Tony Abbott and the climate change fandango

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Does anyone believe that Tony Abbott’s latest change of stance on climate change is anything more than his description of the relevant science in 2009: "absolute crap"?

The former PM and current Member for Warringah has blown so hot and cold on this world-threatening issue that his stance on climate change is an intricate fandango of adopting different stances, depending on the audience.

The current audience is the electorate of Warringah which Abbott has represented for 24 years but which, according to a ReachTEL poll commissioned by GetUp, is likely to elect climate-change activist Zali Steggall in the imminent federal election.

A day after the poll results were published on 9 February, Abbott published what appears to be a panicked climate change contortion on his website, under the heading, ‘Why I’m Running’:

'Climate change is real, mankind makes a contribution and we should take sensible action to deal with it but, with Australia responsible for just 1.3 per cent of global emissions, there’s no point damaging our economy in futile green gestures.'

It would be wise for the recipients of this latest stance to remember his speech to the widely discredited Global Warming Policy Foundation in London in October 2017 in which he said [IA emphasis]:

More than ever, the challenge of leadership is to say what you mean and do what you say. The lesson I’ve taken from being in government, and then out of it, is simply to speak my mind. 


The risk, when people know where you stand, is losing their support. The certainty, when people don’t know where you stand, is losing their respect.

He told that same audience:

"… in October 2009, I observed that the so-called settled science of climate change was 'absolute crap' ..."

Yesterday (25 February), current PM Scott Morrison indicated that Tony Abbott's Direct Action climate policies have been "a great success"

What other “stands” has he adopted in his elaborate and complicated climate change fandango?

He told Barrie Cassidy on 1 September 2013:

"But just to make it clear, Barrie, I think that climate change is real, humanity makes a contribution. It's important to take strong and effective action against it …"

On 13 June 2014, Abbott told the ABC:

"President Obama and myself both take climate change very seriously and we've got strong and effective policies in place – or coming into place – in Australia to deal with it … I'm determined to ensure that we do our duty by the future here."

He was criticised for wavering on whether his Paris Climate Agreement targets were a pledge or an aspiration:

The criticism follows Mr Abbott's assertion last week that the Paris Climate Agreement targets he devised as prime minister in 2015 were "aspirational".


Senator Fierravanti-Wells pointed to "categoric" comments Mr Abbott made in 2015 when he announced the "pledge" to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030.


In September 2015, Mr Abbott said: "Unlike some other countries which make these pledges and don't deliver, Australia does deliver when we make a pledge.

And then in 2017, the pro-action stance of 2013 and 2014 was completely abandoned as he delivered the sort of speech those opposed to action to deal with climate change wanted to hear, such as:

"… climate change itself is probably doing good; or at least, more good than harm."

And he finished that speech with this denial:

'A tendency to fear catastrophe is ingrained in the human psyche. Looking at the climate record over millions of years, one day it will probably come; whatever we do today won’t stop it, and when it comes, it will have little to do with the carbon dioxide emissions of man.'

Whoa! The arrival of Ms Steggall has provoked yet another pirouette.

The first eight words of his new stance to his latest audience, 'Climate change is real, mankind makes a contribution', are almost identical to the earlier stance he adopted in 2013: 'I think that climate change is real, humanity makes a contribution.'

But in 2013 he was adamant that:

"It's important to take strong and effective action against it …"

Now, despite being faced with what he callsthe fight of his life, he can’t bring himself to adopt that same tough stance. It’s been watered down to “and we should take sensible action to deal with it”, followed by a lot more weasel words.

Perhaps the best advice Warringah voters should take from their present MP is:

"The certainty, when people don’t know where you stand, is losing their respect."

You can read more by Steve Bishop at stevebishop.net

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