These days it’s impossible to find a politician who isn’t in someone’s pocket.

The latest leaked tape recording from John Robertson, the head of Unions NSW, will be treated as manna from election heaven by the Coalition.

But they shouldn’t get too cocky. Our conservative Judeo-Christian government should instead recall Jesus’ saying about ignoring logs in one’s own eye when it comes to having policy determined by powerful interest groups.

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This week, a former staffer to retired Environment Minister Robert Hill releases an explosive book about how the Howard government’s position on climate change has been swayed by major polluters who also happen to be major financial contributors to Coalition parties.

Dr Guy Pearse worked for former Environment Minister Robert Hill for years, and was involved in the 1997 negotiation of the Kyoto agreement. The book High & Dry repeats some of the explosive allegations Pearse made on the Four Corners program in February 2006. A lengthy excerpt of the boom appeared in The Good Weekend on June 30.

Pearse’s allegations are explosive and surely must give Rudd and his Environment spokesman Peter Garrett plenty to talk about. Pearse is no ALP stooge, nor is he a puppet for the green lobby. He speaks with the credibility of a former insider, with years of Liberal Party service (he joined in 1989) and connections among wets and dries. He even did an internship at the conservative American Heritage Foundation. Malcolm Turnbull will have a difficult time combating Pearse’s allegations.

Pearse retains his Liberal Party membership, though he might find himself in the same boat as other internal Liberal critics.

Pearse doesn’t just deal with major polluters like power companies. His PM’s XI, representing Howard’s “greenhouse circle of trust” includes leading conservative thinktanks, a newspaper editor and even a Labor Premier.

So what is this book about? A single sentence on p121 says it all: “All of the Howard government’s central claims in defence to its response to climate change are deliberately misleading”.

Pearse goes through and systematically demolishes each argument used by the Howard government to fail to act on emissions.

So there you have it, folks. Who can you trust to get the right balance between environment and economic policy? Given we have an incumbent coalition government which allows Australia ’s biggest environmental polluters to write its Cabinet submissions and ministerial briefings, the answer certainly isn’t John Howard.


Matt Brown, former chief of staff to Robert Hill, writes: Irfan Yusuf claims that Guy Pearse “worked for former Environment Minister Robert Hill for years.” Pearse may have had a very brief stint on Hill’s staff in Opposition but never worked for Hill or any other Coalition minister in government. He was employed by the department as a speechwriter and wrote a handful of speeches for the Minister. Pearse is happy to have the media portray him as an “insider” and an “adviser” to Robert Hill. Both claims are wrong. Yusuf also claims Pearse “was involved in the 1997 negotiation of the Kyoto agreement.” What a load of rubbish. I was in Hill’s office throughout that period and was a member of Australia’s delegation to Kyoto. Pearse had no role in advising Hill on climate change and never had anything to do with greenhouse policy development work in his office.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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