Australia has been in fast reverse on climate change action with Tony Abbott at the helm, however his plans have been turned upside down by Al Gore and Clive Palmer. Lyn Bender attempts to make sense of this mismatched trio.
THE RECENT STARTLING EVENTS in the Senate should give us reason to hope that democracy has not been stifled, despite Tony Abbott's worst intentions.
Abbott’s heavy-handed attempts to order the Senate to do his bidding have proven less successful than he seemed to expect. His grandiosity and narcissism, which cannot brook any opposition, has been dealt a blow. Much of his atrocious budget seems unlikely to get through. And the unpredictable Clive Palmer is beating him at his own game of back flipping.
Furthermore, Palmer has accused the Abbott Government of trying to pull a swiftie, by gagging debate to disguise an unacceptable amendment. Palmer proposed a strong amendment to ensure carbon tax savings were passed onto consumers. Ricky Muir Palmer and Palmer United Senators have voted with the Greens against the repeal of the carbon tax, which may yet go down, though not easily.
Just as we were wondering what to make of the latest climate deals done over dinner lunch or breakfast by three extreme and enigmatic personalities – Al Gore, Clive Palmer and Tony Abbott – we are beginning to see some of its results. The survival of Australia’s climate policy now hangs in the balance.
So what drives these three players? Perhaps we can draw hope that one or more of them might yet save Australia’s carbon pricing policy in some form.
The media has been buzzing with questions.
Is Al Gore really a good guy; or just ‘crazy ‘Clive Palmer’s fool? What on earth makes Clive Palmer tick? Has Abbott, the certified bad guy, been virtually sidelined as a power player. The new Senate players were greeted with disparagement and chortling from much of the press, but they seem to be taking their jobs very seriously and may even get the last laugh. Tony Abbot has many enemies and some of them are now in the Senate.
Commentators politicians and the media were completely caught off guard when Clive Palmer – the jokester, trickster, mining magnate nouveaux politician – appeared alongside the hero of the climate change movement. Palmer stood beside Al Gore, the man with globally acknowledged charisma and gravitas, declaring himself a convert to climate change science. He would still vote for the axing of the carbon tax but conditions applied.
The Coalition did a little dance in parliament. Abbott’s vow to kill the carbon tax would at last be achieved. The Coalition quickly sought to claim this as a victory.
From the Murdoch press:
“What we have seen today is vindication,” Environment Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra.
“The announcement this evening means that the Senate will be following the coalition’s plan.”
The Senate was being brought to heel. It was ending in the Government’s favour.
But many aired their confusion.
I received a group email from Christine Milne the next day headed:
'That was weird'.
Some commentators announced that, instead of enhancing PUP leader Palmer’s prestige, the joint appearance had sullied Gore’s credibility. After all, only three months before, Clive Palmer was denying the strong impact of human emissions on the earth’s climate.
Others saw the public pairing as a victory for environmentalists and climate action. Palmer may have announced his intention for his new PUP senators to vote to repeal the carbon tax, but important conditions applied. The key pillars of the former government’s green architecture would be saved.
- The Renewable Energy target (RET) — retained
- The Climate Change Authority (CCA) — kept
- Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) — saved
- And an emissions trading scheme (ETS) was still on the cards for the future, when trading partners came on board,
So is Clive Palmer – called fat and mocked mercilessly – seeking his own salvation through saving the earth? Or is he just another, rich opportunist, seizing his moment on the podium alongside altruistically credentialed Al Gore? Does Clive want to find his fifteen minutes of ethical fame, or is it just another brick in his wall of narcissism?
In his favour he has consistently maintained a solution to refugee deaths at sea would be to fly them directly to Australia. But it seems only yesterday that he was declaring that global warming was 97 per cent due to natural causes. Yet, in a magical twist of seeming enlightenment, he has now embraced what over 97 per cent of scientists are saying.
Watch and note his admiration of Al Gore, which comes across as being genuine:
He seems to be quietly bursting with pride standing alongside former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, whom he calls “a great leader.”
Palmer is speaking more slowly than his usual spray of one-liners. His higher cortex and reflective brain seems to be engaged.
Tony Abbott has been left looking sheepishly relieved. He will at least now be able to repeal the carbon tax as promised. But Australians are left literally gobsmacked.
Who can we trust and who has integrity? Or, put simply, who the hell are these guys anyway?
Firstly, Tony Abbott:
- Greens leader, Christine Milne has declared that “we have a PM who is effectively barking mad” on climate change.
- Jacqui Lambie – Palmer United Party (PUP) Senator – has gone further, saying that Tony Abbott is a “political psychopath”.
- I examined this contention regarding his psychopathy in a recent article in IA.
- Alan Austin has at length listed Tony Abbott’s compulsive lies and broken promises.
- Abbott’s poor human rights record has been criticised globally.
- Abbott boasted of an alliance with Canada to sabotage global agreements on emissions reductions.
- Fresh from a less than warm meeting with Obama, Abbott declared that he regarded himself as a conservationist! Furthermore, he said that Australia and the US had similar policies on climate — a brazen lie.
- Then, while in Texas, Abbott said that coal had a long future. It should not, he said staunchly, be impeded by climate action
- Also in Texas, Abbott wore and cowboy hat, yeehowed and was declared a cowboy — which he took as a compliment.
On the other hand, there is Al Gore:
- Who has form as a tireless and consistent campaigner for truth about climate change.
- Has a deep concern for future generations.
- Is the recipient of a Nobel Peace prize.
- Has worldwide respect.
- Displays genuine warmth and honesty.
- Exhibits intelligence integrity in walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
- Is a fearless Truth teller.
Then there is the wildcard — Clive Palmer:
- Who has changed his mind on important issues such as climate change, in a seemingly superficial and flippant way.
- Has boasted that he could pay scientists to come up with solutions, while regecting current scientific consensus.
- Yet, speaking three months later, he has an about face. He seems to genuinely admire and trust the integrity and scientific integrity of Al Gore.
- Which brings hope that Palmer respects integrity and is looking for positive models of leadership.
- Palmer has also exposed what he calls “rubbish” promulgated about a budget crisis.
- Palmer has suggested Australia fly in people who are seeking asylum for assessment, in order to prevent smuggling and deaths at sea. He has called the present policy on refugees as "unAustralian".
- Clive is anti guns.
What can we make of this? Are Clive and Gore really on the same page? Can we trust Clive to hold fast to his bargain, and what of Abbott?
So what is the view of good guy, Al Gore?
Al Gore's take on Clive Palmer: deep down he has a sense of social justice and keen sense of right and wrong http://t.co/bUup8JaSvU— Marju Tõnisson (@marjuton) July 9, 2014
Watch here as Gore stresses that he “likes” Clive and
“There is no question in my mind that he wants to make the world a better place."
He goes on to say “he wants to do the right thing” and that he cares deeply about social justice.
On Abbott, Gore’s opinion is not so complimentary.
Abbott is still a “denier” and that he should
“... either change or get out of the way.”
Direct action – giving money to polluters to stop polluting – is “a dodge” and “silly”.
While Gore is “disappointed” that the carbon tax will be repealed, he is delighted with what has been supported for retention by the Palmer United Party.
As Palmer observes:
“It’s not the Labor way or the Liberal way; but the right way that counts.”
Perhaps we can hopefully conclude that Clive is having his moment of truth. And as the PUP senators’ votes may be crucial; this can only be a good thing for us all and hopefully the climate.
Gores final opinion is that climate denial is “extremely odd and self-destructive” and will be relegated to “the dustbin of history”.
We can only hope that a changed Clive Palmer genuinely agrees.
You can follow Lyn Bender on Twitter @Lynestel.
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