After years of silence, the 26th Prime Minister of Australia is finally on the record about his time in government, in this second volume of his autobiography. Crikey has secured an exclusive extract from the chapter entitled “Climate change and me”.
Of course, the abandonment of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was one part of my first prime ministership that disappointed a lot of people. I take full responsibility for that decision, which is particularly generous of me seeing as it wasn’t my fault.
I remember the day Julia and Wayne came to me in my office to trick me into dropping the CPRS. I had been awake for 96 hours straight at the time, having been working hard on a scheme to standardise stationery requisition procedures across the public service. Clearly my colleagues had decided to capitalised on the slight weakness that often manifested itself whenever I went more than three days without sleep.
“We need to talk about climate change, Kevin,” said Julia.
“I agree,” I said. “As the greatest moral challenge of our generation, a conversation about climate change is crucial. I am utterly committed to action on climate change and nothing will ever sway me from that.”
“You’re wrong,” Wayne said, offering me a bubbling, steaming glass of an unidentifiable green liquid. “Focus groups have told us that climate change is good, and you have to say so.”
“We love climate change,” Julia added, “and we will lose the election unless you love it as well. I promise.”
“I’m sorry,” I said in a firm yet loving way. “I would no more weaken my stance on the environment than I would endorse cruelty to asylum seekers or personal abuse of subordinates. As a man of principle, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything I could to preserve this planet for future generations.” The strains of the national anthem could be heard from outside as I spoke, unless I was hallucinating.
Julia shook her head. “No, Kevin. I can’t be part of any government that acts in the best interests of the Australian people.”
I could tell she was nervous from the way she kept fidgeting with the long dagger she carried with her everywhere. “As a woman, I am here to tell you that emissions trading is anti-feminist, and I am willing to tell the press so.”
I stood up, furious at the challenge to my authority, yet remaining surprisingly well-mannered. “I respect your views,” I said in measured tones, “but I cannot be swayed on this. My decision is… ”
I didn’t get any further. In my passion for the environment I had not noticed Bill Shorten sneaking into the office. When I woke up I found that my signature had been forged on an official statement reversing the carbon pollution reduction scheme policy. I was outraged, but there was nothing I could do. To reveal the truth would mean embarrassing Wayne and Julia in public, and my steadfast belief that loyalty was the highest virtue of all would never let me do that.
So that was the end of my grand plan for ending global warming. Even today it’s painful to think back to that time. The only small comfort I take from the whole debacle is that none of it was my fault.