Occasionally the observation is made that
Australian political journalists are parochial, insular and have a pack
mentality. The evidence of this week suggests such critics are too kind.

This week the best and brightest have entered
into the nuclear energy debate, all of them asking the same question: why has
John Howard raised it now? And all of them – Paul Kelly, Steve Lewis, Michelle
Grattan and today Peter
– have come up with exactly the same answer – it’s politics! (Well, I never! A politician playing politics. What next,
cricketers playing cricket?) Specifically, they have all concluded, to some
greater or lesser degree, that this is about stirring up trouble in the ALP,
while allowing Howard to show off his continuing leadership abilities.

Well, he would, wouldn’t he? Not one of them has
gone beyond those statements of the obvious. For example, could there have been
something in the fact that Howard began the debate immediately after leaving
Washington? Lo and behold, look what George
Bush said yesterday, same subject
(World Today), on
a visit to a nuclear power plant: “Nuclear power helps us protect the
environment … and nuclear power is safe.” Singing from the same hymn sheet
here folks? Could the “Man of Steel” have fallen lock-step in with his best
mate the POTUS, on a strategy agreed over squash soup in the State Dining Room?
It’s happened before

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Now, what do Bush and Howard have in common on
energy issues and related subjects? Both have long been climate change deniers
and both have long refused to support alternative energy development. What a
great way to effectively admit you were wrong about global warming, without
actually admitting it – nuke that awkward prospect with the mother of all
diversions. Hide ten years of policy failure in Howard’s case, going on six for
Bush, behind a radioactive debate that makes it look like you are serious, big
time, about finally addressing the biggest issue facing humanity.

And to top it all off, if taken up, nuclear
energy is good for the mining industry, for the corporations owned and run by
the current players at the big end of town. In one move, look after some
powerful friends, while locking potential new players in the politically suspect
renewable energy crowd out of the energy bonanza for a long while yet.

That’s hardly a radical or complicated scenario –
it’s politics as it’s played at the big picture level, outside the pack
mentality of the media bubble in Canberra.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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