Listening to Malcolm Turnbull on AM this morning attempting to defend the indefensible — the refusal to release the pathetic 22 government documents behind the PM’s $10 billion water plan — you almost started to feel sorry for the guy.

Talk about accepting a hospital pass. Being the front man for a government that has been ambushed by the global Greenhouse juggernaut after burying its head in the sand for 10 years is a really tough gig.

Michael McKinnon’s debut FOI effort for the Seven Network has pushed all the wrong buttons — reaffirming perceptions of a secretive and politically expedient government that has been caught recklessly throwing $10 billion at water.

Malcolm was sworn in as Environment and Water Resources Minister just a few days after the PM unveiled his hamfisted $10 billion plan to save the Murray-Darling river system at the National Press Club on 25 January.

The poor bloke is now having to defend recklessly shabby policy development on top of one of the First World’s most sceptical responses to climate change.

History will probably show that the caravan had well and truly moved on by the time Malcolm stepped up to the plate. The Stern Report scared the living daylights out of business, Al Gore galvanised the punters, the Lowy Institute survey last October confirmed the political potency of all this, and the drought continues to highlight the damage from not taking climate change seriously.

Malcolm didn’t have the courage to front the 350 people attending the Business Council for Sustainable Energy annual conference in Sydney last week, sending instead a mid-ranking bureaucrat from the Australian Greenhouse Office to outline the Government’s woeful record. It was no surprise he got heckled.

Many of the delegates had already read Clive Hamilton’s new book, Scorcher, which is a very powerful demolition of the Government’s capture by the carbon-club lobby and long-standing denial of the need for serious action on climate change.

The big polluters who dominate the PM’s carbon-trading taskforce will no doubt attempt to look after their own backsides when they report back to the Government on 31 May, but even if they did propose a far-reaching scheme, it won’t be in place by the time of the election.

It’s the same dilemma with delivering fast broadband for the nation — the Government has a serious problem but there is no quick-fix equivalent to the petrol-excise backflip in 2001.

Peter Fray

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