Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the Business Council of Australia (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

You wouldn’t pick Scott Morrison for a Greek philosopher but there he is demonstrating Zeno’s paradox of motion — apparently moving towards a goal but never actually shifting position, eternally at rest, unable to ever reach his target of net zero emissions by 2050, despite endlessly “inching” his way there (at least if you believe the press gallery).

It’s also a target that is — although few political journalists in the mainstream media ever feel the urge to mention this — woefully inadequate to seriously address climate change.

While trapped forever in his going-nowhere-fast climate “policy”, the prime minister has decided to fire up a culture war along the way, using a speech last night to warn “we’re not going to achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities … It will be achieved by the pioneering entrepreneurialism and innovation of Australia’s industrial workhorses, farmers and scientists.”

Quite why the horses have to bear so much responsibility isn’t clear, but it’s good to see at least one agricultural sector will make a contribution.

The dinner parties and wine bars of inner-city elites were contrasted by Morrison with the salt-of-the-earth “factories of our regional towns and outer suburbs … the labs of our best research institutes and scientists … our energy sector. In our industrial sector. In our ag sector. In our manufacturing sector.”

Sneering, wine-quaffing elites v good honest working folk who know the meaning of hard yakka and doubtless enjoy a coldie at the end of the day, not a glass of unoaked chardy.

Morrison made these remarks to the Business Council of Australia’s annual dinner and we couldn’t think of a better venue to urge the blue-collar workers of Australia to see off the pretensions of inner-city elitists. It was held in the grand ballroom of the Fullerton Hotel in Martin Place — Sydney’s largest pillarless ballroom, apparently — where you can “discover luxury and heritage in the heart of the city; “a home away from home for corporate travellers” from which you can “feel the pulse of the city and enjoy the proximity to iconic landmarks”.

On hand, according to The Australian, were representatives of regional factories and outer suburbs, farmers, scientists and workhorses, among them the CEOs and chairs of most of the big banks, the governor of the Reserve Bank, the head of the ACCC, the head of Woodside, Christopher Pyne, Josh Frydenberg, Alan Joyce, as well as BCA-connected luminaries like business doyen Tony Shepherd, and the government’s fossil-fuel policy writer Nev Power.

Doubtless the Fullerton ran out of VB by 7.25pm.

The actual elites — the governing class — sneering at a manufactured alternative elite for rhetorical purposes has a long, long history. Once upon a time even Gerard Henderson mocked David Flint for using the old elite trick. It isn’t confined to conservatives: who can forget Julia Gillard a decade ago claiming she would “respect the efforts of the brickie and look with a jaundiced eye at the lifestyle of the socialite”?

Nor should we forget the BCA has been instrumental in blocking any meaningful Australian action to reduce its carbon emissions through its deliberate strategy of feigning high-level support for climate action but opposing every actual policy and proposal, including urging the repeal of the Gillard government’s highly successful carbon price.

While the representatives of the BCA and the Coalition celebrated another year of wage stagnation, rising profits and climate inaction, elsewhere Australia was being rapidly left behind as international action on climate moved to the front of the agenda, courtesy of the momentum the Biden administration in the US has injected into the issue.

Biden is set to unveil a new emissions reduction target ahead of a major summit this week after his climate envoy John Kerry reached agreement with the Xi regime in China on cooperation towards achieving the Paris climate goals, including “enhanced climate actions that raise ambition in the 2020s in the context of the Paris agreement”.

That leaves Australia — which refused to commit to meaningful targets at Paris beyond a paltry 28% below 2005 levels by 2030 — exposed as the climate free-rider it is. Even the conservative economist Warwick McKibbin says: “It’s a one-way street and Australia is pretty much standing in the middle of the road. They’re going to get seriously bowled over.”

The government is working to fund a new gas-fired power station and is looking to hand out subsidies to discredited technologies like carbon capture and storage and soil carbon sequestration.

The out-of-touch elites were the ones gathered in a ballroom in inner Sydney last night — a ruling class hoping the clinking of champagne glasses will drown out the reality of a world taking climate change seriously.