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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

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July 24, 2008

On Tuesday, Julie Bishop's "blog" in The Age complained that scientists with doubts about AGW are being intimidated into silence. She took the familiar culture wars approach of reframing the debate as a matter of opinion and free speech rather than one of science.

Rather than denigrate those with opposing views, it is vital that we encourage debate and respect dissenting opinions.

While there is unlikely to be consensus on many major issues, we must defend the right of people to hold their opinions and allow free and open debate on the merits of those opinions.

If comments are any indication, she didn't have much luck with it.

On Wednesday, Andrew Bolt predicted a showdown between Brendan Nelson heading the Liberal deniers, and Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt representing the supporters. Apparently it's pencilled in for next week.

Nelson now realises he made a mistake by caving in on Friday to demands by Turnbull and Hunt that he stick to the old policy - that the Liberals, like Labor, would bring in an ETS whatever the rest of the world did. He plans now to fight for the position he put, and yesterday promised in interviews only to “move towards” an ETS.

In the shadow cabinet meeting next Tuesday and in the party room meeting on Wednesday he plans to ask his colleagues to now back him: no ETS unless gassy giants China and India commit to cuts, too.

In other words, do nothing.

Today, Kevin Andrews has confirmed the gossip, although unlike Bishop he's calling it for the internal split it really is. Michelle Grattan writes:

Opposition hardliners want Coalition leader Brendan Nelson to repudiate the present policy that he has reluctantly endorsed and which shadow treasurer Malcolm Turnbull and environment spokesman Greg Hunt have enthusiastically promoted. This says an Australian scheme should start by 2012, regardless of other countries.

The ALP's line, "I can't comment on the Opposition's climate change policy because, like them, I'm not sure what it is" seems pretty safe at this rate. Everyone with a microphone will ask whether it's a backflip, and everyone with a camera will zoom in on Turnbull's visible discomfort if he ends up having to toe the party line. Turnbull would be the ideal opponent in poker, poor sod.

Tim Watts is appalled by Nelson's weakness, while Mark Bahnisch notes another little wobble from Nelson trying to turn a showdown into 'negotiations' while slouching towards denialism.

The Liberals are once again looking like a clueless rabble, and they may well find that getting fulsome praise from Andrew Bolt is no substitute for adopting a responsible stance, or a plausible imitation thereof, in the court of public opinion.

That's generously assuming that the public is paying that much attention. It's true we're suckers for novelty, but a policy cycle of sometimes less than 24 hours is stretching the notion of novelty a little far.

| Posted by Lyn at 12:42 PM | | Comments (6)


It is sad to see Julie Bishop reduced to uttering nonsense in order to defend the conservative position of the WA liberals. Her silencing of reasonable debate "argument" is a string of assertions that make little sense. The pinciple --we must defend the right of people to hold their opinions and allow free and open debate on the merits of those opinions---is fine. It is classic liberalism. But she does not show that the principle is being repudiated in the public debate on emissions trading.

Bishop says:

Kevin Rudd has sought to silence dissent from his approach to dealing with climate change by seeking unconditional guarantees from the Opposition now that Government legislation will be passed in the Senate. Given that Treasury modelling of the economic costs has not been released, the process of community discussion has only just commenced and no legislation has yet been drafted, this is an extraordinary attempt to silence reasoned debate. Rather than denigrate those with opposing views, it is vital that we encourage debate and respect dissenting opinions.

The Australian gives the sceptics/deniers a lot of space to air their opinions. Secondly, the silencing makes little sense at all, especially when the media columns are full of the public relations from the Greenhouse mafia. Thirdly, Bishop is even able to "blog" in The Age ---the enemy newspaper as it were, but she doesn't see that in doing so she has refuted her own claim. Bad mistake.

There is no argument here. How do you go from the factual statement that Treasury modelling is not ready to the conclusion that this is an extraordinary attempt to silence reasoned debate?

You can only do so through some additional premises doing the work, eg:

1. Rudd has postponed the Treasury modelling for political reasons.
2. you cannot have a reasoned debate without Treasury modelling.
3. there will be no Treasury modelling until it is too late.

Even including these won't do the job required, as Bishop's main point about silencing of the debate is about the science of climate change not Treasury modelling.

It's junk. Sad to see the destruction of an intelligent woman who was a competent Minister with a sharp political edge.

Brendon Nelson is caught up in flippery. He says:
“I see there is an emerging body of scientific opinion which questions the role of carbon in all of this, but I’m strongly of the view that we give the planet the benefit of the doubt.

There is a debate about the historry degree and speed of global warming. But not it beign caused by carbon. If you are sceptical and a denialist about carbon, then why introduce when in Government, and then supportwhen in opposition, an emissions trading scheme thast is designed to reduce the level of carbon being produced by polluting industries?

My favourite comment on the whole global warming issue was one I saw just the other day. I forget where - Blogocracy I think.

Anyway the commenter urged that we have a referendum to resolve who was right about the reasons for climate change. I think the idea has real merit. We can have referendums into nature v nurture and the big bang theory and whether mobile phones cause cancer and all kinds of scientific controversies. It will add a whole new dimension to the art of extending the frontiers of knowledge.

It's of a piece with everything else the Liberals have had to say on anything remotely connected with the topic. Or as you point out, topics. Instead of carrying on about how they're being railroaded into supporting something against their will it would be good to see the Liberals coming up with some intelligent criticism of the scheme, like how a price on pollution is supposed to reduce pollution when polluters are financially compensated. Meanwhile they're just wasting everybody's time, including their own.

More importantly for Nelson, have we moved past the point of expecting him to make sense? He would have been better off sticking with the pensioners theme. He could have just said - I won't support a policy that will force pensioners to turn off their heaters in winter - and left it at that.

"we have a referendum to resolve who was right about the reasons for climate change."

Nah, too expensive. We should just be able to text our preference during a So You Think You Can Dance broadcast.

Good thinking Lyn! The only way to solve this is a Dance Off.