Where is Morrison Going?
In my Commentary for 17 January I noted that “there is no sign yet of a more comprehensive presentation of Coalition policies even though Turnbull has gone”. Recent developments have now raised the question of what Morrison is actually seeking to achieve as leader of the Coalition. For example, his three day visit to Vanuatu and Fiji, accompanied by his wife, and the announcement of financial provisions for extensive infrastructure and other aid have made it appear an important initiative for Australia (see Australia/Fiji Relations).
Yet while this might help limit Chinese activity in the region, and help Fiji itself, it scarcely rates as an initiative which the Coalition leader should undertake at a time when other policies need to be developed prior to an election in May. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who was Minister for International Development and the Pacific, and had made 35 trips to the Pacific islands, might well have implemented the enhanced Pacific policies announced by Morrison, albeit at a lower level (see Warning on Loans to Pacific Islands). But she was dropped as a minister.
Morrison himself seems to have been ill-prepared to handle the views of Fiji President, Bainimarama, on climate change and, in particular, the supposed threat of rises in sea levels.Yet all the Pacific Islands have long used the supposed threat from climate change as a basis for requiring more aid and Morrison should have recognised this. But he appears to have accepted sea levels as a real, almost immediate, threat (see Morrison on Climate Change).
Climate expert Bill Kininmonth points out that “Bob Hawke got a similar serve from the then Fiji PM at a South Pacific Forum meeting back about 1988. As a consequence the Australian government funded the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project, a network of about a dozen automated sea level and meteorological observing stations. The project was managed by the National Tidal Facility at Flinders University. The NTF was incorporated by BoM in the early 2000s. I was on a project review team in the early 200s when it was still in Flinders. There seemed to be excellent technical management of the project”.
An examination of the monthly sea level data (Max, Min and Mean) share shows that, except in one year (1997-98), there is no upwards trend in sea levels according to BOM data.
Was Morrison unaware of this? Did he consult his environment Minister? Did he consult fellow Cabinet colleagues before the visit?
His apparent failure to check on sea levels in the Pacific and Fiji in particular is made more important by an interview conducted about a year ago by the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation with expert oceanographer Nils-Axel Morner. In fact, Morner’s analysis extends beyond the Pacific and he disparages the IPCC as having “always misrepresented the facts on this topic. It exaggerates the risks of a sea level rise enormously. The IPCC relies in particular on questionable computer models rather than field research”. Morner adds that using his research “We were able to prove that the sea level in Fiji from 1550 to about 1700 was about seventy centimeters higher than it is today. Then it sank and was about fifty centimeters lower in the 18th century than it is today. Then it rose to about the current level. In the last 200 years, the level has not changed significantly. For the past 50 to 70 years, it has been stable” (see Nils-Axel Morner Says Sea Levels No Problem).
The failure of almost all political leaders, and of many who write about the supposed threat from climate change, is also illustrated in the article by Bjorn Lomborg published in Weekend Australian. He points out that a major charity, Christian Aid, has released a report, Counting the Cost: A Year of Climate Breakdown, documenting the “huge costs of climate impacts” and saying that the cost of climate change last year was $US85 billion ($118bn). Lomborg says that this claim was “repeated by many newspapers — just as it was designed to — yet it is nonsense”… “But the charity, which receives money from the British and US governments and the European Commission and raised more than £100 million in 2017-18, is scaremongering” (see Lomborg Identifies False Claims on CChange).
In short, activists who support the dangerous warming threat and the need for governments to implement policies to reduce emissions, are costing taxpayers unwarranted expenditure. But, while the meeting of political leaders at Davos this week will doubtless have considerable discussions on CC, they are unlikely to do much about that.
Resignation of Kelly O’Dwyer
Today’s announcement that Kelly O’Dwyer, the Liberal member for Higgins, will not stand again for election is another surprise the more so as it has been a blue ribbon seat. The reported resignation indicates that she had given Morrison advance notice and that “I would particularly like to thank the Prime Minister and Jenny for their personal support in what has been a very difficult decision. I have worked closely with Scott not just as PM but also as Treasurer,” Ms O’Dwyer said. “He is the right person to lead our nation and I will do all that I can, both locally and nationally, to ensure that this continues” (see Is O’Dwyer Quit a Loss to Libs?).
Her appointment was as Minister for Women and for Industrial Relations, but she has not appeared to have made any impression on the latter or its much needed reforms. Indeed, it was a bit surprising that she was given a ministry which has to deal mainly with men, had no obvious experience with the issues, and yet is thought to be a major election issue.
At the press conference announcing the resignation, Morrison is reported as agreeing that “family is so important”, and that he supported Ms O’Dwyer’s choice to leave politics. He said that being able to choose shows “great strength” and said “no one in Parliament has worked harder” on issues that women face. “When asked about Ms O’Dwyer’s replacement, she said there was plenty of talent within the Liberal Party and she hoped it would be another woman. Mr Morrison did not want to speculate on who the candidate might be” but there is much media commentary to the effect that it will “have to be a woman”.
Morrison has missed an opportunity to say that he would select the most important person available and there is in fact a need for a revised Ministry.