Prime Minister Scott Morrison is given a tour of BlueScope Steel in Port Kembla, Wollongong, NSW (Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

It didn’t take long for the climate exemption disease to spread rapidly through politics.

Nationals MPs now want agriculture, mining and regional manufacturing carved out of the mythical 2050 target. The mining lobby — still mired in climate denial — wants emissions-intensive mining protected. Liberal MP Russell Broadbent wants steel production — one of Australia’s most cosseted industries, responsible for inflicting billions in unnecessary costs on the Australian construction industry through its predatory use of the anti-dumping rort — exempted as well.

We’ve seen all this before, when Kevin Rudd unveiled his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and then watered it down, first to reflect the financial crisis, then in the face of relentless lobbying by emissions intensive industries.

Except that was an actual, real-life policy for an emissions trading scheme. This is for an imaginary emissions abatement target that exists only in the mind of Scott Morrison and journalists.

Forget about history repeating first as tragedy, then as farce. This is more the lame reboot of a rubbish show that should never have aired in the first place, with worse actors and a third-rate script.

Some performers are refusing to even say their lines: despite having helped sabotaged all climate action over the last decade, the Business Council now feels obliged to profess support for an economy-wide 2050 target (knowing full well exemptions for major sectors simply means a greater burden on other industries), as does the National Farmers Federation.

The blatant attacks on climate action that marked the Rudd-Gillard years are now unacceptable for major corporations courtesy of social media-driven campaigns and superannuation funds keen to display their climate-friendly credentials.

The reason we’re watching this rehash, this Dancing On Ice 2021, is because the same power structures exist in federal politics now as then: fossil fuel and resources companies wield remarkable influence courtesy of their political donations, their support from key trade unions that fund Labor, the presence of former resources industry figures in senior positions within government, and a dominant media company that supports climate denialism.

And what hasn’t changed, either, is the refusal of large sections of the media to accurately report on climate policy. If the challenge facing Labor when it was in government was an intransigent opposition and a mainstream media catastrophising climate action as economically disastrous, the problem now is the willingness of many in the press gallery to run a protection racket for Scott Morrison on climate, refusing to report on his pro-fossil fuel policies and their corrupt origin properly, obsessing over trivial changes in wording rather than the reality of a climate emergency and the climate denialism of the government.

As the now overworked saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results. Rehashing 2009’s emissions trading debate will lead to the same end as it did last time. Only by breaking the power structures that force that result can change be effected. That means crushing the power and influence of fossil fuel companies and News Corp and heavily restricting donations.

Without that, we’ll be watching the same lame tragicomedy performed by ever more abysmal actors for years to come.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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