Government tall tales

Australia is holding a federal election on 24 November 2007. In the past I haven’t voted, but I live in the marginal seat of Stirling and my uncle told me that if I didn’t vote I would be solely responsible for the Howard government staying in power. Perhaps I’ll have to change my anarchistic ways. To help me decide, Verdurous has collected some green score-cards.

But in the meantime, when I signed up to Who on Earth Cares a template for a letter to my local MP was generated. I sent this to my MP, Michael Keenan. I’ve been receiving numerous generic letters from candidates courting my vote and the week after I sent my letter, I received such a missive from Keenan. I wasn’t impressed that he sent me a generic letter telling me why he was so great, with not one mention of climate change. This week I received a letter which specifically addressed my questions. The previous letter had been sent to everyone in my electorate.

John Howard cleaning his coal It was a good thing I was sitting down when I read the letter, because after reading the second sentence,

The Coalition Government has been acting for over a decade on climate change

I almost fainted from the shock of such a blatant lie. I must live in a parallel universe to that inhabited by the aforementioned Coalition Government.

I agree with Keenan’s first point that the Coalition Government established the Australian Greenhouse Office in 1998 (the world’s first ever dedicated climate change agency – woohoo). I don’t agree that this government department was anything other than another arm to the bureaucracy which provides Keenan and his colleagues with employment for the years they are elected (and a nice little superannuation sum when they’re voted out).

Keenan goes on to list what his government has achieved in the last decade.

We have put in place a range of policies to drive investment in renewable and low emission technologies and we have played an active role internationally to seek effective global response to climate change.

The Mandatory Renewable Energy Target is set at 9,500GWh by 2010. This will only increase Australia’s renewable energy market by about 1-2 percent. The Australian Conservation Foundation suggests a target of 25 percent would achieve useful cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

We are well on track to meeting our 108 percent emissions target, set under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Coalition Government refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, so it’s interesting that they care whether Australia achieves the target. The point of the Kyoto Protocol was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so Australia’s specially pleaded (embarrassingly so) “target” goes against the spirit of the Protocol. Despite the government’s spin, The Climate Institute believes

Even with Government projected trends, total emissions in 2010 will be more than 110% of 1990 emissions and it is looking increasing unlikely that Australia will meet its goal of meeting its Kyoto target of 108% of 1990 emissions.

Keenan lists the millions of dollars earmarked for various programmes designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These paltry sums compare to the $22 billion Defence budget (planned to grow to $29.9 billion in 2016-17). Defence against what? Rising sea levels? Starving polar bears?

The Coalition Government has committed to establishing a world-class emissions trading system, beginning no later than 2012.

Some, including Professor Tim Flannery and The Climate Institute, believe 2012 is too late. In January 2005 the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) began. If we had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, Australia might have been invited to participate.

We have supported six projects covering clean coal and renewable energy technologies.

The Coalition Government sings the praises of carbon capture and storage (CCS) also known as geosequestration. CCS from coal powered electricity plants is theoretical. It’s only been used in oil and gas fields, and is thus unproven in reducing carbon emissions. If proven to work, it would not be available for at least 15 years.

The Coalition recognizes that nuclear power will contribute to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

I remember that the Prime Ministerial Taskforce reviewing nuclear energy and uranium mining and processing in Australia was originally headed by Ziggy Switkowski, board member of Australia’s nuclear advisory and research organisation, ANSTO. When this was pointed out in the press he stepped down. Even if you disregard the myriad problems posed by uranium mining and nuclear power, it would be decades before nuclear power plants would start generating very expensive (in monetary terms) electricity.

I’m now bored (and I’m sure you are too) of Keenan’s endless list of propaganda. His letter was two and a half pages long and PRINTED SINGLE-SIDED. Does he not know that excessive use of paper leads to more trees cut down, which leads to more carbon emissions!

Keenan forgot to mention the Coalition Government’s cosy relationship with members of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, composed of representatives from numerous companies, many with interests in coal and uranium mining. Keenan can read about the Greenhouse Mafia in High & Dry: John Howard, climate change and the selling of Australia’s future by Guy Pearse (Penguin, 2007) or Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change by Clive Hamilton (Black Inc, 2007).

I was never going to vote for Michael Keenan, but his letter has provided more tangible evidence why I’d rather eat my vote than give it to a member of the incumbent Coalition Government.

And on a related note, Greenpeace has also been reminiscing about climate change during the past decade.


5 thoughts on “Government tall tales

  1. A very comprehensive round-up of Howard’s incompetence as leader Clare. He’s so blatantly misleading and crude with his attempts at spin that it actually looks like a direct insult to the intelligence of Australians! Who does he think he’s kidding.

    If Howard does win again I will arrange a bunge jump for his celebration …. hosted by the NZ Black Power party;


  2. Thanks for visiting my blog, Clare. Please do use your vote in ten days time. Realistically only Labor or Liberal can win but every vote for the Greens (especially in the senate) is a vote for common sense. I have made one or two (ahem) posts against Mr Totally out of touch Coward.

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