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Jul 21, 2011

Abbott free of the shackles of truth

Tony Abbott has racked up three howlers on a carbon price in the last week and they've all received critical media coverage, even if they're wrong.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Tony Abbott’s tendency to utter whatever comes into his head certainly isn’t doing him any harm. In one week, he’s racked up three howlers on a carbon price. They’ve all received critical media coverage. But you get the impression the public doesn’t particularly care.

The noteworthy feature of the current “debate” over the employment and cost-of-living impacts of a carbon price is that we appear to have reached a standard in public discourse where the truth, or consistency, aren’t preferred positions any more; that something happens to be true or logically coherent or consistent isn’t especially relevant, certainly not more so than whether it sounds clear, has “cut-through”, reinforces people’s expectations rather than runs counter to them, and most of all suits a preferred narrative.

Or perhaps it’s not so much the case that we’ve abandoned the idea that truth is important, as that we’ve adjusted our standards about truth. My facts are now as good as your facts, regardless of whether they are indeed correct. And, really, everyone has a right to their own facts; insisting on one set of “true” facts is, well… let’s call it what it is: blatant censorship.

The chattering classes need to stop trying to impose their own élitist concept of facts on the facts of large corporations — validated, of course, by originating in the real world of private enterprise — and climate denialists.

Of course, the Right — frequently in the form of ex-Marxists — used to stand guard against trendy academics advocating exactly this sort of relativism. Much fun was to be had, and rightly so, at the expense of Cultural Studies academics (RIP “The Humanities”) and their war on that tool of white patriarchal capitalist genocidal oppression, logic-centric discourse. But we couldn’t expect them to hold out forever, so cut them some slack. The castle of reason has been overrun; the survivors will have to take to the hills and turn to irregular warfare.

Oddly, despite the media attention, most missed Mr Abbott’s particularly risible remark. It wasn’t merely that Abbott claimed he had never supported a carbon tax or an ETS — a claim so demonstrably untrue even The Australian mentioned it. He belatedly qualified that by adding the caveat “as leader” hours later, the worst recovery since Basil Fawlty, learning his American guest enjoyed the works of Harold Robbins, pretended to be lambasting someone else. “Oh Harold Robbins. I was talking about… Harold Robinson.”

But it was what Abbott said immediately before that that was more interesting, when asked about whether he thought climate change was a myth:

“Yeah look I never said it was a myth. I once used some colourful language describing the so-called settled science of climate change but look, climate change is real, humanity does make a contribution to it and we’ve got to take effective action against it. I mean, that’s my position and that’s always been my position but I’ve never been in favour of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.”

Abbott’s difficulty in asserting he has never believed something is of course problematic because he has professed to believe everything at various points. As we know from his no-holds-barred debate with himself, Abbott once claimed “atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have significantly increased since the spread of industrialisation, but it seems that noticeable warming has only taken place between the 1970s and 1990s”, that “notwithstanding the dramatic increases in man-made CO2 emissions over the last decade, the world’s warming has stopped” and that “there may even have been a slight decrease in global temperatures (the measurement data differs on this point) over the past decade.” Although, we’re still waiting for Greg Hunt’s “direct action” plan to combat the coming Ice Age.

Indeed, on the issue of human contribution to climate change, don’t get Tony started. Climate change has “been happening since the earth’s beginning. The extinction of the dinosaurs is thought to have been associated with climate change” and “climate change happens all the time and it is not man that drives those climate changes back in history. It is an open question how much the climate changes today and what role man plays.”

But then again, for every quote from Abbott asserting humans have nothing to do with climate change and the planet’s getting cooler, you can find Abbott averring that climate change is indeed real and human-caused and needs action — action, of course, by a carbon tax, the preferred approach of the “intelligent sceptic”.

But that’s the Opposition Leader for you, a man who has kicked free of the shackles of truth and consistency. Tony Abbott’s on course to be our first post-modern Prime Minister. He’s the big-government social engineer who enthuses about small government, the global cooling carbon tax advocate who wants direct action to address global warming, the proponent of lower taxes who proposes his own new taxes, the economics graduate who doesn’t grasp economics, the leader who urged Peter Reith to run for the party presidency then voted against him, the bloke who wants to stop the boats via policies that in the past guaranteed asylum seekers came to Australia.

And, to recycle John Howard’s famous line, the time will suit him.

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90 thoughts on “Abbott free of the shackles of truth

  1. Jimmy

    I find this phenomenon amazing, gillard is branded a liar who needs to be forcibly removed from govt becasue while saying she was “determined to put a price on carbon” she also said she wouldn’t have a carbon tax. No leeway given for change in circumstances she lied and needs to be damned.
    Abbott cahnges his position at the drop of a hat, has been caught out saying different things to different audiences and has confessed that he doesn’t tell the truth but that’s OK, he is holding the govt to account and because he isn’t PM doesn’t need to tell us the truth or have a policy.

    On the issue of everyone’s own facts, I have been talking to 2 different financial planners over the last week and they are both vehemently opposed to the carbon tax (and Juliar). I pointed out that the chief economists of nearly all the funds the sell to their clients have come out in support of a price on carbon and they answer that economists don’t realy know what they are talking about. So they are ahppy to trust their clients money with blokes who don’t now what they are talking about?! One even said that the survey that found 60% of economists supported the tax and only 25% opposed it didn’t show a clear majority, so if the 60% predicted a recession and 25% predicted a boom would he tell his clients to go for growth?

    To me all this shows that logic and rationality has gone out the window, all you need is a good slogan and you too could be PM.

  2. Frank Campbell

    Abbott’s climate incoherence: “…you get the impression the public doesn’t particularly care.”

    Correct. And why would that be, Bernard?

    The voters are turning in droves to the intrinsically unattractive Abbott (simian, Jesuit, hormonal, gaffy, pugilistic, naked, Howard).

    They no longer give a toss what he believes on climate change (he has no idea anyway). But they know he’ll repeal the massive, complex, contradictory and climatically irrelevant carbon tax.

    The carbon tax is Gillard’s Trojan Hearse.

    Each day Julia, Windsor et al retire to an ante-room to pray. The supplications have abruptly changed. They now earnestly request survival for Kevin Rudd in his upcoming heart surgery.

  3. TheTruthHurts

    The claim Abbott supported an ETS or a carbon tax is a stupid one.

    Did the media/Labor Hacks forget Malcolm Turnbull was rolled as leader by Abbott on this very issue??

    The only claim that could be made is that Abbott lied when he said he supported an ETS under Turnbull. To say Abbott is a ETS/Carbon-Tax supporter in sheeps clothing is LOL quality.

    The real grilling should be on Gillard. We know she doesn’t support an ETS or a Carbon Tax, yet PRETENDS to do so. How do we know this?

    1. She was the main driving force behind Rudd dumping the ETS

    2. She… as leader(as opposed to Abbott working under a Turnbull leadership) stated there would never be a Carbon Tax under the government she leads.

    Gillard has even said the reason she is bringing in a Carbon Tax is because of the “changed circumstances of the parliament”. Thats not a ringing endorsement of the plan…. thats just a way to save her own gutless political hide.

    And the real question has to be asked… why didn’t Gillard just go straight to an ETS? Because the Greens demanded a Carbon Tax. Thats the answer. Had nothing to do with being the right or correct policy, just a gutless appeasement.

  4. TheTruthHurts

    [Abbott cahnges his position at the drop of a hat, has been caught out saying different things to different audiences and has confessed that he doesn’t tell the truth but that’s OK, he is holding the govt to account and because he isn’t PM doesn’t need to tell us the truth or have a policy.]

    Abbott was working under a Turnbull leadership, whom he rolled on THIS VERY ISSUE. Any claims Abbott is against the ETS and Carbon Tax are therefore moot. He did lie when he said he supported an ETS, which is a valid claim.

    Gillard… as leader said she would never bring in a Carbon Tax if we voted for her. She was not working under another a leader when she promised this. But what we do know from Rudd is that when she was, she twisted Rudd’s are to dump the ETS.

    Perhaps Labor supporters can now claim Gillard is not the leader of the Labor Party at the moment, and that it is in fact one Dr Bob Brown of Tasmania.

  5. Jimmy

    TTH & Frank – You have just proved Bernard’s & my point. And if his apparent contradiction in support for a Carbon price isn’t enough for you how about the “it’s crazy to cut our emmissions by 5%” while simultaneously having a policy to do just that?

    As I said Logic and reasoning has gone out the window!

  6. kevrenor

    There you go!

    You didn’t need to write all those words Bernard, just roll out ‘The TruthHurts’ to prove your case.

  7. geomac

    Abbott said he wouldn,t contest the leadership if Hockey stood in a leadership spill. He reneged on that . There are plenty of vids on the net showing Abbott arguing the merits of a carbon tax as the most effective way of reducing emissions. He is similar to a door to door salesman changing his pitch to each prospective buyer except his product changes as well. I wonder how long before he is asked about IR seeing as a few workchoice advocates are getting toey about the no policy zone. Same routine I expect , vague non answers.

  8. matticus

    but, but, but, he said this and she said that! you can’t trust politicians people, get over it.

  9. Cuppa

    Equally damning is his inability to face up to reasonable scrutiny. He favours “soft” media outlets – talkback radio being his favourite, where all the shock jocks weigh on his side of the political fence.

    At press conferences he simply turns and walks away when the questions get tricky.

    And when he can’t run and hide, he freezes in mute fury, as caught on film by Channel 7.

    This is someone who cannot handle scrutiny, and believes himself to be not answerable.

    He is clearly not up to the job. It is time for the media to pursue him every day, otherwise the public will not find out till it’s too late.

  10. Jimmy

    Matticus – Exactly, the more concerning thing to me is that the “facts” on the need for a policy are so easily dismissed. The vast majority of climate scientists say that cliamte change is real and man made. The vast majority of economists believe a a price a carbon is the best way to address the problem.
    But hang on a couple of scientist’s/economists disagree, who do we believe, don’t we need 100% consensus? The answer is clearly we don’t need 100% consensus and we believe the vast majority, but the media can’t seem to understand this. Plus they put Lord Monckton and Professor Denniss in a debate and say here we have to equal and opposing views. No one view is completely discredited and held by a crackpot “mathematician” and one is held by a respected scientist and been peer reviewed! They don’t deserve equal weight.

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