Abbott’s down, but is he out?

Tony Abbott has been on the way down for years.

His time in the sun began unexpectedly on the 1st of December 2009 when he became Leader of the Opposition after toppling Malcolm Turnbull in a spill brought about by Turnbull’s support for Kevin Rudd’s Emissions Trading Scheme. Abbott had the backing of many Liberal members who were climate change sceptics and opposed the ETS.

You will recall the astonishment he expressed at his first press conference where he said that if he won the coming election he would be seen as a genius, but "if we don't win I'll probably be political road kill at some point in time."

He lead the Coalition in the 2010 lection which resulted in a hung parliament, and a Labor government under Julia Gillard, supported by two rural independents. He lost the contest for their support, and thereafter set himself on a course of destructiveness the like of which we have not seen in recent times. I will not bore you with the details; I’m sure you’ll remember his deliberately ineffectual action on climate change, his ‘axe the tax’ and 'ditch the witch' rhetoric, his ‘demolition’ of the NBN, and his opposition to marriage equality.

Although he did win the 2013 election for the Coalition, his performance as PM was so bad, his behaviour so destructive, and his management of the economy so poor, that the electorate turned against him and after thirty negative Newspolls in a row, Turnbull upended him on 15 September 2015 in a spectacular coup.

At that time, as he recoiled to the backbench with no prospect of a cabinet position, he could have been classified as road kill, but he loitered around looking for ways he could sabotage Turnbull and seize the reins of power again. His promise: “There will be no wrecking, no undermining, no sniping” proved to be like most of Abbott’s promises. He went about doing all three, overtly and repeatedly.

Abbott chose marriage equality as a movement he could readily sabotage because he strongly opposed it personally. He chose to make it as difficult as possible for the cause to be advanced. As a delaying tactic, he insisted on it being put to a plebiscite, to which Turnbull agreed when he toppled Abbott as part of his deal with the conservative clique in his party to gain their support. It morphed into the ‘voluntary postal survey’, just completed.

Abbott campaigned vigorously for the No campaign, and tried to divert attention by associating irrelevant issues with marriage equality: ‘And I say to you, if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no. If you’re worried about religious freedom, and freedom of speech, vote no. If you don’t like political correctness, vote no – because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks.”

The results came in yesterday. His electorate did not listen too his poisoned rhetoric. Abbott found himself defeated once more. Not only did the nation return a decisive Yes vote of 61.6% and a No vote of 38.4%, but his own electorate of Warringah returned a 75% Yes vote, the tenth highest in the nation. What a telling slap in the face this was for Abbott, who found himself the MP most out of touch with local and national views on marriage equality. Is he now road kill?

After he realized that only 25 per cent of his electorate voted ‘No’, he adopted a more conciliatory tone, and in an interview on 2GB he was at pains to mention no less than three times that the original plebiscite was ‘his idea’, adding: “It’s a vindication of the process that was put in place by my government and continued by the Turnbull government”.

He said he would not attempt to “frustrate the will of the public”, adding that the bill should now be passed as quickly as possible. Time will tell whether this dishonest, destructive man has more nasty tricks up his sleeve.

Abbott must be near the end of his tether. Will his electorate reject him at the next election as decisively at it has rejected his No rhetoric?

He is down but is he out? Time will tell!

What do you think?

Hurricanes. Floods. Droughts. Why is it so?

To some, the question: 'Hurricanes. Floods. Droughts. Why is it so?' is nonsensical. There have been hurricanes, floods and droughts since time immemorial. “It’s just nature at work” they say. They quote Dorothea Mackellar to ‘prove’ their point. To them, what climate scientists have to say is irrelevant.

Yet even some of them may wonder why recently we have had such a spate of exceptional adverse weather events, one after the other.

In late August there was Hurricane Harvey in Texas - the largest ever to devastate that state. It extended into Louisiana. There were 70 deaths. The cost of restoration will be many billions, and the time needed as much as a decade.

Hard on its heels came Hurricane Irma that wrought destruction throughout the Caribbean, Florida and beyond. It was the largest ever to arise in the Atlantic. It spawned Hurricanes Jose and Katia. 6.5 million people, about one-third of the state’s population, were ordered to evacuate southern Florida. Almost 6 million homes and businesses lost power, 38 were killed. The damage bill will run into billions, and restoration time will extend into many years.

Jonathan Watts, writing in The Guardian says:
‘In the US alone, the cost of the damage caused by the two hurricanes is estimated at $290bn — or 1.5% of GDP. The toll in the worst-hit Caribbean islands has not yet been calculated but it will be far greater relative to the size of the battered economies.' In parenthesis, he does though strike a positive note: ‘But while the problem has never looked grimmer, the most likely solution — a switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy — has rarely looked as desirable or financially feasible as it does now.’
More about this later.

Both Harvey and Irma attracted lots of airplay and commentary, some from climate scientists. Their comments made sense. Connecting these events to global warming, they explained that the warmer the atmosphere, the more the air is saturated with moisture, the more there is to precipitate.

In The Conversation Andrew King, Climate Extremes Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne writes: ‘We know that climate change is intensifying extreme rain events. We also know that climate change is worsening storm surges by raising the background sea level on which these events occur.'

Writing in The Guardian on 29 August, George Monbiot deplores the fact that the media generally has not mentioned any connection between global warming and these extreme events, as if no connection exists! He goes onto say:
To claim there is no link between climate breakdown and the severity of Hurricane Harvey is like claiming there is no link between the warm summer we have experienced and the end of the last ice age. Every aspect of our weather is affected by the fact that global temperatures rose by about 4C between the ice age and the 19th century. And every aspect of our weather is affected by the 1C of global warming caused by human activities. While no weather event can be blamed solely on human-driven warming, none is unaffected by it.

We know that the severity and impact of hurricanes on coastal cities is exacerbated by at least two factors: higher sea levels, caused primarily by the thermal expansion of seawater; and greater storm intensity, caused by higher sea temperatures and the ability of warm air to hold more water than cold air.
But conservative groups with close links to the Trump administration and the fossil fuel industry attempted to ridicule the link between climate change and events such as Harvey.

Monbiot contradicts these attempts:
In Texas, the connection could scarcely be more apparent. The storm ripped through the oil fields, forcing rigs and refineries to shut down, including those owned by some of the 25 companies that have produced more than half the greenhouse gas emissions humans have released since the start of the Industrial Revolution…Like Trump, who denies human-driven global warming but who wants to build a wall around his golf resort in Ireland to protect it from the rising seas, these companies, some of which have spent millions sponsoring climate deniers, have progressively raised the height of their platforms in the Gulf of Mexico in response to warnings about higher seas and stronger storms. They have grown from 40ft above sea level in 1940, to 70ft in the 1990s, to 91ft today.
There has been less mention in the media of the devastating floods in India. In Mumbai an unrelenting downpour battered low-lying parts of the city in late August, with some areas receiving almost 12 inches of rain.

What did we hear on TV of the floods in SE Asia? They have been particularly devastating; in the past two months more than 1,200 people have been killed and 20 million others affected by floods in Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Did you hear about the droughts in America? Writing in The Guardian Kathleen McLaughlin reports; ‘While much of the country’s attention in recent weeks has been on the hurricanes striking southern Texas and the Caribbean, a so-called “flash drought”, an unpredictable, sudden event brought on by sustained high temperatures and little rain, has seized a swathe of the country and left farmers with little remedy. Across Montana’s northern border and east into North Dakota, farms are turning out less wheat than last year, much of it poorer quality than normal…Farmers see vast cracked, grey, empty fields dotted with weeds and little patches of stunted wheat.’ Montana governor Steve Bullock declared the entire state a fire disaster: “Montana is in a severe drought and the conditions are ripe for continued severe fires through September.”

Even in Australia the situation is grim. Writing in The Conversation, Andrew King, Climate Extremes Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne says: ‘Australia’s average daytime maximum temperatures were the highest on record for this winter, beating the previous record set in 2009 by 0.3℃. This means Australia has set new seasonal highs for maximum temperatures a remarkable ten times so far this century (across summer, autumn, winter and spring)…The increased frequency of heat records in Australia has already been linked to climate change. This warm, dry winter is laying the groundwork for dangerous fire conditions in spring and summer. We have already had early-season fires on the east coast and there are likely to be more to come.’

Sydney has had only one hotter day in the first half of September, and bushfires are already burning in NSW where authorities predict a dangerous fire season.

Writing in Women’s Agenda, editor Angela Priestley says: ‘Australia has not been immune to significant weather events. When the destructive and deadly Cyclone Debbie hit earlier this year, researchers suggested it was indicative of the fewer, but more intense, storms we can expect to see as a result of warming in the upper troposphere. A 2016 bleaching event affected the vast majority of the Great Barrier Reef. Australia has been described as sitting in what some experts dub as “disaster alley”, a region home to large coastal populations exposed to extreme weather events that are predicted to worsen in the years to come.’

I wonder how much more evidence is needed to establish in the climate deniers’ minds that there IS a connection between global warming and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events across the globe?

Despite the rapidly accumulating evidence that points to a connection, at their recent conference The Nationals not only endorsed coal as their preferred baseload energy source into the future, but also sought to have all subsidies removed from renewable energy initiatives. Also they are urging the Clean Energy Target, as recommended in the Finkel Review, be scrapped! Their perverse position, that flies in the face of the evidence, can be explained only on the basis of vested interest, or more grotesquely by entrenched belief that is simply not amenable to factual or logical imperatives. They are behaving like brazen children determined to run counter to social norms.

And now our PM, fettered by his conservative cabal, is talking up coal, ‘clean coal’ mind you, as the only way we can have energy security in the foreseeable future at times of peak load, paving the way for subsidies to so-called “low-emission, high-efficiency coal power stations”. Yet, as industry expert Alan Pears points out in The Conversation, Turnbull’s claim is debatable, and anyway it takes eight years before a new coal-fired station generates a cash flow, and thirty years to turn a profit, not a great prospect for investors! Nevertheless, the coal lobby and its parliamentary sycophants, lead by coal-lover Tony Abbott, have our PM in harness. Scripture tells us: ‘It's hard to kick against the pricks’; Turnbull knows this and has lamely given up.

What hope is there when our national leader so shamefully abandons the high principles on climate change he so strongly expressed in the past, only to enthusiastically embrace the most polluting fuel of all - coal - and represent it as our energy saviour, knowing full well the dire environmental consequences? He is ready too to abandon the Finkel recommendation for a Clean Energy Target, which his conservative rump, led by The Nationals is demanding.

What hope is there when POTUS Trump abandons the Paris Accord, appoints a climate change denier to head his Environmental Protection Authority, persists with his ‘climate change is a hoax’ rhetoric, denies any connection between recent devastating adverse weather events and global warming that will cost his government many, many billions? What hope is there when he strongly supports coal mining, and does everything he can to bring into disrepute climate science and climate scientists, who warn us daily of the risks we face unless we change our energy sources radically away from coal and other fossil fuels?

Hurricanes. Floods. Droughts. Why is it so? We know why it is so - climate scientists tell us every day. We know the solution - phasing out of fossil fuels and phasing in of non-polluting renewable sources of energy. But our leaders are blind, deaf and dumb, stubbornly resistant to taking these actions.

A new mental illness has emerged: Blind resistance to action on climate change, otherwise known as the BRTAOCC syndrome. It may soon make it into DSM-5: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . There are many who suffer from this syndrome. Here in Australia there is a cluster in our federal government headed by a spineless turncoat. Overseas there is the POTUS, the epitome of wilful ignorance.

Is there a cure? Will our leaders blindly lead us over the precipice? Will we follow like lemmings?

It seems that our only hope is ourselves. Our governments, our leaders, those we look to for guidance, are so obsessed by the politics of everything, so focussed on power and self-preservation, that the issue of climate change fades invisibly into the background.

In the US, the action of President Trump in abandoning the Paris Accord has precipitated contrary action by many State governors, major cities, large companies and individuals, who are determined not to abandon action to combat global warming. They are taking the action our leaders won’t. We, the ordinary people, must support them. We are the only ones who can save our planetary home.

The power of the people is our only hope. The future of our planet is in our hands.

Climate wars all over again

Only a naive optimist could believe the contemporary rhetoric that the Finkel Review might bring the climate wars of the last decade to an end.

As long as Tony Abbott lurks in the wings there will be war over climate. His whole persona is warlike, his political book is even titled Battlelines. A pugilist since student days, he has carried unremitting combativeness into his political life, and will do so until he leaves.

Recall Peta Credlin’s observation about how Abbott seized upon the ‘carbon tax’ meme when he was Opposition Leader. Here is an extract from a February 2017 article titled Here's the audio of Peta Credlin admitting the last seven years of politics is based on total crap by Mark Di Stefano in BuzzFeedNEWS:
“Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin has let slip that one of the most damaging political campaigns in recent Australian political history was based on bullshit. Credlin made her comments during an episode of Sky’s Sunday Agenda:

“Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and when he cut through, Gillard was gone.

“Okay, okay, okay. Let’s just provide some context. Australia has a complicated history in trying to do what many countries have already done – put a price on carbon emissions.

“Emissions trading scheme proposals contributed to the demise of Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in 2009 and Kevin Rudd as prime minister in 2010. Julia Gillard finally introduced a carbon-pricing scheme in 2011.

“It was Tony Abbott who re-framed Gillard’s scheme as a “carbon tax”, even though after the first year the price on carbon emissions was no longer fixed, and was instead set by the market.

“Abbott rode the anti-carbon tax movement all the way into The Lodge and eventually had everyone, including Labor and the media, calling it a carbon tax.”
There it is – the brutal truth - straight out of the horse’s mouth!

Abbott fought Julia Gillard with the ‘carbon tax’ weapon and won. Now he wants to fight ‘Electricity Bill Shorten’ in the same way.

Leading a clique of Coalition climate deniers and coal advocates, Abbott wants to implement a strategy that paints the Coalition as the party that will lower electricity prices, while Labor will increase them: “The Liberal Party has to be the party of cheap power, let Labor be the party of expensive power”. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking about electricity and the last thing we want to do is let Electricity Bill off the hook”.

Abbott has already made it clear where he stands on the Finkel report: Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market: "There are two criteria. First of all, does it take the pressure off power prices? And second, does it allow coal to continue?" Moreover, Abbott insists that: “…a new low emissions target should deliver cheaper power and not ‘clobber’ Australia's economy.”

Note that there is no mention of bringing down emissions – Abbott couldn’t give a fig about global warming, which he discounts. He is quite open about this: “…the nation's power system should be run to provide affordable, reliable energy, not primarily to reduce emissions”.

He insists: “Australia's emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement are "aspirational only, not binding, not mandatory."

Abbott has disparagingly labelled Finkel’s Clean Energy Target – the heart of the Finkel Review – as a ‘tax on coal’, and a ‘magic pudding’, a well-worn but derogatory metaphor for a self-replenishing resource that magically serves everyone.

His fighting strategy is already pretty clear. Phil Coorey, writing in the Australian Financial Review, says: “Mr Abbott tore down Julie [sic] Gillard by campaigning against a carbon tax on the basis of high electricity prices and has indicated he will oppose a CET using the same line.”

With Abbott in the wings spoiling for a street brawl, what hope is there that Malcolm Turnbull, Josh Frydenberg, and other less cantankerous Coalition members will be able to counter the Abbott faction to reach a consensus? None.

Turnbull has another adversary in the climate wars when one adds into the mix the Greens who believe the Finkel plan falls short. They want to see coal mining eliminated and coal fired electricity generation phased out rapidly.

Even Labor, which has pledged cooperation with the Coalition, has its doubts. It is already heralding a revision of the Clean Energy Target when in power to make it more stringent. Moreover, its climate change spokesman Mark Butler said the Opposition could never support a CET that allowed so-called clean coal to be deemed a low emissions technology.

But Turnbull’s main adversaries are in his own party. Headed by the argumentative Abbott, about a third of the party room (but only twelve Liberals) spoke against the Finkel Review when it met to discuss the Review. About a third spoke in favour, and the rest were undecided. Several argued that Finkel’s CET was ‘too close’ to that of Labor, and therefore unacceptable, illustrating how pathetic this conflict has become. Abbott’s anti-Finkel henchmen include most of the usual suspects: Kevin Andrews, Ian Macdonald, Craig Kelly, Andrew Hastie, Chris Back, Rowan Ramsay, Russell Broadbent, Angus Taylor and Tony Pasin.

Bernard Keane of Crikey summed up the situation and Turnbull’s dilemma aptly:
"It’s all over but the shouting — Tony Abbott has signed the government’s death warrant by creating disunity within the Coalition over the Finkel review. For as the battle-scarred Labor opposition is so fond of saying: we’ve seen this movie before, and there’s nothing to suggest it will end any differently this time.

"Abbott knows the old maxim ‘disunity is death’ is more than a glib three-word slogan – it’s an undeniable political reality. But once again, a petulant and embittered former leader has judged his revenge is more important than the interests of the party to which he pledged fealty and the nation he swore to serve.

"And on polling day, voters will again express their disdain – not only for the perpetrator but the subject of his vengeance – by tossing out another ‘chaotic’ government because it can’t keep its house in order.

"The Coalition’s debate over the Finkel review appears to be about electricity prices, but it’s really about killing off Turnbull’s attempt to redeem himself with voters through an integrated energy and emissions policy.

"Just as Abbott did with Julia Gillard’s emissions reduction policy, the former PM is trying to provoke voter (and backbench) anxiety about Finkel’s Clean Energy Target by claiming it will increase the cost of living."
Tongue in cheek, Keane suggests a solution – that Turnbull resign and hand the keys of The Lodge to Bill Shorten – but, knowing that will not happen, says:
”However, there is a way that Malcolm Turnbull can emerge from the conflagration that is yet to come with what little remains of his integrity.

“Given he has little else to lose, the PM could fight to the death on the Finkel reforms, developing a credible energy and emissions policy and using his authority to gain cabinet endorsement, even if unanimous support from the joint party room is unattainable.

“Yes, that would inevitably lead to usual Liberal and National insurgents crossing the floor to vote against any such ‘greenish’ policy. But with Labor’s support in both houses of Parliament, the Finkel reforms would still prevail. This bipartisan signal would give the energy industry the certainty it desperately needs to make the investments that will bring electricity prices – and emissions – down.”
The climate wars continue, and will likely do so for weeks, even months to come. To succeed as Keane suggests, Turnbull would need to convince a majority of his party room to support the Finkel proposal, and then get the support of Labor, the Greens and enough of the Senate to pass the legislation.

That looks like ‘Mission Impossible’. The climate wars will continue while Abbott leads the charge. He will be aiming to kill off everything Finkel recommends, sweep away his hated adversary, and restore himself to what he has always seen as his rightful place – the leader of this nation.

Tragically for our nation, we do have the climate wars all over again. Unless Abbott wins his fight-to-the-death with Turnbull, the war will continue until he gets his way, or is eliminated from the battlefield.

The most pernicious, combative, aggressive, confrontational, and destructive politician in the modern era cares not what he damages or who he destroys. In February we published: Abbott’s legacy of destruction. Abbott has not changed, nor will he!

For him, winning the prize for himself is all that counts.

What is your opinion?
Let us know in comments below.

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Discrimination for being a white male – seriously?

Australia has recently been subject to a debate over proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The changes were seen by conservatives to be necessary as there was some evidence to suggest that the Courts found that sometimes, some of their rank were found guilty of harassing, offending or insulting others based on their race or religion. During the debate,
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Thankfully, the changes were voted down in the Senate.

The same week, ‘legendary’ entertainer Barry Manilow at the age of 73 announced that he and his partner had been together for 39 years. The reason that Manilow’s relationship was ‘newsworthy’ is that his partner is male and they finally married in Palm Springs in 2014. Any partnership that lasts 39 years must have a lot of commitment and consensus by those in the partnership and in my view anyway, should be commended.

Manilow apparently kept his personal life to himself because he was worried that he would lose his fans if he ‘came out’, but found out that most actually supported him. And so they should have.

Patrick Garvin, a staff writer for The Boston Globe took a different view, namely why is there an expectation for people who don’t live traditional male/female partnerships to ‘come out’ and justify their lifestyle choices? Garvin has a point – while sometimes a conversation will turn to how various couples met and determined they would form a partnership, there usually isn’t a discussion on why a particular male formed a partnership with a female.

Despite the claims made, Brandis can’t be serious that he is being actively discriminated against. Yes, he is a white man and while he is divorced, it’s highly likely that he has never had to justify his choice of the opposite gender for the partnership that brought two children into the world. This is the same George Brandis who is responsible for the carriage of the changes to the Australian Marriage Act, which are required to remove the requirement that only a man and a woman can be lawfully married.

In 2004, the Sydney Morning Herald reported
Less than an hour after Prime Minister John Howard announced the changes to the Marriage Act, the government rushed legislation enabling the changes into parliament.

Mr Howard said the Marriage Act would be changed to include a definition of marriage as the voluntarily entered-into union of a man and a woman to exclusion of all others.

The laws currently do not define marriage.

"We've decided to insert this into the Marriage Act to make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation", Mr Howard told reporters.
The US Judge who ruled on same sex marriage completed his ruling with the following words
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves.”
Australia still has a long way to go before we can claim to be a society based on equality. As Howard said, the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation. Howard changed the law to prevent same sex marriage without the need for a referendum, postal plebiscite or any other delaying tactic; Brandis and Turnbull can adopt a position on marriage that agrees with contemporary beliefs and change it back.

By the way Senator Brandis, Manilow faced discrimination as he had to justify why he prefers to be partnered with a male – you and Turnbull haven’t had to justify your choices of female partners. It is a factual statement that you are a white male. Factual statements are not discrimination – it’s in Section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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