I have a piece in Crikey (possibly paywalled) looking at the gyrations of our political leaders on climate policy in general and Adani in particular. I suppose what matters is that you end up facing the right way: on this test, Shorten does reasonably, Turnbull fails miserably and Abbott is laughable.

14 thoughts on “Weathervanes

  1. The question about weathervanes in this analogy is which wind current do they respond to? Is it that of scientific research or that of vapid populism and denialism? If the gyrations have been many and varied, it is likely the latter. The scientific information has been solid and useful for 40 years at least, albeit getting better and more detailed with each passing year of research and analysis.

  2. It’s paywalled. “Politics is about choices. We elect leaders to make choices about war and peace, taxation and public expenditure, environmental protection and economic development.”

    Yes it’s about choices, but choosing not to list population policy with that lot, a significant to overriding determinate factor in all the chosen items and unique in that commonality across all, is to follow exactly all the dear ‘leaders’ this century. They too have given short shrift to population. If pressed, all have dodged the issue like a dancing will-willi affected weather-vane spinning directly regurgitated nonspecific indeterminate unsubstantiated pro-“Big Australia” ephemeral waffle. However, it seems that Abbott alone (too late?) now has some clean air on this.

  3. @Svante

    I wouldn’t think Abbott has any clean air on this. His game is entirely one of opportunism, populism and spoiling. Abbott says nothing about population growth all his career and then suddenly, when Malcolm is out of the country and Barnaby’s trousers are down, Abbott has an epiphany about population growth? Puh-leez!

  4. @fred
    The Greens oppose and have campaigned against relentlessly. Labor is never going to out-green the Greens (but the Greens can out labour Labor).

  5. @Ikonoclast

    You’d rather dis the man, and not the population disconnect? Any way that’s cut it’d still be wrong. In fact, Abbott has been putting it out there for months now. On this current beat the malware affected nav control, if not again lulling about between puffs, is as usual taken off course and left downwind again in foul air hopelessly steering yet again into every header. Abbott has been out front heading up for sometime on this, a rapidly ever increasing lift. Barnaby’s trousers are neither here nor there.

    Abbott has known about positive population policy choice since at least the time he sat at St Bart’s knee. Granted, it could be he’s only recently grokked it.

  6. @Svante

    BTW, bypassing the silly Graudian headline ‘Liberal frontbench spat breaks out over Abbott’s ‘lazy’ immigration views’, and going straight to 3 year old Abbott expressed convictions:

    “Scott Morrison has conveniently forgotten the very vigorous discussion about cutting immigration that took place inside government in early 2015 as part of the budget process,” he said.

    “Because we were achieving a reduction anyway I eventually decided not to adjust the official figure but I kept it on the table as I never accepted the Treasury orthodoxy that more migrants meant more growth and a stronger budget outcome.

    “If Treasury is right why not solve the deficit simply by ramping up immigration?

    “I repeat, we should not let Treasury’s accounting rules stop the government from acting in our medium term national interests and Scott should have the gumption to think for himself.”

    Barnaby’s trousers not withstanding for one moment that, apparently contrary to carrying out their own public servant briefs, the ABS in many dressed up media shorts of earlier times had already aroused a deconstructing Abbott line. For example, their little production of last December:

    Net overseas migration to Australia increases 27% (ABS media release 14 December 2017)

    Note 1 – For the year ending 30 June 2017 total Australian population grew by 388,100 or 1.6 per cent. On the ABS figures given that total is comprised of 245,400 NOM at 63% which is 170% greater than the 37% Natural Increase of 142,700.

    170%, 1.6%! Those are unsustainable country breaking numbers with long tails.

    If solely comprised of natural increase the total population growth would have been but 0.59%.

    Note 2 – In the ABS country ranking table shown there the growth rate of 1.1% given for the world is somewhat deceptive spin in that the average growth rate is a mere 0.86% for the 21 OECD and neighbouring countries they reasonably list for comparison.

    They also choose specifically to compare Australia with the listed 5 highest growth rate countries in order clearly to make the Australian growth rate appear less and so more publicly palatable. Likewise for the same reasons the ABS avoids drawing any attention to India’s population growth rate being much less than Australia’s, and China’s growth rate as tiny by comparison.

    Is ‘Lucky Country’ living potentially on track to become just like that of PNG, Philippines, Malaysia, or South Africa? That’s pretty silly, a laugh. But what about Australian living becoming similar to India? That’s too close to home, surely a worry.

    ABS then builds on those large distractions and omissions by dragging by us yet more smelly fish: “In 2017 Australia’s population is ranked 53rd in the world and is projected to rank 56th by 2050”. Oh look, how wonderful, it’s actually going down – not! It’s just more spin aimed at forestalling an inevitable public backlash to what government already knows to be way out of kilter, unsustainable, standards busting, people crushing numbers.

  7. If I remember correctly, this discussion about population numbers has been around since the 70’s with various individuals and groups suggesting that our rate of immigration will mean that the population far exceeds the capacity of the country to support it sustainably. The Greens have been on about for years, so it’s interesting that TA is taking their side in this, even if it’s only to have a dig at MT. It is a subject that is worthy of serious discussion whoever brings it up.

  8. I’ve been to a few recent interesting public talks on climate policy, at the Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival, and in Bendigo by the Bendigo Sustainability Group.

    I support the climate emergency movement, and went to 2 panel discussions at the SLF where Philip Sutton was a speaker. He’s involved with the Darebin Council who have committed to climate emergency goals in the Darebin Climate Emergency Plan.

    Environmental Justice Victoria last year completed a draft climate emergency bill that could be implemented in Victoria or other States or territories: “Safe Climate Transition (No More Bad Investment) Model Act No. [xx] of [2017].

    Sutton said the idea is that the Carbon Tax is too late, and emergency bills could be passed as comprehensive acts of parliament in the States and Terrirories rather than in the Federal Parliament which doesn’t control land use and other relevant areas.

    The acts would outlaw various activities that contributed to climate change.

    I haven’t had time to read the whole thing, but’s it’s available online here

    State and Territory parliaments could also pass positive acts, declaring what must be done, rather than only prohibiting what must not be done.

    Sutton said if that was the case, the idea is that Beyond Zero Emissions’ plans would be plugged into State policy frameworks. For people not from Victoria, BZE is a Melbourne University climate think tank who has put out a bunch of plans on everything from electricity generation, transport, to land use. If I had to describe their ideological outlook, I’d say it’s fair to describe them as techno-optimists. The plans can be found on their website

    I also saw a fascinating talk last night at Bendigo by Paul Hawken. He’s got a great social justice and environmentalist history, working with Martin Luther King Jr’s civil rights movement, and writing that book Natural Capital in the 90s about how land performing ecosystem services is a form of capital. That’s transformative for normal economics, which sees land that’s not used for commercial purposes as an unproductive asset etc.

    Hawken spoke about his Project Drawdown, which is a collaborative project identifying the 100 best actions to take on climate change, measured by their impact on GHG emissions. It’s a comprehensive plan that includes everything from refrigerants and electricity production to education for girls and smallholder farming.

    The speech was very inspiring as you would expect, but I was slightly disappointed that when I asked Hawken about how you’d ensure compliance to Project Drawdown, he said it wasn’t envisioned as having a compliance regime as such. I think to be effective it would be necessary to have compliance measures in the project too, otherwise it’s more like aspirational goals, rather than policy that can be implemented.

    I also saw Kevin Rudd talk with Greg Craven (brother of arts critic Peter Craven) at ACU, on faith in politics. Most of us here probably remember Rudd saying climate change was our greatest moral challenge, before his term as Prime Minister was unfortunately cut short by the faceless men and Bill Shorten propelling Julia Gillard into the role for a short period. I’d have to say because of that I don’t believe Bill Shorten is honestly committed to action on climate change – if he was I think he would have supported Kevin Rudd more in 2009-2010. I think Rudd was our best hope for climate action, and now we’ve really got to the point where emergency action is needed because we are so far behind as a country on meeting our commitments to the Paris Accord.

    He spoke about how in Australia we generally try to make arguments in the public sphere that are based on reason, rationality, and secular logic, but that at times you must make an ethical stand driven by your values : “Here I stand: I can do no other.”

    A former ambassador to the Middle East who I saw at the Heritage Under Fire conference said Rudd travelled internationally as Prime Minister to try and find a solution to the conflict in Syria. I think that must have been in his 2nd term as Prime Minister.

    I think it’s a shame that the leadership dramas in the ALP led to inaction on climate change. John Howard was unfortunately ideologically opposed to action on climate change, so while we had a long period of relatively stable government under him, it didn’t result in meaningful policy on climate change.

    I don’t expect to see a good federal climate policy until 2020 now, but I think they need to make one, or you’ll see the States and Territories taking the lead, which would potentially be a problem for our federation as a commonwealth. Imagine if each State and territory set their own climate goals? I think that’s where we are headed unless the federal government starts leading on climate.

  9. @John Gardner

    Such a Greens recollection is of a time long past away. Times changed.

    Population growth rates due largely to immigration policy changes took off skywards from the 90’s. When pressed, which doesn’t happen often due to media capture, governments since then have concocted various cover stories for the huge immigration increases they have made above the long term C20th migrant average intake of 70,000, and to what was a long term Australian population growth rate average current in the 70’s mentioned.

    The Greens, ten or more years ago, dropped any vestige of their former stance on population policy, a policy that had itself already been watered down over the preceding ten years. They adopted a policy waffle that glosses over any direct dealing with the issue. It’s a chimeral cloak in lieu of a forthright policy, a mirage high on feel good shimmering nonsense glossing over our huge population growth with ecological footprints and distracting multi-cultural motherhood statements, but it is all non-specific, indeterminate, and unsubstantiated. Unlike the original policy it is devoid of any pertinent numbers. It’s a waffle – an attractant for conning some, and an attempt at having a small target full of wriggle room for others. For ten years now The Greens have been completely fine with the high population growth “Big Australia” end point, whatever that is, wherever that is.

    The corporatist Greens today are not The Greens of old. Much has changed along the way with the various internal power struggles resulting in a drive to be a political player that sits with the big boys rather than being a progressive organisation driving change. There’s been a consequent schizoid cosying up to disaffected voters of both right and left. For example, the socialist left and big business 1% odd couple both love the sustained record high NOM numbers causing in turn the unsustainable population growth rate. Again on the right the teal greens, so called, love The Greens’ pro state aid policy that underwent a similar reversal over a similar period for similar reasons as did the population policy ( In his senate speech and interviews before retiring Bob Brown alluded to his regret over what had happened, apologised. He’d been rolled again and again on such former Greens signature policies.

    No credible Greens party anywhere can avoid having a solid population policy, but One Nation burst on the scene brandishing a populist race card and spooked the Greens who retreated and then moved to abandon the population issue. Once concerned with evidence, science, rational debate and truth, The Green’s are now left with ideology, fuzzy feelings and doctors’ wives.

    20 years ago…

    Greens change their immigration policy – Green Left Weekly, 16 September 1998

    Now, 20 years on…

    Infrastructure Australia CEO, Phil Davies, was interviewed on ABC Radio Brisbane this morning about the IA Future Cities major report released today. When asked about high population growth, he quipped: “You know, migration is only a part of our population growth.”

    Only? Like following government tactics of minimising, down playing, distracting, confounding, grasping at straws, misinforming, disinforming, waffling, and dodging is the only part of the government diseconomies of scale population nonpolicy we hear.
    – audio file – at 2:29:23.
    “But the report explicitly rejects cutting population growth, and acknowledges there are “anxieties”, saying the economic opportunities created from globally competitive cities would otherwise be lost. … Infrastructure Australia chief executive Philip Davies, writing in today’s The Australian, claimed that the decisions of government today would have “multi-generational” impacts if not the right ones.”
    “Infrastructure Australia warned in a new report that it was neither feasible nor desirable for the country to turn its back on the opportunities presented by population growth. … But it is warning failing to prepare for population growth will see cities including Sydney and Melbourne suffer from congestion and a lack of access to jobs, schools, parks and hospitals. … “A growing population is an exciting opportunity to increase our economic prosperity and livability. The potential benefits are immense,” Infrastructure Australia said in its report. (Where’s the evidence?)
    “Brisbane is a great place to live, work and relax – it’s a safe, vibrant, green and prosperous city. It’s no wonder our city is growing, with more people than ever wanting to call Brisbane home. By 2041, Brisbane will need to cater for an extra 386,000 residents. That’s more than 1300 people moving to Brisbane each month.” – February 2018 Living in Brisbane newsletter page 4. (4.6MB)

  10. Weathervane Abbott tried to re-establish his authority this week and was slapped down for his efforts – I think he is a now one man party.

    Another of his cronies is about to join the back bench – ostensibly to work on his autobiography and prepare for his new baby – so much for representing the rural battler.

    Since Trump I think we have seen the passing of peak conservatism and perhaps, weathervane Turnbull will change with the tide. Its not an entirely impossible task; after all he has form.

  11. @rog

    But Abbott did establish an authority yet again on the question of the evident extraordinarily high and damaging population growth rate. How did the usual suspect msm deal with the question? They didn’t. Well aware of who pays them they reflexively jumped to infantile attempt at insult and distraction, which some may call a slapping down, others a logical fallacy.

    How did the sinking government with it’s riseable bankster backed population policy react? Well, momentarily a couple of talking heads popped up babbling nonsense from behind their circled wagons while, to dodge the question not slap it down, they rushed to drop a silly report by craven Infrastructure Australia on Friday who in turn acting on instruction raced about the msm spruiking without basis that record high population growth is an inevitable fact of life now and in future. No slap downs, just panicked repeats.

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