Even In Its Dying Days, The Government Denies The Need For Climate Action

The Guardian*

The reckoning for this failure will come at the next election. And it can’t come soon enough
‘While the PM will blow his foghorn on taxes and boats, it is the climate change policy failure that leaves his government condemned in the eyes of so many of its own.’ Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP 
For all the skittishness of Australian politics through the years of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments there’s been one factor that has been remarkably consistent.
Amid leadership coups, cultural offensives and the revolving door of energy policy acronyms, the Australian public has remained steadfast in its belief that more needs to be done to address climate change.
Whether the focus has been an ETS, an ERF, a CET or a Neg or just a big stick, the majority of the voting public has not moved from its view that meaningful action is required by government.
After the craziness of another fortnight of Coalition energy policy where our fossil-fondling PM has whipped up some new renewable buzzwords while his National party partners are baying for taxpayers to fund new coal projects, it’s worth reminding ourselves of this baseline. Because it explains so much of why this government’s condition has reached terminal status.
For the past decade the Essential poll has asked two benchmark questions when it comes to climate change. The first is around whether people believe the climate science.

Over the past decade this split has been stable. Granted, it dipped into the high 50s at the height of Tony Abbott’s attack on the Gillard government’s so-called carbon tax, but that was after Labor had spent the best part of a term faffing around on the issue.
What’s most striking in these numbers is the disconnection between the climate sceptics within the government and Coalition voters. Indeed, on the science they are much more aligned with One Nation and conservative independent voters who make up the “other” cohort of voters. As for younger voters, the Coalition comes across every bit as much a fossil as the fuel they seek to dig up.
The second question we have regularly asked is whether people believe Australia is doing enough to address climate change. Again, a majority – including one-third of Liberal voters – say they are not.

All of which makes Barnaby Joyce’s entreaty for an election fought on coal appear delusional, as some of the more tethered members of the government have felt compelled to point out in recent days. These words of moderation come too late. Joyce’s indulgence will only provide further impetus to the swathe of moderate independents challenging the Liberal heartland in more affluent areas of Sydney and Melbourne where Sky after dark does not rate.
Meanwhile, as the Coalition’s self-inflicted wounds fester, Labor simply holds its line with a commitment to 50% renewables by 2030 and aggressively promotes battery storage. Yes, there are calls for a more rapid phaseout of coal from the left, but all the pressure on policy is currently on the Coalition.
As a separate table in this week’s report shows, one of Labor’s core brand advantages over the Coalition, alongside wages and workplace conditions, is climate change.
While Scott Morrison will blow his foghorn on taxes and boats, it is the climate change policy failure that leaves his government condemned in the eyes of so many of its own.
Perhaps it’s the ultimate revenge on a government that came to power through a cynical attempt to deny the need for climate action. As the summers have got warmer and warmer, the public’s anger at the inaction has got hotter.
The failure of this government has not just been the toppling of its leaders. It’s been the reason for the topplings, which has been more than the blind pursuit of power, but power in the name of energy.
And even in its dying days, key members of the government continue in this state of denial. Not just of the science, nor the need for meaningful action, but denial that this is the sort of leadership elected governments are expected to exhibit.
The reckoning is coming and it will be harsh. And it can’t come soon enough.

*Peter Lewis is the executive director of Essential and a Guardian Australia columnist


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