What commendable words from Kevin Rudd on Friday sticking it up the climate denialists at the Lowy Institute. Proof, as it were, that the Prime Minister could be a great leader on climate change if he wanted to be:

Attempts by politicians in this country and others to present what is an overwhelming global scientific consensus as little more than an unfolding debate, with two sides evenly represented in a legitimate scientific argument, are nothing short of intellectually dishonest. They are a political attempt to subvert what is now a longstanding scientific consensus, an attempt to twist the agreed science in the direction of a predetermined political agenda to kill climate change action.

Dead right, PM. What a pity the CPRS is not a bad effort at “a political attempt to subvert what is now a longstanding scientific consensus” itself, but anyway.

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His taxonomy of climate denialism – the outright sceptics, those who profess to believe but oppose any proposed means of doing something about it, and those who want to wait until the rest of the world takes action – was particularly inspired. It’s the second category that incorporates Australia’s biggest polluters, all of whom, hand-on-heart, profess to believe in climate change and the urgent need to address it, but oppose any means of addressing it that might faintly affect them.

If the Prime Minister is so angry about the efforts of denialists to derail action on climate change, then here’s a suggestion: stop giving them taxpayers’ money. Government funding flows through a variety of means to some of Australia’s biggest polluters and opponents of an effective emissions trading scheme.

Blue Circle Southern Cement is a Boral subsidiary. Boral is one of the six companies about whom the Australian Climate Justice Program and the Australian Conservation Foundation complained to the ACCC about the disparity between the dire warnings made about the threat of the CPRS to their businesses, and what they were actually telling their investors.

But in June this year, Martin Ferguson’s Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism gave Blue Circle Southern Cement $1.98m under the Asia-Pacific Partnership program, the discredited Howard-Bush-era program designed to forestall action on climate change by pretending a technological solution was around the corner.

But normally it’s more subtle than that. For example, the Minerals Council of Australia, the most vociferous opponent of the Government’s CPRS, gets funding for its Minerals Tertiary Education Council program from the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations. That sort of support, aimed at ensuring the minerals industry has enough skilled workers to call on, is particularly ironic given Council CEO Mitch Hooke was a strong Workchoices advocate and front and centre in the disastrous business-funded anti-IR reform campaign before the last election.

Another mob of rentseekers prominent in the campaign to neuter the CPRS has been the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association. They too get taxpayer assistance. Both Ferguson’s Department and Geoscience Australia – also in Ferguson’s portfolio – were sponsors of APPEA’s annual conference this year, as they were in 2008.

Then there are the handmaidens of the rentseekers – those economists and consultants who prepare the modelling demonstrating that tens of thousands of workers will lose their jobs and whole industries will close in the event there’s any sort of cost for carbon.

While the now-defunct Concept Economics has been front-and-centre in these efforts, ACIL Tasman has also been busy on behalf of polluters, producing major reports for the coal industry, food producers and the LNG industry warning of the dire consequences of the Government’s no-polluter-left-behind CPRS.

ACIL Tasman is a regular beneficiary of Federal Government contracting work. In September last year, for example, it scored a $189,000 contract from – you guessed it – the Department of Resources. Other Departments like Infrastructure and even the Department of Climate Change also use ACIL, providing business worth several million dollars in the last year alone.

Then there’s the personal appointments. Mitch Hooke, king of the rentseekers, is – bizarrely – a member of the Government’s Oceans Advisory Group. And senior Greenhouse Mafia figure Brian Fisher, formerly of Concept Economics, who has prepared several reports attacking the CPRS, has a position on the statutory Council of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, which the Howard Government appointed him to in its dying days. For all Fisher’s regular attacks on the Government, he is apparently prepared to content to be paid to advise it.

One could go further. Prime Minister failed to mention the key role of the media in promoting climate denialism. The home of denialism is of course The Australian, which will run any drivel, no matter how discredited or sloppy, as part of its ongoing campaign to attack mainstream climate science and undermine political efforts to address climate change. Right on cue, today The Oz gave Hooke the platform for an attack on Rudd and the CPRS. Yet the Government spends tens of thousands of dollars a week – probably more – running Public Service job ads in The Weekend Australian.

Given The Oz’s shrinking old, white, rich, male readership, that in itself is illogical (why Public Service job ads are not consolidated on a single APS job site is a mystery), but even more bizarre given it is engaged in a flat-earther attempt to undermine efforts to address what the Prime Minister calls “the great moral and economic challenge of our time.”

So, Prime Minister, if you’re serious about taking the fight up to the denialists and do-nothings, show them you mean business. Stop giving them support and credibility by paying them our money.

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

Liz
North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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