Crikey yesterday gave prominence to Ray Evans’s latest illuminating contribution to the climate debate, but entirely failed to spot the intriguing connection to one of the week’s top stories, and the indication it gives of the direction of climate politics at the highest levels in Australia.

Ray Evans is a former executive of Western Mining Corporation (WMC) who set up the climate sceptic Lavoisier Group in 2000. Where he thinks he gets the expertise to write on climate science is anyone’s guess, but that’s not the point here.

The point is that Lavoisier was publicly launched by Evans’s friend and colleague, both at WMC and in Liberal Party fundraising ventures, Hugh Morgan. That name’s been in the press a bit recently, hasn’t it? Connected with some nuclear power venture, I believe.

That’s one section of the puzzle: mining executives, climate scepticism and nuclear power.

Bear with me. It gets more interesting.

Ray Evans’s book launch at Parliament House yesterday was hosted by the Western Australian Liberal MP, Denis Jensen. Jensen is known for two things. Firstly, he is the undisputed leader of the Liberal Party’s nuclear power cheer squad. He has not been averse to promoting nuclear power on the back of climate change concerns while promoting climate scepticism from the other side of his mouth.

Secondly, having lost preselection for his seat of Tangney last year, Jensen was saved from political oblivion by a supreme deus ex machina – personal intervention by the Prime Minister. Obviously Mr Howard has been very happy with Jensen’s performance.

Fit the puzzle together and it neatly sums up John Howard’s approach to climate politics. Undermine the science as subtly as possible, using associates or bolshy ministers where appropriate. But then use community concerns to support your push for nuclear power and, under that cover, uranium sales to India and China.

Perfect really. Makes it look like you take the issue seriously but conservatively, keeps your mining industry fundraisers very happy indeed, and provides a nice little wedge against the ALP into the bargain.

I’d love to see some discussion of other pieces of the puzzle. For instance, Nick Minchin, a very public climate sceptic and former Industry Minister, reckons nuclear power is too expensive, but was right behind a nuclear waste dump in his state. Where might he fit into the Morgan/Walker/de Crespigny nuclear power picture?

Peter Fray

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