Politics Opinion

Undeterred by pariah status, PM to wave 'green and gold' at Glasgow

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Cartoon by Mark David/@mdavidcartoons

While the East Indian Dipole has temporarily soothed our epigenetic despair two years since the bushfires began, it’s worth remembering how the Murdoch press chose to present the findings at the time.

As the intensity of the flames scorched the minerals out of the soil, either side of Scott Morrison's Hawaiian holiday and the knocked back handshakes, the Australian division of News Corp was empowering its most controversial entities to inflict damage on the psyche of everyday Australians.

In January 2020, deep into the collective anguish of a catastrophic bushfire, Murdoch opinion writers stirred the pot. 'Warming is good for us' was what one well-known pundit wrote, less than a month after New Year’s Day images of a child fleeing a hellish inferno with his family in a tinny.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, News Corp tabloids published 8,612 news and commentary pieces on climate change, nearly half of these articles rejected or cast doubt on the issue during a raging inferno. Either side of these pieces was the PM getting booed as he hurried around for photo ops on the fire front like a Pentecostal flame. Thousands of lines of misinformation have incrementally shifted the narrative on climate change, a concerted effort.

When Scott Morrison recently went to the United States, just before he met with President Joe Biden, he had an intimate dinner with the News Corp chief executive, Robert Thomson.

On his return, it’s no coincidence we have witnessed a dramatic shift towards net-zero from the political and journalistic classes. One of the first things Joe Biden signed in the Oval Office was an executive order to re-join the Paris climate agreement. This position was always going to create “sticking points” between the current U.S. Administration and the bloke who played “Alas poor Yorik” with a lump of coal in Parliament House.

As we live and breathe, U.S. Democrats are currently developing a proposal for something called a “carbon tax”.

Years before China started knocking back mountains of our soiled recycled plastic, long before they started locking out our diplomats, the Gillard Government conceived the Clean Energy Bill in 2011, a world-first to establish a price on carbon.

In 2014, just two short years after its introduction, the Coalition followed up on its election promise and hailed the demise of the “useless, destructive, carbon tax”, gleefully celebrating in both houses of Parliament. This was all achieved with the full support of the mining giants and the major polluters, seeded by the media in the howling gale of tabloid subjectivity, whipping up the bulldust over everything.

Geoff Dembiki highlights the contradictory nature of News Corp, documenting that the company has spent:

'... the past 15 years mitigating its own climate risk while giving media outlets like Fox News carte blanche to deny climate change altogether.'

The News Corp empire has observed the horrors of intercontinental environmental catastrophes, whilst protecting its assets from these events and futureproofing its investments. It has been cogently aware and strategically preparing for the effects of climate change since 2006. Yet, it has simultaneously encouraged its pundits to politicise and misinform, platforming ideas that are counterintuitive. If News Corp has been battening down the hatches for 15 years, if it has come to the table on climate change, why hasn’t it bought the Australian people with them?

Up to this point, News Corp has valued the political capital obtained by decades of misinformation on climate change over promoting a unified message that supports the 79 per cent of Australians that believe it is happening and want action. It has used political division on key national issues as its daily bread, ignoring the warning signs, and trampling on clarity and consensus and inflicting incomprehensible damage to our ability to respond as a nation.

So as the day dawned, on Monday 11 October 2021, they piled on more “Green and Gold” on the front pages for "MISSIONZERO" than Kieran Perkins got in Barcelona and not a Clive Palmer or Harvey Norman ad to be seen. Just for a day.

The friendly rival newspapers looked to praise News Corp, like the old nemesis from the original becoming a good friend in a sequel. Some of us feel a bit numb about all of that. But this isn’t Apollo Creed or Lando Calrissian from Rocky III or Star Wars VI we are dealing with, this is the Xenomorph from Aliens.

Morrison, the fella who said he could corral the mob who booted Turnbull over the National Energy Guarantee, is now also hostage to these fringe dwellers in Canberra. It may take a bit longer to call them back, as they forge ahead against the grain, looking to establish their brand out beyond the pale.

There is room for these ideologies in a big country that invites people like Gina Reinhart to talk climate denialism and Thatcherite values to children in elite schools, or paragons of climate like Andrew Forrest to speak at the National Press Club to berate the Government.

Scott Morrison has played key roles in an era of climate policy revocation and revisionism. From the repeal of the carbon tax to the scuttling of the national energy guarantee, Morrison has not been afraid to stretch this historically crucial imperative for subjective political gain.

In September 2019, the PM declined an invitation to another UN Climate Summit. Summit observers said that Morrison was running a “denialist government” that was “greenwashing” to meet its emissions targets. Amidst all of that, Morrison still found a way to denigrate youth activist Greta Thunberg by speaking of her relation to the "anxieties" of children.

If Morrison should know anything about "anxieties", it should be the collective anxieties of a nation that is reeling from the compounding effects of climate change and looking to its leaders for initiative and solutions.

The working class of the country are the ones who are subjected to the uncertainty of the post-Clean Energy Act landscape.

Between slogans from major parties, platitudes from unprepared leaders in politics and industry, and misinformation from those in Government and a compliant press, the threat of job security in a stagnant labour market is compounded by the politicisation of the issue and confounded by the small ideas used to placate a concerned workforce.

Without the support of the duopolies and the power brokers, and the lack of any willing inspiration in Canberra, there is no certainty for swathes of Australians that feel increasingly unprepared for the brave new world of clean energy and may be unaware of the economic opportunities and security that any of this might bring.

If the Coalition hadn’t repealed the Clean Energy Act, we would have had ten years of experience putting people to work in green jobs, in green industries, allowing our youth and workers to think big in those spaces. As early adopters of a carbon tax, we could have led the world as we have often done, before the small ideas and revocations from a decade of Coalition revisionism. What a wasted opportunity Australians have witnessed.

While the reactive PM stalls and flops and relents to go to Glasgow, as he frantically shuffles his papers on the plane,  he leaves behind a dire political situation. Being “bullied” by the Nationals and the increasing weight of public opinion, no wonder he wanted to stay and talk his way out of it.

We should remember the Coalition Government, its herald in News Corp, the forces that repealed the Clean Energy Act have sent us to Glasgow like this, at the last minute. With the Nationals seeking clarity, it may let the PM leave with a dogs breakfast of a climate policy on Monday. But it also leaves behind Barnaby Joyce to wax lyrical on the subject, using his own blustering unique style.

The eyes of the developed world have been watching Australia stagger into pariah status. Everything that has happened since then, all the vapidity and embarrassment, the regression and callousness, has been propped up by a propaganda network that has fused itself into daily life, that has helped to create an uncertain future for our children.

Joel Jenkins is a writer and actuator. You can read more from Joel on Bogan Intelligentsia and follow him on Twitter @boganintel.

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