Back for the last week of sitting before Parliament’s winter recess, and the rhetoric flies thick and fast. The insults are as predictable as ever, the twisting of facts as despicable as ever … but really, we have reached the dizzying heights of absurdity.
Last night the government confirmed that it will finally release the full details of their carbon price plan on Sunday. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has air time booked on the ABC for the announcement, that will be followed up (under the ABC Charter) with response time from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott immediately following.
Coming on the heels of the announcement that fuel will be exempt from the carbon price for private individuals and small businesses, it looked like the long-promised detail would finally materialise.
But then the Opposition weighed in – and apart from the usual lines, we had this from Tony Abbott.
The fuel exemption will not last – if it happens at all. Why? Because he says so.
And how can he prove that? Well, look at what he said in the election campaign. He said – repeatedly – that ‘as night follows day’ there’d be a carbon tax, and lo and behold, he was right. Therefore, he’s right about this.
Yes, Tony Abbott has the power to predict the future. Now that’s a quality we need in a leader, right?
Honestly, it’s ridiculous. And it’s not the silliest we’ve had this week.
We had Barnaby Joyce on Sky News flatly refusing to countenance any evidence of global sea temperature rises, and rubbishing the credibility of the CSIRO while he was at it. We saw him state that ‘things go in cycles’, that there was ‘hardly any change’, and trot out the old chestnut of ‘it got cooler in the last ten years’.
We had Abbott and Hockey both implying (in several different addresses to media) that economists simply couldn’t be trusted, because they didn’t support the Coalition’s ‘Direct Action’ plan.
And then …
We had Coalition Senators this morning deliberately misrepresenting the role of carbon dioxide in pollution and climate change. At least, we should hope it’s deliberate – because otherwise it reveals a truly terrifying stupidity.
The argument went something like his. How could carbon dioxide be a pollutant? It’s not listed as a pollutant in these books we have here. Don’t plants breathe it?
And wait – 60-70% of our food is made up of carbon. Does that mean we sit down every night to a big plate of pollution?
I wish I were making this up – or even exaggerating.
And what does it all indicate? Apart from a truly astonishing lack of understanding, there are two possibilities as to what’s going on here.
Possibility 1. The Coalition are beginning to openly embrace something that they have vehemently pooh-poohed for some time now. This constant mockery and rubbishing of science points to absolute denialism. Not simply rejecting the idea that human activity has, and is affecting the global climate, mind you – this is outright refusal to acknowledge any global climate change. That’s been the stated position of people like Joyce and former Senator (and kingmaker) Nick Minchin for a long time.
Possibility 2. The Coalition may or may not accept the science, but they have decided that it simply doesn’t matter. They made the political decision to oppose the government, the Greens, and anyone else who urges action to combat climate change. They set out a strategy designed to spread misinformation and confusion, and to cause fear and outright panic in as many sectors of Australia as possible – for one reason only.
To undermine the government, demonise the Greens and ensure a Coalition election victory in 2013, if not much sooner.
I’m not sure which is worse, here – the idea that the Coalition are just cynical opportunists, or that they really believe what they’re saying. Either way … when the country’s representatives come out with absurdities like ‘carbon is good for us, it’s in our food’ as a counter-argument to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Something’s very wrong.