Climate change — too important for conventional politics

31 Mar

What do you think? Kevin Rudd rightly says of today’s National Climate Change Summit organised by the Labor Party:

Climate change does not simply threaten the Australian environment – it also threatens Australian jobs and Australia’s long term economic prosperity. Invitations have been extended to the Prime Minister and his Ministers, and State Premiers and Chief Ministers.

Climate change is one of the most significant challenges that Australia and the world will face in the 21st Century. To face this challenge we must come together as a country, a region and a planet to take real practical action on climate change.

Participants include:

Professor Peter Doherty AC
Nobel Laureate (Physiology and Medicine)
Laureate Professor, University of Melbourne
Australian of the Year 1997

Dr Graeme Pearman, AM
Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Monash University
Former Director, CSIRO Atmospheric Research

Professor Alan Dupont
Director, Centre for International Security Studies Sydney University
Non-resident Senior Fellow, Lowy Institute

Mr Peter Holmes a Court
Chairman, White Bull Holdings
Executive Chairman, South Sydney Rabbitohs
Board Member, Queensland Rail

Ms Susan Jeanes
CEO, Renewable Energy Generators of Australia
Former Federal Liberal Member for Kingston

Mr Charlie Lenegan
Managing Director, Rio Tinto Australia
Board Member, Business Council of Australia

Mr Tony Maher
Secretary, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union

Dr Adrian Williams
CEO, Geodynamics

Mr Tim Sims
Managing Director, Pacific Equity Partners

And more. This could be a significant forum. The Prime Minister and the Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull have declined their invitations. I think this, while hardly unexpected, is a shame. Thinking really does need to shift beyond party politics on this one.

Jim Belshaw has an insightful comment on what Rudd is doing: Modern Political Myths: a follow-up.

…this morning I listened to a radio discussion on Kevin Rudd, the leader of the Australian Labor opposition in the Australian Parliament…

…the presenter (Fran Kelly), commentators (Malcolm Farr from The Daily Telegraph, Mark Reilly from the Seven Network and Michelle Grattan from The Age) and indeed the Government were struggling with Mr Rudd’s low target approach. Essentially, Mr Rudd was refusing to make negative comments (this conflicts with the need for an attack dog approach) and was leaving it to his shadow ministers to make comments on issues (this conflicts with the simplified presidential approach).

Dear me, how sad. Fancy not playing the media game. Do you know, if you don’t play by the rules, the media has to play by yours. And that was part of my point.

See also Jim’s previous entry Modern Political Myth – Oppositions and the Media.

I should add that I believe Labor must also bend to include all technological options at this stage, including nuclear, though it could well discount the government’s tendentious reports and “practical” strategies, which are in fact designed to lock down discussion — that is the government continues nakedly to play politics with our children’s futures. Both sides, I repeat, have to get beyond this destructive myopia, and I credit Labor with being somewhat more open at this stage to that critical paradigm shift. May it be rewarded.

That Lateline discussion last Thursday was an interesting example of myopia in action. Tony Jones rightly challenged Malcolm Turnbull over his (and the government’s) selective reading of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) July 2006 report Economic Impact of Climate Change Policy, which I have now taken the trouble to download and read. (So should you.) It is true that “it’s all there” as Jones says in this exchange:

TONY JONES: We’re getting to the point where we’re talking about the scenario. Here’s what it says. This is the best-case scenario, bear in mind. It says that with the best-case scenario ABARE’s own figures, there’d be a 22 per cent drop in coal production, a 33 per cent drop in coal consumption. Would that lead to thousands of job losses in the coal industry? Your best-case scenario?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, I don’t know whether it’s thousands or tens of thousands. Clearly the cuts you’re talking about are very substantial. Let me just insist, I know this is being pre-recorded and you won’t run this on the program, if you want to have a serious discussion about that ABARE report, I want to have a copy of it in front of me. You’re talking about a report. I don’t know that you actually understand the report and you’re representing sections in the report, I’m not sure that you’re representing them accurately. I’m very happy to come back and have a serious discussion about it. You’ll have a copy, I’ll have a copy and we’ll go through it.

TONY JONES: We will do that actually and – I will do it, and if I am misinformed it is by people chiefly involved in the report.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: This is the problem, you’re relying on people to tell you about a report.

TONY JONES: No, I’ve got the figures here.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: You say you’ve got informants. Let’s move on. We’re wasting time, Tony.

TONY JONES: On the pages that I’ve cited, it’s all there.

Not your finest moment, Malcolm.

It’s time our government stopped obsessively controlling information (or attempting to control information) and engaging in Frank Luntz-inspired semantic trickery. (Frank I. Luntz (born February 23, 1962) is a “corporate consultant, pollster and political consultant to Republicans, Luntz’s specialty is testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate.” — Wikipedia) Yes, that is what they are doing, and have done on many an issue over the years. What I have called “mantras” on this blog from time to time are examples of Luntzism in action. A pox on Luntz and his like and their abuse of language! (“Luntz is credited with coining the term ‘Healthy Forests Initiative’ for policies by the Bush administration that favor expanded logging by the logging industry.”)

For more on the linguistics see George Lakoff.

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Posted by on March 31, 2007 in Aussie interest, climate change, Current affairs, Jim Belshaw, Kevin Rudd, News and Current Affairs, Politics


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