Abbott’s climate change Tea Party stirs in Canberra
Go back further into Hansard and press clippings and you find Liberal MP Luke Simpkins borrowing Alan Jones’ line about Australian emissions representing 0.0000002% of the atmosphere, Liberal MP Patrick Secker saying more people will die from global cooling, Victorian Senator Mitch Fifield describing proponents of an ETS of having a a theological approach to discussion “more suited to an inquisition”, Nationals Senator Ron Boswell describing the science as fraudulent, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz questioning the science and promoting a bogus petition of 31,000 “climate scientists”, and Liberal frontbencher Andrew Robb telling the AFR that global warming is just a leftist fad. Nationals MP John Cobb, and Liberal MPs Bob Baldwin, John Cobb and Bronwyn Bishop have also questioned whether the mainstream science has got it right.
The NSW Liberal MP Johanna Gash, one of her party’s appointees to the joint committee reviewing the Clean Energy Future package, is a fan of arch denialist Ian Plimer — “It makes for very interesting and illuminating reading” — she said of his book in 2009. Another appointee to the committee, George Christensen, who won the Queensland seat of Dawson for the Nationals in 2010, said in his maiden speech to parliament last year that the “science is not settled”.
And then, of course, there is Tony Abbott, the Coalition leader who once said the science is crap and has never really sounded convincing in claiming he’s changed his mind.
But this is not merely a game of pinning the tail on the donkey. This is a serious issue for Australian business, because the passage of the carbon price legislation by the end of the year will likely encourage domestic and international corporates to finally push the button on billions of dollars of investment — mostly in energy generation but also elsewhere — that has been held up while the fate of the carbon price remained unclear.
The Labor Party is going to great lengths to ensure that the carbon pricing legislation and the permits are “indefeasible” — which makes it extremely hard, and costly, to unwind.
Abbott has committed his party to repealing the legislation should it win government (as the polls currently suggest is likely) in 2013 and trying to estimate the depth and breadth of the Tea Party rump in a Coalition government will be a critical consideration for some investment multibillion-dollar investment decisions.
The quotes included above suggest at least a quarter of the Coalition members fall into that camp. The reality is that it might be closer to 40%. Take that into consideration with the results of the party vote when Abbott took the leadership from Malcolm Turnbull — the pro-Abbott camp, led by the climate denialist Nick Minchin, gained 35 votes, while the rest (49) were split evenly between Turnbulll and Joe Hockey. That first round vote was considered an informal on whether you accepted the science on not — if you didn’t, you voted for Abbott. If you did, you chose Turnbull or Hockey.
Abbott’s decision to send two sceptics out of five appointees to the joint committee looking at the CEF package may be a fair reflection of his party make-up. His ability to repeal the carbon price will depend on how many of his party faithful support his original proposition that the science is crap, because the Direct Action policy is untenable to anyone who thinks otherwise.
*This article first appeared on Climate Spectator
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