Tag Archives: John Howard

March 12, 2001 – $3.9m advertising campaign versus, you know, doing something…

Actually doing substantive things about climate change – like transitioning from fossil-fuel based generation of electricity and energy to renewables/efficiency etc – would cost political capital, financial capital. It would cause disruption, and piss off powerful people.  And the unborn don’t both to vote, the lazy sods.  So, we keep kicking the can down the road.  But we can’t admit that (to ourselves or anyone else).  And so, we do television adverts instead.  And on this day in 2001 a bunch of climate change adverts started on Australian Television, starring television personality Don Burke (who was not, to be clear, paid for his time).

The Federal Government is spending $3.9 million on an advertising campaign on greenhouse gases featuring celebrity gardener Don Burke, two months after criticism of its $3.6 million ad campaign on the Natural Heritage Trust.

In the ads, on prime-time television and in newspapers, Burke says: “I love greenhouses. Wouldn’t want to live in one, though … and that’s why the Commonwealth Government is doing something about it.

“They’re investing $200 million a year to lower greenhouse gases. They’re working with over 300 major companies, helping them to clean up their act.”

He goes on to introduce 10 ways Australians can make a difference including turning off the TV at the power point, instead of using the remote, washing clothes in cold water and taking shorter showers.

The Opposition’s environment spokesman, Senator Nick Bolkus, said yesterday the ad campaign was an “outrageous abuse of taxpayers’ money”.

… The Government’s Australian Greenhouse Office confirmed the full cost of the advertising campaign was $3.9 million, with the ads to run for six weeks.

2001 Clennell, A. 2001. Pitched Battle Over Don Burke Ads. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 March, p.5.

Burke responded to critics the following day –

“I knew in doing this … the Opposition would come back with various statements. As I say, I’m not an apologist for the Liberal Party.”

Anon, 2001, Greenhouse ads raise ireDaily Telegraph, 14 March, p. 20.

 

Also on this day- 

In 2002 the European Commission’s Delegation to Australia issued an unambiguous denial of the idea that Australia could trade carbon permits without, you know, ratifying the Kyoto Protocol…

“On the question of carbon emissions trading, the Kyoto Protocol clearly states that carbon trading is allowed between those Parties who have ratified the Protocol. Countries that are not Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are not eligible to participate in emissions trading under it. Nor can emission reduction projects or carbon sequestration efforts taking place in its territory be rewarded under the Protocol.20″

[Hamilton, 2004, 1st September talk]

2010 –  second Australian Climate Action Summit

March 4, 1998 – First ‘Australian Greenhouse Office’ boss named

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

1999

“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

 

Feb 28, 2003 – Business Council scraps its outright Kyoto opposition

The Howard government’s ability to constrain public pressure for climate change action had in part rested on the claim that business was united in its opposition to, say, Kyoto Protocol ratification.  This was always nonsense (do you think renewable energy proponents, or carbon traders, or insurers, for instance, would be opposed? What about the gas industry?).  But this appearance of unity was assisted by the Business Council of Australia.  Eventually, however, the internal ructions became too much, and it moved from opposition to ‘no position’.  Then Hugh Morgan became President.  And it was only at the end of 2006 that things shifted. Fortunately, we have loads of time to deal with climate change, so the additional wait didn’t matter. Oh yes…

“Business support for the Federal Government’s hardline position on climate change is crumbling, with the Business Council yesterday scrapping its outright opposition to the Kyoto Protocol.”
Garnaut, J. 2003. Business shifts tack on Kyoto. The Age, 1 March.

Also on this day –

Chamberlin, P. 1995. Cabinet to review gas reduction options. Canberra Times, 28 February  p.2.
“A plan to take Australia about 40 per cent of the way towards meeting international obligations on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be discussed by the Cabinet today, with schemes designed to tempt top-level industry involvement.”

2007  The denialists got going, with a launch at Parliament House for this little doozy –  Nine Facts about Climate Change Ray Evans [Originally published in November 2006 as a PDF (click here, 1.5 Mb). Launched in Canberra by Sir Arvi Parbo on 28 February 2007](Parbo had been a founder of the Business Council of Australia, btw).

Feb 16, 2005 – John Howard says Kyoto “next to useless”

So, after years of claiming the Kyoto Protocol would never be ratified by enough countries – what with the US and Australia both refusing- naysayers were proved wrong when the Russians, for reasons of their own, ratified in late 1994, causing the Protocol to become international law (such as it is) and presenting Australia with both presentational and diplomatic issues. Prime Minister John Howard was not, at this stage, perturbed (the perturbations would only begin in late 2006…)

AAP. 2005. Kyoto Protocol ‘next to useless’: PM. Sydney Morning Herald, 16 February. 

Prime Minister John Howard has reaffirmed the government’s opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change on the day the pact came into effect.

The opposition used Question Time to put more pressure on the government over its refusal to join the treaty which has been signed by 141 countries.

Labor leader Kim Beazley asked Prime Minister John Howard about conflicting comments on climate change from two government ministers.

He read one media report quoting Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane as saying he did not know whether greenhouse emissions caused climate change.

Another quoted Environment Minister Ian Campbell saying there was a need to engage sceptics who did not believe climate change was real.

“I think they are both splendid ministers and of course I agree with them both,” Mr Howard answered…..

Also on this day –

Nick Minchin, who would later play a crucial role in getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader, over the latter’s support for Kevin Rudd’s CPRS, was resisting the change of mood mentioned above…

Murphy, K. 2007. Lib scorns mass ‘panic’ on climate. The Age, 17 February.
It SHOULD not be seen as a sin to be cautious about the science of global warming, a senior Federal Government minister has warned.
Finance Minister Nick Minchin says “there remains an ongoing debate about the extent of climate change” and the extent of human activity’s role in global warming….

Wedges of coal – Morrison, Howard stunts and catastrophe #auspol #climate

The Treasurer Scott Morrison brandished a lump of coal in Parliament last week, against rules that are supposed to prevent props being used (Adam Bandt has since brought a solar panel. The speaker has now told everyone to knock it off).

Morrison, mocking the Labor Party members, cooed “This is coal… Don’t be afraid…  don’t be scared.” (And has since boasted about this to radio shocking jock Ray Hadley.)

As one astute  journalist wrote three years ago it’s part of

“a long campaign to redefine the stuff that comes from burning coal as a “colourless, odourless gas”, a harmless three-way cuddle between one carbon and two oxygen atoms that, happily, provides “plant food”

While a purple haze introduced  to the Bureau of Meteorology maps in 2013  causes confusion, Australia, like many other countries, faces an ‘energy trilemma’ – problems of price, security and decarbonisation.

The recent announcements (you can’t  really call them proposals) by Resources Minister Matt Canavan , Malcolm Turnbull,  and now Scott Morrison do not actually address any of these problems.

Clean coal is not going to be cheap, “clean” coal is not going to be clean enough to compete with gas or renewables, and most importantly clean coal is not going to happen – the CEFC, Bloomberg, and AEMO have all pointed out that, given the expectation of future carbon constraints, no private investor will come anywhere near new coal.  Gina Rinehart isn’t interested  and so the government (i.e. the taxpayer) would have to bankroll it, something that Barnaby Joyce is relaxed about.

Policy versus politics
What we are seeing is not actually a policy battle, but a politics battle, and one that has been going on since at least 2000. That was the year that, after the Australian Greenhouse Office had commissioned a series of reports on the emissions trading, then-Environment Minister Robert Hill, brought a proposal for an emissions trading scheme to Cabinet. It was defeated thanks to the opposition of Liberal Senator Nick Minchin.  Meanwhile, battles over whether the Kyoto Protocol should be ratified were raging, both among politicians and within industry.  Australia had received a very generous ‘reduction’ target that actually meant it could increase its emissions to 108% of its 1990 level, and this was supplemented by a clause (known as the Australia clause) which gave credit for reductions in land-clearing, but still they prevaricated.

Howard famously decided that Australia would not ratify unless the US did, so things were basically put on hold until after the 2000 US Presidential election.  Labor, seeking green votes, seemed more keen, but  under influence of the powerful CFMEU Union, re-wrote policy platform in mid-2000 to remove mention of Kyoto Ratification.  Then Shadow environment minister Nick Bolkus famously said “...I am not going to be a kamikaze pilot when it comes to taking Australian industry and Australian jobs.”   Labor confirmed support for Kyoto ratification before the 2001 Federal Election,  and Howard toured the Hunter Valley to argue ratification would cost jobs, raise power prices and hurt industry.
[McSweeny, L., Polglaze, K. and Hamilton, F. 2001. Fed – Govt warns of job losses under ALP Kyoto plan.  Australian Associated Press, 7 November.

Pulling the Greenhouse trigger
Howard’s wedging attempts continued – why change a winning game?  In late 2006, with the climate issue heating up, Labor and the Greens tried to get the ‘greenhouse trigger’ – the idea that the Federal Government should have both the power and the responsibility to give a final yay or nay on any particularly carbon intensive projects –  back on the agenda (this was another battle that Robert Hill had lost to Nick Minchin in 2000). The Environment Minister of the time, Ian Campbell, knew what to do….

According to one commentator  “Senator Campbell’s response to the criticisms was to describe the greenhouse trigger amendments as the ‘anti-coal amendment’ and seek to paint the ALP as being against the coal industry.”
(Macintosh, 2007: 54)

Labor, under Kevin Rudd,  tried to square the circle of climate concern and coal industry support with the notion of Carbon Capture and Storage, but this fell by the wayside by 2010 or so, after geological reality imposed itself and costs spiralled.   It is significant that the coal industry and government have switched to “High Efficiency Low Emissions” as their techno-fix du jour.

 Cultural battles
Meanwhile, the cultural battle – over who is ‘authentic’ and supportive of regional Australia continues unabated.  Prime Ministers Gillard and Abbott seemed glued to hard hats and fluoro jackets in their flesh-pressing tours.  In July 2014 Senator Ian MacDonald came to parliament in a fluorojacket, provided to him by the same people who gave Morrison his lump of coal.

One useful way to think of the current hi-jinks is as part of a cultural battle over the cleanliness and moral rectitude of a product or commodity.   The US firm General Electric tried to portray coal as sexy in this jaw-dropping 2005 advert

and a battle of television adverts on clean coal broke out in 2008/9 in the US.

The divestment campaign, which aims to make coal look outmoded and dangerous not only to the planet but also investors, is the key example, and it has drawn a sharp response from the coal industry and its political supporters (see especially October 2014, in the aftermath of the Australian National University’s announcement of a very partial divestment).

One relatively recent academic paper, called From Pabst to Pepsi: The Deinstitutionalization of Social Practices and the Creation of Entrepreneurial Opportunities captures the decades long struggle between the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the producers and sellers of alcohol.  The authors point out that as well as condemning alcohol, the anti-drinking movement also opened up space for entrepreneurs – motivated by morals or money or indeed both- to create an alternative product – ‘soft drinks’ as opposed to hard liquor.

That fight took decades (and ‘winning’ it lead to the disaster that was Prohibition). And the authors point out  that

“the brewery industry was composed of thousands of small, independent businesses. This fragmentation of the industry may account for its lack of success in refuting the WCTU’s attacks”

They continue

“multiple attacks by anti-smoking advocates such as the American Cancer Society on the tobacco industry—a consolidated industry with a few very large players—have had limited success in recent decades.”

The coal industry – often compared to Big Tobacco – has the same advantages, and it seems that Australia is no closer to finding a solution for the “nonn-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.” to the dismay and outrage of many, especially the young.

2017 is already living up to its billing.

Feb 9, 2007 – State governments call Howard to act on climate change

On this day ten years ago, the state governments of Australia basically told John Howard ‘ lead on climate change or we will’   (insofar as an emissions trading scheme is leadership….).

Since 2001 Bob Carr (at the time premier of New South Wales) had been trying to get the Federal Government to introduce an emissions trading scheme.  From 2004 a state-governments supported ‘National Emissions Trading Taskforce’ had been at work.  Prime Minister Howard had remained opposed until suddenly overwhelmed by political pressure, and in November 2006 he had back-flipped and started a Federal process. (‘the Shergold report).

But the NETT process rumbled on, and at the second meeting of Council for the Australian Federation (all the state governments meeting without the Federales) is was agreed to press Howard to introduce an emissions trading scheme based on Shergold and to warn him that if the Commonwealth didn’t bring in a scheme, the states would, by the end of 2010.

There were caveats. Peter Beattie, then the Premier of Queensland said

“All I’ve ever been concerned about is to make certain that we don’t abandon a commonsense approach about developing clean coal technology, because of Queensland’s coal reserves and out of that we will get zero emissions.

“So we’ve made it clear that we are prepared to be part of a national response to deal with climate change, but we want to see a very clear focus on developing clean coal technology which would give us a world response to greenhouse gas emissions, not just an Australian response.”

(Taylor, J. 2007. Premiers meeting over carbon trading scheme Premiers to sign climate declaration. ABC, 9 February.

It was at this meeting that it was agreed to they would ask Ross Garnaut to go to work on a further study of climate change impacts on the Australian economy and how a trading scheme would ‘fit’ internationally.  (Garnaut started work in April, having been asked by then Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and then opposition leader Kevin Rudd.

Also on this day- 
2007 Greens leader Bob Brown calls coal the energy industry’s heroin habit

Feb 6, 2007 – Rudd asks Howard about that pesky 2003 Emissions Trading Scheme proposal

On this day ten years ago, in Parliament, Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd asked  Prime Minister Howard if a submission proposing an emission trading scheme went before cabinet in August 2003 and if that proposal was rejected.

Mr RUDD (Leader of the Opposition) (2:50 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Did a submission proposing an emissions-trading scheme go to cabinet in August 2003? Was that proposal rejected?
Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I do not carry in my head the details of every submission that has gone to cabinet. Let me simply say that our position in relation to an emissions-trading system is that we have, at present, at work a joint task group between the government and the business community. Tomorrow that task group will be releasing a discussion paper which deals with these matters.

Actually, it came to cabinet in July 2003 – a joint submission of the Treasurer and the Environment Minister, supported by others.   Howard  deferred the matter for a month, then rushed through some economic modelling and  talked to some of his business mates. IN August at Cabinet he unilaterally rejected it.  A matter to which we will return…

Also on this day –

In 1995 a coalition of industry groups sent out five news releases, under the banner ‘Carbon Tax Threatens Regional Jobs’,

(a tactic used in the ‘Let’s Cut Emissions, Not Jobs’ television campaign of late 2009 too)