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Adelaide Festival of Ideas 2007: Guy Pearse « Previous | |Next »
July 2, 2007

afilogo.jpg The Adelaide Festival of Ideas 2007, which I mentioned in an earlier post, draws ever closer. It starts this week on Thursday at 8pm, and I'm starting to work my way through the program to see which events I will attend and blog on. I see that Kerryn Goldsworthy is doing something similar.

I will definitely attend Friday morning's session in the Art Gallery Auditorium by Guy Pearse, the author of High and Dry. Pearse was a key figure in the ABC's Four Corner's expose of the Greenhouse Mafia in February 2006, which I'd commented on in this post.

I've read an extract of Pearse's High and Dry online as I was interested in how the Liberal Party discussed and argued about climate change and its projected effects on Australia. Pearse tells us straight, and it's a depressing story in terms of the formation of public opinion that helps to make Australia a more sustainable place.

Pearse says:

The party room is especially mute on the issue of climate change. I am reliably told by still serving Howard government ministers and backbenchers that even as recently as late 2006, climate change had not been raised in the party room – not this century, and quite possibly not for the whole period of the Howard government. Not one person stood up and sought to query, question or challenge the Howard government's policy in these meetings. There have been some tangential references to water and biofuel policies, usually from Nationals focussed on looking after farmers rather than out of concern for climate change. The only voices heard in the parliamentary party have been echoes of Howard's own

Pearse comments that climate change as an issue has been ceded by the party room to the relevant cabinet ministers. And as I detail elsewhere in the book, these ministers have ultimately handed over control of this issue to the Prime Minister. The party hasn't decided the government's greenhouse policy. John Howard has decided it himself. As Pearse observes 'anyone who deals with the Howard government knows that John Howard makes its greenhouse policy. The environment minister, the industry minister, the foreign minister and the treasurer are merely on the mailing list.'

Howard's scepticism about the environmental imperative hasn't changed. When he says he is suspicious of the more 'gloomy scenarios' and 'doomsday predictions', he is talking directly to his neoliberal constituency whom he knows believes climate change is 'junk science'.

It gets more depressing through. Pearson says that Howard frames the climate change issue thus:

The greenhouse policy advice John Howard has taken seriously depends on the idea that the minerals, metals and energy sectors are the basis of Australia's economic future. All his statements implicitly or explicitly show that he believes the competitive advantage of the entire Australian economy is cheap energy derived from fossil fuels, and that Australia's future is as an 'energy superpower'. It has been an article of faith across his government since 1996.This quarry vision is shared by many of the country's decision-makers and opinion-formers – from state premiers to media commentators to company directors. It has spread throughout much of the political establishment.

It's even more black and white than I'd thought, as I'd assumed that there'd be some questioning of Australia selling itself as one great big quarry within the Liberal Party.

I'm worried by the long term implications of Quarry Australia. There are alternatives but Howard's engagement with global warming is driven by a political imperative rather than an environmental one. Pearse is spot on about how John Howard's response to climate change is steering his country to a future of high emissions in the name of neo-liberal economic politics.

You can see why I'm going to attend this session of the Festival of Ideas.


| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:09 PM |