Today’s Australian has devoted its entire Letters section to energy policy and the use of renewable as a part of climate change policy. My letter is published below and other letters are attached and are in a similar critical vein. They include one from Professor O’Brien (Adjunct to WA University), a physicist who has long been a critic of the so-called “consensus” on climate change - one of those many academics who do not subscribe to the “group” view which has prevailed for the last 30 or so years and whose views have been swallowed hook line and sinker by many political and business leaders.
My previous Commentary on 18 Jan drew attention to the quite wide differences in the increase in global land temperature since 1979 between official government agencies and the satellite operated by the University of Alabama. I indicated that there should be no significant difference between the official agencies and the satellite increases and suggested that the higher increase published by the official agencies reflected significant errors by them. The comparative figures indicated that these errors could amount to 0.4C of the total increase of about 0.8C accepted by the IPCC et al since 1900. I noted also that the “natural” increase during the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from the late 1970s to around 2000 was about 0.4C and that, taking account also of errors, this means there could well have been little or no increase in global land temperature since 1900 due to human activity.
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.
The widespread media coverage of Turnbull’s attendance at three international conferences has not resulted in any improvement in Coalition polling, which the latest Newspoll shows as still at 50/50 on a TPP basis (see below). Nor has it helped Turnbull’s net satisfaction ratio which continues slightly to trail Shorten’s despite the latter’s poor handling of the Dastyari affair (T minus 19 cf S minus 17). One might conclude that with both leaders on large minus net satisfaction ratios we Australians face a gloomy political outlook and have good reason to be dissatisfied with the way our existing political system is operating. Surprisingly, rather than concentrating on getting the domestic situation into better shape Turnbull is reported as off overseas yet again next week for a memorial of 9/11 in the US.
As the end of the first year of Turnbull’s Prime Ministerialism draws nigh, assessments of his performance are appearing in the media from various quarters. The Weekend Australian’s lead article reports former Treasurer Peter Costello as not directly criticising Turnbull but as calling on the Liberal Party to “explain better its agenda, motivations and priorities” and to “smash the high-tax cheer squad”. The AFR has even published a survey of the views of 50 people regarding his achievements and, in the range from A to F, has awarded him only a D+ (see attached Results Turnbull’s AFR Survey). In fact, almost all commentators in the media (including journalists themselves) have reservations about Turnbull’s contribution to the political debate and to where Australia is or should be heading. While they tend to focus on how he has been performing recently against Shorten or on specific issues, rather than the longer term and broader perspective, this suggests that there may not be a ready recovery of Turnbull’s personal polling in the current session of Parliament. This despite Shorten’s poor handling of the contradiction of Labor’s foreign policy in statements made by Shadow Minister Senator Dastyari.
Today I made a presentation on global warming to a lunch at the Australian Institute for International Affairs, Victorian Branch. A small audience attended and, although the presentation was quite widely advertised, believers in the dangerous warming thesis did not appear and nor did any media. However I think it is accurate to say that those who did attend were appreciative particularly of the facts which I presented both orally and graphically. The idea that temperatures may increase “naturally” seemed to catch on.
It is sad to tell you that Professor Bob Carter has died after a heart attack. His CD in Wikepedia is provided here but it does not do justice to the contribution Bob made to the questioning of the thesis that human activity is causing dangerous global warming. One of his achievements was the leading role he played, amongst a group of distinguished scientists, in the production of the four volumes of a report by the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change setting out the reasons why the human activity thesis does not stand up to close examination. That report was started in 2007 by the Science and Environmental Policy Project which is based in Virginia in the US. SEPP was founded in 1990 by atmospheric physicist Fred Singer and its former Chairman was Frederick Seitz, a former president of the US National Academy of Sciences, now deceased. So Bob was working with the tops in his profession.
The Coalition’s Newspoll increase from a TPP of 46/54 to 51/49 is encouraging, particularly for Turnbull supporters, although it suggests a “wait and see” picture rather than the establishment of a conclusive electoral position. More encouraging is Turnbull’s improvement in the Better PM verdict from a minus 4% net under Abbott to a plus 34% net. Even here however there is a wait and see element in the 24% who remain “uncommitted”. Roy Morgan’s index of consumer confidence also jumped but only to fractionally above the long term average.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to see how Abbott can survive on the basis of existing policies and the way they are presented. After a period of public debate over the Royal Commission, during which Shorten and various unions were exposed as having behaved very poorly, Newspoll is still unchanged on a TPP basis (46/54) and Shorten remains Better PM (41/37). In addition, while 68% want the RC to continue, Heydon himself gets bad marks for his mishandling of the invitation to a Liberal Party function. Further, the support for the China FTA (only 43% and 22% uncommitted) indicates a failure to fully explain that it exposed virtually no risk from foreign-sourced labour ( Robb’s explanations yesterday on the ABC’s Insiders was excellent but he should have been more upfront earlier).
As indicated by its failure to have the Senate re-instate the powers of the Australian Building & Construction Commission, and by anti-coal groups’s revealed use of legislation to stop coal projects and purporting thereby to protect “the environment”, the Abbott government is facing increased difficulties in implementing existing policies, let alone maintain policies which have hitherto been widely accepted as important to on-going development and employment. As Greg Sheridan points out (see “Shutting the door to growth” below), “Australia has created a public–political culture in which the avenues to block something from happening are endless”. More strictly, it is that certain groups, not Australia itself, which have created this culture and are now actively moving to apply it.