It’s only a few months since a certain conservative columnist and noted pugilist was lauding Penny Wong to the highest of heavens, but on the weekend she drew a push and a shove for her efforts on emissions trading.

“Business has a new nickname for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong. They call her ‘The High Priestess’.”

What wags they are in “business”. No wonder they earn such large salaries — paid per laugh, you see. And the image is compelling, no? Wong swaying rhythmically as she utters some spells from that old Garnaut Review-doo while Australians jobs are sacrificed on the altar of environmental idolatry. EITE in the garden of good and evil.

The idea that Wong could be some hierarch of a pagan religion, or maybe a witch, might be misogynist. More to the point, it’s entirely off the mark. Wong, alas, is a humourless automaton, our very own Commander Data without the charisma. Although, you know, she has an Asian background, and perhaps her malevolent adherence to pagan rites is disguised beneath that oriental inscrutability. As George Findlay in The Newsroom noted, “they’ve been getting away with it for far too long.”

What say you, business?

More particularly, given Wong has diligently crafted an emissions trading scheme that will do virtually nothing to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions and in fact will transfer wealth from low to high polluters, to suggest she’s in any way fanatical about the issue is nothing short of ridiculous. On the contrary, she’s the epitome of the bloodless bureaucrat, the distilled essence of our moderate, reasonable and responsible Prime Minister himself. They even go to the same hairdresser.

But I’m more interested in this idea that wanting to prevent climate change is a religion. This gets trotted out an awful lot.

Let’s see now. Religion is a belief system characterised by blind assertion of faith ahead of evidence and reasoning, intended to give meaning to otherwise pointless human existence and, usually, to support existing power structures.

So if you favour action on climate change based on clear evidence that the planet is warming, backed by an explanation of why it is happening, advanced by the overwhelming majority of those who study the issue, that makes you religious. Worse, a religious zealot. In contrast, those who ignore evidence, dispute the science, prefer a few right-wing bloggers and researchers from outside climate science to those who actually know what they’re talking about, who complain that addressing climate change will interfere with the great goal of economic growth, and who are backed by powerful industry groups and political conservatives — they’re entirely rational.

Yeah-huh. More lithium, anyone?

It all depends on your perspective, doesn’t it. On this logic, one might be tempted to declare other things religions. Like capitalism. How is that supposed to work? At the moment it looks like it will require a giant act of faith from consumers if it is to start working again. Not to mention a giant tithe from taxpayers. Sounds like a pretty normal religion to me. When it comes to this Philosophy 1 rubbish of suggesting everything’s just a construct, or an ideology, it’s a game we can all play.

The subtext here — and frequently it’s not so sub — is that anyone who disagrees with the climate change thesis is persecuted, rather like the Christian martyrs. It’s not so long since Barnaby Joyce, who’d know more than most about religious fanaticism, was running this line. Think The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian: some poor climate sceptic strung up on a tree while greenies — half a dozen of them, literally going for overkill — prepare their environmentally-friendly bows for another volley of arrows (made of carbon-sequestering wood, natch). In the background, some chattering-class elitists whoop and jeer. Now that is a compelling picture, and just a carbon audit away from a Renaissance masterpiece. Oh, but please don’t bother about any of that gay iconography stuff thanks. We’re talking red-blooded, meat-eating, carbon-leaking blokes here.

Since climate sceptics actually ran the country for nearly twelve years, and continue to exist within the ranks of both major political parties, as well as running some of our largest companies, the notion that they’re the victims of a witchhunt is one of the bigger try-ons in the whole climate change debate. Although, as that gifted comedian David Flint tried so hard to convince us, just because you run the country, doesn’t mean you’re part of the elite. John Howard was eternally the hapless victim of latte-sipping ‘litists who wielded the real power from inner-city cafés across the land during his time as Prime Minister.

The other implication is that the sceptics are the only ones who haven’t been suckered by the global conspiracy. They’re too smart, you see. They see right through it, unlike everyone else. We’ve all been conned. Only the sceptics have kept their heads. They’re smarter than the mugs out there. After all, someone’s gotta do the thinking.

But one can forgive that. We all find ways to express our individuality and superiority to others. I hold exactly the same sneering contempt for Nick Cave fans.

None of that applies to business. Australian businesses campaigning against the ETS — or at least, against their own industries being subjected to the ETS — are something different: crooks. They want to continue avoiding the cost of their pollution, and will distort facts, tell-half-truths and straight-out lie in order to do so.

Crooks, thieves, spivs, shonks, rip-off merchants, who along with their biased, intellectually bankrupt “independent consultants” deserve only contempt.

But hell, religion has always been about making money as well.