One of the Australian Government's biggest failures is its apathy towards committing to climate policy, a Liberal Party tradition, writes Hannah Thomas.
AUSTRALIANS ARE USED TO Prime Minister Scott Morrison ignoring his responsibilities. Examples that stand out include leaving quarantine up to the states despite it being a clear Federal responsibility under the Constitution, failing to act promptly to save Afghan interpreters and support staff from the clutches of the Taliban despite months of warning and failing to uphold any semblance of ministerial accountability despite presiding over the most scandal-plagued Cabinet imaginable.
However, news that Morrison may skip the COP26 summit in Glasgow has shocked even the most jaded. It’s equivalent to the captain of the Australian cricket team sitting out the Cricket World Cup. What is the point of having a prime minister if not to represent us on the world stage, at moments of such global, existential importance?
His excuse for contemplating such a momentous abdication of duty is inconvenience, that he doesn’t want to waste time in quarantine notwithstanding that quarantine requirements will be less onerous by November according to his own government.
That Morrison is even considering not going to Glasgow is a clear indication of guilt: as much as he spews hackneyed hogwash about Australia meeting and beating its 2030 Paris targets, he knows all too well that Australia is falling woefully short of its international obligations.
Although to credit Morrison with guilt is generous — his time in office has demonstrated a complete absence of self-reflection. Rather, shame is what’s motivating thin-skinned, hot-headed Morrison. Australia is shaping up to be the villain at Glasgow and Morrison doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to face the chorus of boos on the global stage.
At home, Morrison’s focus has always been deflecting, rather than dealing with climate change. His go-to methods are obfuscation (claiming to be beating targets or claiming to be committed to net zero without a net zero target) and scapegoating (pointing the finger at the developing world, particularly China).
This won’t work on the international stage. Dithering on 2050 targets won’t cut it when your peers are setting ambitious 2030 targets. Blaming China in the wake of its announcement that it will not build any new coal-fired power projects abroad also won’t fly. China has shown itself to be the more decent global citizen on climate, despite Australia bearing far more historic responsibility for carbon emissions and having a much larger per capita carbon footprint.
Any of Morrison’s usual attempts at deflection would expose us not as a climate laggard but as a climate criminal, an international pariah. That sort of international embarrassment would not go down well with proud, patriotic Aussie Liberal voters (let alone the rest of us) in the lead up to an election and Morrison knows it. Sending someone in his place appears to be Morrison’s attempt to soften the blow on himself.
Whilst Captain Morrison shirks responsibility, the rabid rats on his sinking ship fight amongst themselves ever more viciously. Open warfare has erupted between moderate Liberals and hardcore anti-science National Party nutjobs on whether to commit to net zero by 2050. This is lunacy given the IPCC report released in August concludes that decisive action must be taken in the next decade to avoid catastrophe and that focusing on 2050 is too little too late. Lunacy akin to dragging your feet when Pfizer offers you a meeting during a global pandemic.
I live in an electorate held by a “moderate Liberal”, meaning a more polished turd. My representative, Katie Allen, talks like Greens leader Adam Bandt but votes like Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce. She’s recently gone into overdrive, gearing up the gaslighting and greenwashing. And she’s not alone. Like clockwork, moderate Liberals on tight margins have crawled out of the woodwork to feign concern about climate, sensing that their gravy train may be terminating at the next station if they don’t act quickly.
These moderate Liberals are particularly reprehensible and dangerous. They are blatantly lying to voters about what they represent and tricking parents into destroying the future for their own children.
Hopefully, voters won’t be deceived by the empty promises and platitudes of these modern Liberals. After all, we’ve had three successive Liberal prime ministers who have wasted almost a decade of opportunity to act on climate. We’ve had “conservative” Tony Abbott, “moderate” Malcolm Turnbull and “pragmatic, stand for anything and nothing” Scott Morrison.
None of them did anything of substance. No Liberal can be trusted on climate — no matter on what end of the broad church they sit or what hymn sheet they sing from. Particularly when the priest won’t even turn up.
Hannah Thomas is a lawyer currently working in public policy. She has a keen interest in Australian and Malaysian politics.
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