Turnbull Let Loose in Qld, Balancing Act Increase on Environmental Policies

Turnbull Let Loose in Qld

During the first of the two weeks break from Parliament (Yes, it must have had the fewest meeting days for some years!), Turnbull spent some time in Queensland, possibly reflecting the number of marginal seats there and with One Nation seen as posing an increasing threat (although it’s polling percentage for Australia dropped slightly in the latest Newspoll). Of course, PMs are on the job all the time and when there is some spare time they can buy votes.

At a “summit” held on Friday in Brisbane and attended by state leaders and “experts”, Turnbull promised more funding (about $100mn) for dealing with domestic violence, which he described as a crime but “neglected by governments”, and he claimed that sexism and disrespectful attitudes towards women “are a big contributor to the problem” (see this report on Domestic Violence).  By contrast, The Weekend Australian has published an article by Bettina Arndt who refers to a documentary “The Red Pill” exposing “a whole range of issues… unfairly stacked against men and boys” but which feminists have “persuaded” Palace Cinemas not to show (see Men’s Rights). One wonders whether domestic violence is an issue requiring more extensive government intervention and, even if it does, whether the federal government should be involved.

Turnbull didn’t stop at domestic violence. He attended a BBQ at the Waltzing Matilda Centre at Winton, for which he is promising $8mn for rebuilding. He also promised $440mn for more dams and water projects across northern Australia, which will help keep Barnaby Joyce on side (see Dams in Qld). However, although political leaders promising more for dams usually signals an election, no sign of any such thinking emerged.  Even so, Turnbull has softened further on expenditure by indicating a “softer” approach on reforms of parental leave, which currently allows (for a period) women with young children to receive a minimum wage as well as paid leave at the same time.

On another shift in policy, Turnbull indicated that, while previously not a priority for him, he may now push for an amendment to Section 18C. This follows the  threat to prosecute cartoonist Bill Leak for showing an Aboriginal father not recognising his son. What may have persuaded Turnbull to change his mind is that Leak painted his portrait and is “a very engaging guy”.

Turnbull’s Balancing Act Increases on Environmental Policies

Turnbull has also stirred a bit on doing something about the emergence of anti-coal environmentalists who are financed from overseas by funds connected to the US Democratic presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta (see attached PM Faces anti-coal cabal). Podesta has refused to confirm the authenticity of the thousands of hacked Clinton emails some of which apparently refer to Podesta’s involvement in funding anti-coal activists. These hacked emails have now become very topical following the FBI’s discovery of a further batch of such emails.

However,Turnbull has talked about reviving Coalition proposals to restrict the interference of the foreign-funded groups stalling major developments — from highways and dams to mining projects — and to limit charity status, which the advocacy groups use to get taxpayer-funded exemptions and to hide donors. Attempts continue by environmental activists to stop Indian investors proceeding with the Adani coal mine (which is supported by the Labor Premier).  A report by the IPA draws attention to the costly and frivolous challenges under S487 of the Environment  Act which can be made by anyone with “a special interest in the environment” and Turnbull should be pushing for an amendment to this as a major policy issue.

Turnbull  now faces a balancing act here because his personal view of supporting action against global warming clashes with the political and economic need to put a stop to  a concerted global campaign to finish off one of Australia’s most important industries. Relevant also is the fact that he has stated publicly that the coal industry will be “here for years and years”. Turnbull’s  “best friend” in the US (Barack Obama) is unlikely to be much help and he now faces a problem in Australia because of the mistaken response made by Chief Scientist Finkel to questions asked at a Senate Committee meeting by Senator Malcolm Roberts about the effects of human activity on carbon dioxide and any consequent effects on temperatures (see Exchanges Between Finkel & Roberts).

It is of some interest that Finkel offered no qualifications to his expertise on the science of climate change before responding to the questioning, this despite the absence of such expertise in his CV.  It is also of interest that, in telling the Committee what his office is doing, he did not mention that he is conducting an inquiry into the SA blackout and the use of renewables as a source of energy.

But the most important development since the exchanges in the Senate committee is that climate expert William Kininmonth has sent a 13 page analysis to Finkel which argues that he (Finkel) has made a “false representation” in asserting that “carbon dioxide traps heat emitted from the Earth as long wave radiation”. According to Kininmonth,  the thesis that a trapping of long wave radiation adds to global warming “not only misrepresents the physics but, by induction, leads to erroneous conclusions”. The bottom line is that Kininmonth  is saying that it is wrong to accept the thesis that we face a dangerous increase in temperatures unless governments act to reduce the use of fossil fuels as energy sources.

Kininmonth concludes his analysis with the section below, which graphs increases in carbon dioxide concentration and global temperature changes as measured by satellites since 1980. Despite the large increase in carbon concentration (over 17%), the increase in temperature is only 0.3%, which is much less than the 1.1% increase predicted by IPCC modelling. Note in particular that, except for brief El Nino effects, there has been no increase in temperatures since around 2000 despite the continued increase in CO2 concentrations (the end of this so-called “pause” is eagerly awaited by the alarmists).  Most recipients of this Commentary will be aware  of Kininmonth’s 12 years experience as Superintendent of the Bureau of Meteorology Climate Centre and his attendance as Australian delegate to the WMO Commission for Climatology during this period  (see attached Kininmonth on Senate Misled on Climate Science).

The imminent move for Australia to ratify the Paris Agreement in Parliament (there are only 3 weeks of sittings left this calendar year) will likely engender debate and Senator Roberts will doubtless try to use the opportunity not only to draw attention to Finkel’s erroneous analysis and Kininmonth’s warning not to accept the dangerous warming thesis but to the fact that there are many other expert climate scientists here and overseas who reject that thesis. The move to ratify provides an opportunity for Turnbull to acknowledge that there are some uncertainties in the analysis of the causes of climate change and the effects on temperatures. He could use the same language as he has in warning Premiers not to rush into adopting big targets for renewables

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