The downfall of Malcolm Turnbull was in large part engineered by the right wing climate denial faction of the Liberal Party – it was not merely a matter of personality clashes, as some pundits would have you believe. On this, I agree with Dennis Atkins and Alan Kohler (speaking on ABC with Geraldine Doogue): According to Atkins, “the Liberal Party seems incapable of dealing with the issue of emissions, of climate change. A senior minister who’s been closely involved with that policy this term, said to me privately during the week, he said, ‘look mate, as a party we cannot deal with this issue … the divisions on the policy are too deep, too ideological.'” Alan Kohler added, “the core issue is climate change. It is not just the fact that the Liberal Party itself internally can’t deal with climate change and can’t agree on it, but on that issue the Liberal Party has entirely split from the business community.” As Turnbull’s son Alex colourfully summed it up: “My father fought the stupid and the stupid won.”
The coalition is way out of step with public opinion on this matter, too, with a recent Essential Research poll (23 October 2018) showing that 63% of the public believe that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity,” (including 57% of Liberal or National voters) while only 25% think that “we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate,” and 13% don’t know. Importantly, 56% think we are not doing enough to address climate change, including a ‘respectable’ 45% even among Liberal and National voters, again with 13% of the sample saying don’t know.
That the Liberals – and indeed virtually all of the conservative forces in Australian politics – are living in a fantasy land of climate denial, is only further underlined by the remarkable victory of independent Dr Kerryn Phelps in the recent Wentworth by-election, on a strong climate policy platform.
With all this in mind, I recently decided to check in with my local Liberal National member of the house of representatives, the Hon. Andrew Wallace, the member for Fisher (Sunshine Coast, Queensland), to see where he stood re: climate change.
Here is the correspondence:
From: Peter Cook
Sent: Tuesday, 21 August 2018 9:49 AM
To: Wallace, Andrew (MP)
Subject: RE: Thank you
Dear Mr Wallace
I have one question which I would be grateful if you could answer for me:
Do you accept the overwhelming scientific consensus that the global climate is warming and that this is caused mainly by human burning of fossil fuels?
If not, why not?
If yes, what are you doing about the gravest threat to ever face the future of human civilisation on this planet?
I await your answer.
From: Wallace, Andrew (MP)
Sent: Monday, 10 September 2018 9:14 AM
To: ‘Peter Cook’
Subject: RE: Thank you
Good morning Peter
Thank you for your email and I do apologise for the delay in responding.
I certainly cannot profess to being scientifically minded, but like any good scientist, I am committed to keeping an open mind on this issue and to look at the situation objectively. I do accept our climate is changing, but I cannot provide you with an informed opinion as to whether the change is anthropogenic as I simply am not a scientist.
Federal Member for Fisher
I was expecting that, at the very least, Mr Wallace would try to reassure me by pointing out that, for example, “Australia is taking a strong, credible and responsible commitment to the Paris climate change conference. Australia will reduce emissions to 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. This target represents a 50-52 per cent reduction in emissions per capita and a 64-65 per cent reduction in the emissions intensity of the economy between 2005 and 2030.” (this is the coalition government’s policy as quoted from the Department of Environment web site).
But, astonishingly, instead of recycling some bland government talking points, Andrew Wallace delivered the “I am not a scientist” line. Yes, the very same “I am not a scientist” line from the climate denier playbook so well developed by Republicans in the USA. The same “I am not a scientist” line so beautifully refuted by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech in 2015:
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence [of global climate change] by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and at NOAA, and at our major universities. And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe.
To look on the bright side, Andrew Wallace’s response did clarify a couple of things for me:
- Andrew Wallace has aligned himself with right-wing climate denial faction in the Liberal Party, the same faction that for the past ten years or more, in league with the coal lobby, has stymied action on climate change in Australia. That has been ten long years of repeated displays of sheer ignorance from the climate deniers within the Liberal and National parties, and the irresponsible destruction of any hope of bipartisan action on climate change.
- I am now committed to make sure I inform as many people as possible in the electorate of Fisher, that Andrew Wallace is a climate denier and that it is not in any of our interests to vote for a climate denier. It is especially not in the interests of young people, or their descendants, who at some point will have to figure out to how to handle the major global crisis caused by ongoing (‘business as usual’) global warming – as recently documented in the shocking new IPCC report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees C, and also by the excellent What Lies Beneath report by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop of the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration. This is the massive crisis that is being bequeathed to the younger generation by the egregious inaction of people such as Andrew Wallace, Tony Abbott and the numerous other climate deniers in the Liberal and National parties.
Andrew Wallace is actually a bit behind the times in his choice of state-of-the-art climate denial clichés. The “I am not a scientist” trope has been ditched in the USA because, as Republican energy adviser Michael McKenna has pointedly said, “It’s got to be the dumbest answer I’ve ever heard. Using that logic would disqualify politicians from voting on anything. Most politicians aren’t scientists, but they vote on science policy. They have opinions on Ebola, but they’re not epidemiologists. They shape highway and infrastructure laws, but they’re not engineers.”
I am assuming that Andrew Wallace is not an engineer, or a doctor, or a plumber, or an airplane pilot, or a teacher, or a farmer, or any number of other specialised professions. In which case I assume he will not be adopting a position on any legislation or policy coming before the House of Representatives relating to health, education, agriculture, or transport, roads and infrastructure, as well.
In the interests of fairness and balance, I commend to you the following video in support of Andrew Wallace’s position, from Republican Congressional candidate Ram Johnston in the USA: https://youtu.be/c7OYdc5tr_o