Prime Minister of Australia (1996-2007) John Howard never got a briefing from the head of the Australian Greenhouse Office, Gwen Andrews. He didn’t even see the need for a full-time scientific adviser. And the one he did have worked simultaneously for mining giant Rio Tinto. Where Howard’s nephew was chief of government relations. This is how the game is played. On this day, twelve years ago, that Chief Scientist called it a day.
Australia’s Chief Scientist gives up Govt position for mining giant
AM – Tuesday, 17 May , 2005 08:28:00
Reporter: Karen Barlow
TONY EASTLEY: Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Robin Batterham has decided to accept a full time position with mining giant, Rio Tinto.
The Federal Government says Dr Batterham was instrumental in encouraging investments in science and raising science awareness among the broader community. But Labor and the Greens claim his scientific advice was swayed by industry.
Also on this day-
Frew, W. 2007. Minchin denies climate change man-made. Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March.
A SENIOR Federal Government minister has expressed serious doubts global warming has been caused by humans, relying on non-scientific material and discredited sources to back his claim.
One month after a United Nations scientific panel delivered its strongest warning yet that humans were causing global warming, the Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, has questioned the link between fossil fuels and greenhouse gas pollution.
In a letter he wrote on March 5 to Clean Up Australia’s founder, Ian Kiernan, Senator Minchin took issue with Mr Kiernan’s criticism of the minister’s scepticism.
In 1997, John Howard had a climate change head-ache. He was trying to get a sweet deal at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Kyoto. But he most definitely did NOT want to commit Australia to any emissions reduction target. His former ally the USA had (sort of) switched sides, and domestically he was also copping grief. Even his own party was divided on this, with grandees like John Carrick as part of a ‘pro-action delegation’. His speech on 20 November 1997 contained two pieces of ‘eye-candy’. One was a mandatory renewable energy target (we will come back to this) and the second was the creation of an ‘Australian Greenhouse Office’ that was supposed to make All the Good Things Happen. Thus do politicians try to ‘virtue-signal’ without actually doing anything disruptive. The game is the game.
Which is all leading up to this – on this day in 1998 Environment Minister Robert Hill announced that Gwen Andrews would be AGOs first boss. When she quit, years later, she revealed that she never once had been asked to brief Howard.
Also on this day–
“The greenhouse trigger was first proposed in the context of the deliberations over, and inquiries into, the EPBC Bill in the mid to late 1990s. Environment groups and others argued that a significant weakness in the Bill was the absence of any measures that directly addressed greenhouse emissions. For example, Shane Rattenbury from Greenpeace argued before the Senate Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts Legislation committee in March 1999 that:
“The main problem at the moment is in fact the greenhouse issue, which we believe will not be addressed under the proposed legislation. In fact it cannot be addressed at the moment…. If we do not have a greenhouse trigger in this new legislation… the Commonwealth will put itself into the untenable position of having no control over the potential developments in Australia that will have major greenhouse implications.”
(Macintosh, 2007: 47) in Bonyhady and Christoff, 2007 ‘Climate Law in Australia
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics had been a player in the Australian climate policy game for a very long time. Despite having been slapped on the wrist for having created an economic model (MEGABARE) with fossil-fuel company money that ‘proved’ emissions would WRECK THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY WE WILL ALL BE LIVING IN CAVES, it continued to hold conferences at which sensible people would come and say sensible things. See for example –
G Andrews, ‘Climate Change, The current status of Australia’s response’, Proceedings of the National Agricultural and Resources Outlook Conference, ABARE, 29 February 2 March 2000, Canberra, vol. 1, p. 69.
Jotzo, F., et al,’ Kyoto Protocol, Impact on developing countries and some implications for the design of the Kyoto mechanisms’, ABARE, Natural Resources, Outlook 2000, New Directions Future Markets, Proceedings of the National Outlook Conference, 29 February 2 March, Canberra, p. 52.
Also on this day –
1992 letter to Canberra Times “act now to avoid catastrophe”.
We didn’t. Oh well.