’s climate plan” at Glasgow and in the forthcoming election, is “technology will change everything”.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor has produced a technology investment roadmap titled ‘First Low Emissions Technology Statement — 2020’.
Priority goals are identified as clean hydrogen, energy storage, low carbon materials, CO2 compression, hub transport and storage and soil carbon sequestration. A national hydrogen strategy estimates a domestic industry could generate over 8,000 jobs and $11billion a year in GDP by 2050. Clearly, no quick fix.
Currently, most hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, specifically natural gas.
The roadmap is devoid of environmental recommendations or considerations. There are no recommendations to end the industrial logging of forests, no discussion or recommendations on the importance of retaining biodiversity or intact ecosystems.
As any environmentally aware person will acknowledge, there’s no technology solution for replacing the ecological role of forests in converting CO2 into oxygen. Or one for overcoming drought, or creating rain.
The Climate Council says:
‘Avoiding clearing of old growth, carbon-rich vegetation and protecting regrowth vegetation are the most effective approaches to mitigating climate change using land systems.’
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Issues Brief on climate change indicates:
Forests help stabilise the climate. They regulate ecosystems, protect biodiversity, play an integral part in the carbon cycle...
To maximise the climate benefits of forests, we must keep more forest landscapes intact...
Halting the loss and degradation of natural systems and promoting their restoration have the potential to contribute over one-third of the total climate change mitigation scientists say is required by 2030.
On a practical level, there are plenty of available solutions which do not require extensive government statements with graphs and endless mind-numbing weasel words.
Professor Annette Cowie, NSW Department of Primary Industries, says there are many ways cattle farmers can reduce their carbon footprint:
“[By] planting trees, practises that build soil organic matter, feeding biochar to enhance animal health and feeding the algae that reduces methane emissions...”
Both Morrison and Joyce have children. Sussan Ley, Morrison’s Environment Minister, recently challenged a Federal Court ruling that she had an obligation to consider climate change impacts on future generations.
Perhaps it's time to create a portfolio of lies and media statements by our political leaders to present to Glasgow Climate Conference attendees so there is no confusion about the real Morrison Government stand on climate change.
Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.
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