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In whose interest is Morrison acting?

3 November 2021 at 5:17 pm
David Ritter
By undermining global climate talks, the prime minister is acting in defiance of the will of the Australian people, argues David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

David Ritter | 3 November 2021 at 5:17 pm


In whose interest is Morrison acting?
3 November 2021 at 5:17 pm

By undermining global climate talks, the prime minister is acting in defiance of the will of the Australian people, argues David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

As he goes around the world actively obstructing global action on climate change, who or what is Scott Morrison actually representing?

Because one thing is clear – when Australian government officials are out attempting to sabotage key international climate science reports and Morrison himself spoils and undermines crucial global climate talks – they are not representing the will of the Australian people.

As noted in my last column, everything we know suggests that a clear majority of Australians want ambitious climate action. The most recent major climate poll found that 67 per cent of voters believed the government should be doing more to address climate change. The same survey also found majority support for more climate action in every single parliamentary seat of Australia’s 151 House of Representatives, including Morrison’s own electorate of Cook. Unsurprisingly, young Australians overwhelmingly want to see immediate action on climate change.

The evidence is clear that in having no credible plan and obstructing global climate action, Scott Morrison is not only destroying our international credibility, but acting in defiance of the will of the Australian people.

Some will point to the Morrison government’s re-election in 2019 as a vindication of their do-nothing approach on climate change. Indeed this was one of Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s defences in an interview on Insiders on the weekend:

“The Australian people put us back into government for another term… We asked the Australian people at the last election what they wanted… and the choice was very clear… The Australian people told us two and a half years ago what they thought the right answer was, and we are sticking with it.”

Much in Taylor’s interview was risible, but there are five specific reasons why reliance on the last election result to justify climate inaction simply does not hold water. First, general elections are not single-issue plebiscites. Second, the authoritative Australian Election Study found that their comparatively better policies on global warming and the environment did give Labor an advantage in the poll – but not enough to overcome negative perceptions on other issues. Third, in not announcing policies consistent with the Paris climate goal (to which the Coalition did commit, however reluctantly) they are in breach of their own platform at the last federal election.

Fourth, the last federal election was before the great fires came, burning 35 million hectares and shrouding the eastern seaboard capitals in smoke. Around 80 per cent of the Australian population had some direct experience of the fires that were a product of conditions generated by global warming and are likely to have changed the national view. Fifth, the facts and circumstances have changed from the last election: the most recent IPCC report makes even more abundantly clear that the world is now in a state of climate emergency.

So, in whose interest is Morrison acting? There are three simple answers. The first is the narrow political interest of the Coalition, which has successfully and gleefully weaponised global warming to electoral advantage in the past. The second is, specifically the National Party – the junior coalition partner to which Morrison is bound by secret agreement and parliamentary numbers – and which perversely seems to have taken fidelity to fossil fuels as its major article of faith. It was recently revealed that almost a quarter of the federal parliamentary members of the National Party own shares in fossil fuel companies. As political historian Judith Brett wrote last year, despite the destruction that coal mining brings to agricultural land, water supplies and the climate, the “National party has become the party of coal”. The third is the vested interests of the coal, gas and oil corporations themselves –  which are the number one drivers of climate damage. 

All of these are correct, but the broader way of understanding who and what Morrison is representing when he acts contrary to the will of the Australian people, is to see him as doing the bidding of what I have described elsewhere as the Fossil Fuel Order: a complex of political, economic, institutional, social, cultural and ideological structures that function as a system of power. 

So for whom is Morrison acting? The answer: narrow partisan advantage; vested economic interests and as an instrument of an order of power that protects coal, oil and gas –  none of which coincides with either the desires of the Australian people, or the best interests of our nation and the future of our planet.

David Ritter  |  @ProBonoNews

David Ritter is the CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

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