Home > #NewsCorpFail, Boneheaded stupidity, Environment, Oz Politics > Abbott’s Sister Souljah non-moment

Abbott’s Sister Souljah non-moment

October 25th, 2013

As I said in my last post, Tony Abbott has set himself the tightrope-walking task of maintaining his government’s official endorsement of mainstream climate change, while keeping his denialist base happy. Having made a mess of this with his bushfire comments, he had a chance to rectify the situation when he gave an interview to denialist and conspiracy theorist Andrew Bolt. Newscorp ran in under the headline “Andrew Bolt tackles the PM on the big issues”, but Bolt was playing touch, not tackle.

The interview was a sycophantic exercise in mutual admiration, with all the tough questions you might expect from, say, Anne Summers interviewing Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd interviewing himself. But such interviews present smart politicians with the chance to play against type, by disagreeing with the interviewer on an issue dear to the base, but politically problematic for a would-be statesman. Presented with a soft lob question about the bushfires, Abbott could have taken the chance to define his own position as the “sensible centre”, by repudiating both Bolt’s denialism and the “alarmism” of those stressing the link between bushfires and climate. Bill Clinton famously did this when he denounced radical rap artist Sister Souljah, signalling the shift to the right undertaken by the Democratic Leadership Council of which he was part.

Instead, Abbott chose to dig himself deeper, extending his denialism on bushfires and further claiming that the observation of record high temperatures is not evidence of climate change. I mentioned in my last post that he would have a problem in formulating a response to the likelihood that 2013 will turn out to be the warmest year in the Australian observational record. He’s chosen his answer now, one that is unlikely to carry much credibility except with those already committed to denialism.

His summary of climate science, previously reported as “crap” has been replaced by “hogwash”, perhaps in deference to the sensitivities of Greg Hunt, who took strong exception to being confronted with the previous term by a BBC interviewer. I won’t link to Bolt, but the relevant passages are quoted over the fold.

Andrew Bolt tackles the PM on the big issues

(excerpt)

AB: I’ve been struck by the insanity of the reaction in the media and outside, particularly linking the fires to global warming and blaming you for making them worse potentially by scrapping the carbon tax.

PM: I suppose, you might say, that they are desperate to find anything that they think might pass as ammunition for their cause, but this idea that every time we have a fire or a flood it proves that climate change is real is bizarre, ’cause since the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, we’ve had fires and floods, and we’ve had worse fires and worse floods in the past than the ones we are currently experiencing. And the thing is that at some point in the future, every record will be broken, but that doesn’t prove anything about climate change. It just proves that the longer the period of time, the more possibility of extreme events … The one in 500 year flood is always a bigger flood than the one in 100 year flood.

AB: The ABC, though, has run on almost every current affairs show an almost constant barrage of stuff linking climate change to these fires.

PM: That is complete hogwash.

  1. Doug
    October 25th, 2013 at 14:47 | #1

    Greg Hunt’s capitulation over climate change is going to do to him morally and intellectually what happened to Philip Ruddock over asylum seekers. It is destructive of any sense of personal integrity.

  2. Newtownian
    October 25th, 2013 at 15:03 | #2

    @Doug

    Agreed – and the related question is what about Malcolm Turnbull and the hopefully more ethical Liberal wets. I was fortunate to be an environmental fly on the wall a couple of years ago when this lot had a shindig. Fascinating to watch them in their element. Turnbull’s loathing of his idiot compadres was evident as was the genuine collective pride on the part of these Liberals over their environmental credentials – in this case marine protection. There was quite of lot of coded comments about their effort in this area and they seemed genuine. The question now is when will they have their moment equivalent to the more intelligent US old style Republicans who find themselves currently in a sea of lunatics. Whatever I think of John Hewson he like Fraser is now making the right noises. Interesting times.

  3. Tim Macknay
    October 25th, 2013 at 15:50 | #3

    @Doug

    Greg Hunt’s capitulation over climate change is going to do to him morally and intellectually what happened to Philip Ruddock over asylum seekers.

    It already has, surely.

  4. Sancho
    October 25th, 2013 at 16:26 | #4

    Ruddock won that fight. Comprehensively.

    Progressives might regard him as a revolting, soulless hypocrite, but he was never beaten politically.

  5. Michael S.
    October 25th, 2013 at 16:36 | #5

    Immediately came to mind reading Bolt’s 1st question

    Mr. Burns: your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?

  6. paul walter
    October 25th, 2013 at 16:59 | #6

    Itwas revolting. Where was Bolt’s pride?

  7. Doug
    October 25th, 2013 at 17:17 | #7

    I was commenting about the issue of Ruddock as a person. The implication of the ALP in the development of the politics of asylum seekers suggests that in the long view there has been an underlying bipartisanship about this issue.

  8. TerjeP
  9. TerjeP
    October 25th, 2013 at 17:28 | #9

    PM: Religious faith is and has been an important part of my life but religious faith should not – must not – determine anyone’s political position in a secular society such as ours. If something cannot be justified on the basis of ordinary human reason it shouldn’t be a political decision. As a traditionalist, I don’t think we should lightly change patterns of behaviour, institutional arrangements, which have stood the test of time. And since time immemorial, as far as I’m aware in all cultures, marriage, or solemnised relationships, have been between a man and a woman. I am disinclined to think that all of that history should be turned on its head just because, at this moment in time, albeit a significant section of the population thinks that we could do things in a way which is in need of something different.

    This is wrong on so many levels. For hundreds of years homosexuals has been persecuted by the state, threaten with state sanction death or detention, driven into the shadows. And then people have the audacity to pretend that it is mere cultural tradition that limited marriage to being between a man and a women. Howard even amended the marriage act to entrench, using the force of legislation, the position that marriage is only between a man and a women. Yet the long view of history shows that same sex marriage is nothing new. It is not culture that has held back same sex marriage but the vicious force of moralistic governments.

  10. TerjeP
    October 25th, 2013 at 17:31 | #10

    AB: The ABC, though, has run on almost every current affairs show an almost constant barrage of stuff linking climate change to these fires.

    PM: That is complete hogwash.

    I agree with the hogwash sentiment.

  11. rog
    October 25th, 2013 at 18:16 | #11

    @TerjeP Perhaps you could provide evidence of what has been described as “hogwash”?

  12. michaelfstanley
    October 25th, 2013 at 18:26 | #12

    @TerjeP

    funny how weak or non-existent states haven’t led to an explosion of gay marriage in afghanistan or somalia…

  13. chrisl
    October 25th, 2013 at 18:44 | #13

    What is the link Rog? The Australian bush has been absolutely shaped by bushfires. The flora and fauna has adapted to fire over thousands of years. Houses and people who live in the bush may be destroyed but the bush lives on. It was ever thus

  14. TerjeP
    October 25th, 2013 at 18:46 | #14

    The ABC is biased by omission. In terms of who it interviews on this topic, eg alarmist celebrities like Gore and Suzuki, along with the questions it doesn’t ask of those it interviews. In short it peddles hogwash. The sooner we cease being forced to fund it the better.

  15. chrisl
    October 25th, 2013 at 18:52 | #15

    The ABC seems to have turned climate alarmism up to 11. Calling in all the usual suspects both at home and abroad, with the Carbon Tax in it’s death throes. And along comes a bushfire!

  16. rog
    October 25th, 2013 at 19:02 | #16

    Evidence, not opinion please.

  17. Fran Barlow
    October 25th, 2013 at 19:10 | #17

    @TerjeP

    The missing link is here:-

    Truer words were never spoken … ;-)

  18. Fran Barlow
    October 25th, 2013 at 19:12 | #18

    @Sancho

    He won because the ALP capitulated. Yet he entered parliament with liberal credentials and in the end, only reactionaries were stamping his visa.

  19. Will
    October 25th, 2013 at 19:41 | #19

    TerjeP :
    This is wrong on so many levels. For hundreds of years homosexuals has been persecuted by the state, threaten with state sanction death or detention, driven into the shadows. And then people have the audacity to pretend that it is mere cultural tradition that limited marriage to being between a man and a women. Howard even amended the marriage act to entrench, using the force of legislation, the position that marriage is only between a man and a women. Yet the long view of history shows that same sex marriage is nothing new. It is not culture that has held back same sex marriage but the vicious force of moralistic governments.

    Arguments with the trappings of profoundness really get my goat. To handwave away the horrible discrimination faced by homosexual couples through history as being due to the “state” is just hair-tearingly abysmal. It is also a brilliant tactic. To give a proper rebuttal requires the responder to know a bit about the history of various fields, such as political science, sociology, anthropology, queer studies, gender studies, and religion just for starters. I sure as shoot admit that I do not know enough about those fields over a whole swathe of different periods and cultures to make blanket statements; time for you to do the same.

  20. kevin1
    October 25th, 2013 at 20:29 | #20

    @TerjeP #9

    It is not culture that has held back same sex marriage but the vicious force of moralistic governments.

    And governments come from Mars, not from “culture”?

  21. kevin1
    October 25th, 2013 at 20:31 | #21

    @TerjeP #9

    Yet the long view of history shows that same sex marriage is nothing new.

    Tell us about this.

  22. kevin1
    October 25th, 2013 at 20:35 | #22

    @chrisl # 12

    Houses and people who live in the bush may be destroyed but the bush lives on. It was ever thus

    So the future reflects the past? The dumbest rule-of-thumb going round.

  23. kevin1
    October 25th, 2013 at 20:42 | #23

    @TerjeP # 14

    The sooner we cease being forced to fund it the better.

    The inevitable Abbott objective (too gutless to proclaim it before Sept 7) has come – we have to destroy the ABC and replace it with “truthful media”. And they will NEVER run current affairs programs (or employ independent thinkers like the ABC does).

  24. drpage
    October 25th, 2013 at 20:52 | #24

    People don’t care about climate change. Abbott doesn’t need to shift to the left on the issue. Labor needs to shift to the right. Shorten is already doing that.

  25. October 25th, 2013 at 22:29 | #25

    @TerjeP

    Terje, you mean that the ABC hasn’t done its duty by getting in Lord Monckton to give us the other side?

    Back on the topic, it was odd that Abbott conceded nothing. Surely you would at least acknowledge that while you couldn’t pin this set of fires on climate change, there was likely to be a statistical correlation? Or at least concede that there may be something to it.

    But Tony was talking off the top of his head, and he warned us that we should not trust him when he is in this mode.

  26. October 25th, 2013 at 22:32 | #26

    @drpage

    Moving to the left or right on climate change? Is that like moving to the left or the right on heliocentrism?

  27. Donald Oats
    October 25th, 2013 at 23:01 | #27

    Climate science, as it relates to bushfire severity and frequency, is pretty clear. If a background trend of increasing temperatures is present, it will lead to an increase of more severe bushfires, and to an increase in frequency of bushfires in general, all other things being equal. If a background trend of increasing temperatures is present, it will result in a longer period per year of days in the higher categories of the fire danger scale, and an increase in the length of the fire danger season. Observational data bears this out, when analysed statistically. There is absolutely no bias in the ABC reporting factually on this; if there is a bias, it is in the MSM, by and large.

    Identifying a statistically verifiable link between a background trend of increasing temperatures and an increase in the overall risks to do with bushfire severity and frequency, is entirely different to saying that your political/ideological opponents are claiming that AGW is causing specific bushfires, and then attacking that deceptive portrayal of your opponent’s comments—which is the unanimous tactic of the new conservative government and its mates in the MSM.

  28. Michael
    October 25th, 2013 at 23:36 | #28

    TerjeP :

    AB: The ABC, though, has run on almost every current affairs show an almost constant barrage of stuff linking climate change to these fires.
    PM: That is complete hogwash.

    I agree with the hogwash sentiment.

    Me too, but not in the way that either Abbott or Terje meant.

  29. Michael
    October 25th, 2013 at 23:40 | #29

    kevin1 :

    The inevitable Abbott objective (too gutless to proclaim it before Sept 7) has come – we have to destroy the ABC and replace it with “truthful media”. And they will NEVER run current affairs programs (or employ independent thinkers like the ABC does).

    Not true – there will be current affairs, it will be called ‘Hardball’ and will feature Bolt interviewing Abbott every night, with Andrew asking the tough questions like – ‘where are you going for your bike ride tomorrow morning?’

  30. October 26th, 2013 at 07:07 | #30

    Pr Q said:


    The interview was a sycophantic exercise in mutual admiration, with all the tough questions you might expect from, say, Anne Summers interviewing Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd interviewing himself.

    Abbott could have taken the chance to define his own position as the “sensible centre” ,…Bill Clinton famously did this when he denounced radical rap artist Sister Souljah, signalling the shift to the right undertaken by the Democratic Leadership Council of which he was part.

    So far all the signs are that Abbott is using the PM office to appeal to his base of partisan voters and interested donors. So much for Abbotts electiosn victory speech commitment to provides “a good government, a good government is one that governs for all Australians. Including those who haven’t voted for it>”

    Now, to make matters worse, the SMH reports that Abbott has staged a invitation-only Kirribili House soiree for his tried & true supportersay to reinforce tribal loyalties and no doubt sign a loyalty oath. What a gruesome spectacle it must have presented for any unfortunate fly on the wall.


    When entertaining at home Tony Abbott prefers like-minded company, if the guest list to his Saturday soiree is any guide. The Prime Minister’s first gathering of the Australian media is an invitation-only affair of conservative columnists and broadcasters.
    Many are disagreeable, but, happily, rarely so with the nation’s 28th leader. Invited to dinner and drinks at Kirribilli House is a rollcall of Mr Abbott’s strongest supporters: among them Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, Alan Jones, Janet Albrechtsen, Miranda Devine and Chris Kenny.Former prime minister Julia Gillard was mocked for her ”mummy bloggers”. Here then, perhaps, was a conspiracy of conservative columnists.

    This is bad on two levels in that a good statesman should always make a point of shafting his base at some point in his premiership. And journalists with professional integrity should not accept favours from those they are supposed to hold to account.

    It is noteworthy that GW Bush held a similar soiree for Right-wingers early in his Presidency. It seemed to pay off for all concerned.

    Obviously my quaint mid 20th century notions of marginalising extremists and avoiding conflicts of interests have a naive and threadbare appearance in the what-ever it takes days of the 21st century.

  31. J-D
    October 26th, 2013 at 08:01 | #31

    @Sancho
    What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?

  32. J-D
    October 26th, 2013 at 08:03 | #32

    @TerjeP
    The statement that the ABC has run an almost constant barrage on almost every current affairs show is indeed complete hogwash. The ABC has done no such thing.

  33. J-D
    October 26th, 2013 at 08:08 | #33

    @TerjeP
    Every statement omits something. Every series of statements omits something. It’s physically impossible to include everything. So the question is, what is it specifically that the ABC has omitted that you think it should have included? The only specifics you’ve mentioned are not things it’s omitted but things it’s included. Is there some reason you think the ABC should omit interviews with Gore and Suzuki?

  34. sunshine
    October 26th, 2013 at 19:41 | #34

    The Abbott govt has not been punished in the mainstream media for its ,in many ways, bad start – like a Labor one would have for the same . There is a lot there to work with .Maybe an incoming govt deserves a period of grace at the beginning .Still I cant help feeling that the Abbott govt will end up a victim of the stupid 24hr media politics and severely sceptical , disillusioned public it enthusiastically helped create from opposition. Tea Party wrecking tactics drag all politicians and political institutions down, but at the next election voters punish the govt thats there . Trouble is then the wreckers are the govt and are then vulnerable to the same. There are alot of Aust Tea Party (IPA) types that are starting to feel duped -especially about raising borrowings up to $500 b .

  35. sunshine
    October 26th, 2013 at 20:05 | #35

    @TerjeP
    Most ,if not all,cultures that have ever been have some form of what we would call same sex relations . These are everything from [tolerated ,openly allowed, or, simply not thought of much at all] to punished . What you speak of (gay marriage) is necessarily fairly specific to our culture – my guess would be that religion has been the main drag on progress for us.
    Often govt doesn’t help – Abbott said that it would not be a high priority for his govt ,but now that the ACT has moved they have suddenly become very active on the issue.

  36. October 27th, 2013 at 02:13 | #36

    It seems clear now that Tony Abbott did not just fall for a friendly interview, and his gross comments, including insulting the UN official, are part of a political strategy. Hogwash and other Americanisms are surely not the language of government?

    According to the ABC report, in his speech to the Tasmanian Liberal Party conference he said:

    Mr Abbott also said the carbon tax was a socialist policy in disguise.

    “Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism,” he said.

    “That’s what the carbon tax was.”

    Why is he in such a hurry to abolish carbon pollution pricing, when it going to take longer than Christmas to put the “Direct Action” policy in place. Could he really be contemplating a Double “Disillusionment”? Or is it merely attempted strong arm tactics in the absence of polls?

  37. doug
    October 27th, 2013 at 08:06 | #37

    Clearly Abbott is not going far enough with his opposition to gay marriage. The traditional Catholic stance on marriage (the elder Christian tradition) is that it is between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation: paraplegics, the sterile, woman over ‘a certain age’, all cannot marry in the Catholic church. I’m sure Australians would support a return to these kinds of traditional values.

  38. October 27th, 2013 at 21:50 | #38

    @doug

    Maybe we should go back to the Catholic policy of the 1950′s when it was traditional to only get married when you were already pregnant?

  39. Chris O’Neill
    October 28th, 2013 at 15:19 | #39

    further claiming that the observation of record high temperatures is not evidence of climate change

    One of the big denialist strawmen, of course. Global warming is established from all measurements as a whole, not just the very small number of extremes.

    The denialists are building a huge pile of strawmen like this one. When it eventually catches fire, it will be one of the biggest bonfires in history.

  40. Paul Norton
    October 29th, 2013 at 08:13 | #40

    As Bertrand Russell reminded us in 1927, the traditional Catholic view at that time was that if a woman married a man who she subsequently discovered was syphilitic at the time of the marriage, they were not permitted to divorce, she was not permitted to refuse his “conjugal rights”, and neither of them were permitted to use contraception to preclude the resulting conception and birth of syphilitic children.

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