On climate disruption, the truth matters

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“While Labor didn’t initially want to go there, they now are happy to claim credit for the fact that Canberra is now powered 100 per cent by renewable energy, cutting our contribution to climate heating by a massive 40 per cent,” writes TIM HOLLO.

THEY say the first casualty of war is truth. Tragically, in the face of climate disruption, truth has long been a casualty. 

Tim Hollo.

We’ve had decades of deliberate denial of the science, of course. But there’s also been ongoing mythologising about what parties have done over the last 10 years which is no less damaging.

When facing a challenge of this scale, truth really matters. We need to understand and respect the science, and we need to fairly and accurately represent what our parliaments have done – the bad, the ugly, and the good. If we don’t, how can we hope to find solutions? If we’re so busy throwing blame around that we can’t give credit where it’s due, and celebrate successful negotiations for really positive outcomes like here in the ACT, we’re in a pretty dire place.

In this context, it’s deeply disappointing that political columnist Michael Moore would write an article about climate politics riddled with basic mistakes of fact (How the Greens failed climate change”, CN, November 28). Debate and opinions are important – but they have to be on the basis of reality.

Moore’s most ridiculous error is to claim that the Greens opposed Kevin Rudd’s CPRS “under the leadership of Christine Milne”. A simple Google search would have reminded him that Senator Milne became leader of the Greens in April 2012, 2 1/2 years after the CPRS was rejected. That he chooses to blame Senator Milne rather than Senator Brown should raise eyebrows. 

This isn’t the only error of fact. Moore starts off by reflecting on when “Malcolm Turnbull worked with the Rudd government and the Greens to implement a price on carbon”. This is imaginary, to put it politely. The truth was quite different.

As has long been on the public record, Kevin Rudd refused to negotiate climate policy with the Greens under any circumstances. Famously, he refused to even meet with Bob Brown to discuss it. 

The Greens, putting forward amendment after amendment, requesting meeting after meeting, had the door slammed repeatedly. Meanwhile, Rudd was negotiating with the Liberal Party while in public he was constantly niggling them, driving the wedge which eventually split the party and led to the spill which delivered Tony Abbott. 

Of course, at the same time, he wasn’t even talking with his Cabinet, leading to his own removal a few months later.

Canberrans will remember that time well. 

But Moore’s most bizarre claim is: “There has been no going back”. History records it differently. Half a year after the collapse of the CPRS, Julia Gillard scraped into government with the support of the Greens and independents. In negotiating to make her Prime Minister, the Greens secured the establishment of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, which to this day remains the most successful example of long-term, cross-party negotiation of difficult policy in the Australian Federal Parliament. 

The brain-child of Christine Milne, the MPCCC involved regular meetings, including expert external advice, and clear and well-understood terms of negotiation. And it produced the Clean Energy Act, which successfully turned around Australia’s ballooning climate pollution, through not just emissions trading but the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation and much more.

To pretend this didn’t happen is dishonest and deeply unhelpful. It shows that, when Labor doesn’t turn their backs on the Greens, excellent outcomes are possible. 

And that’s exactly what the ACT Assembly has shown. Moore pointedly ignores the decade of balance of power here, which has seen the Greens working highly successfully to pull Labor towards ever stronger climate action. While Labor didn’t initially want to go there, they now are happy to claim credit for the fact that Canberra is now powered 100 per cent by renewable energy, cutting our contribution to climate heating by a massive 40 per cent.

While much of our climate politics is undeniably a hot mess, there are real achievements to celebrate. In those achievements lie hope for us all. Michael Moore’s parade of untruths only dampens that hope. The truth can bring it back.

Tim Hollo, executive director of the Green Institute, was an adviser to Senator Christine Milne, 2007-2013.

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