How to defend your interests (shame about the lack of a habitable planet, but what can you do?)

Chap called Gavin Gilchrist wrote some corking articles back in the mid-90s, the documented the nuts and bolts of how the Howard Government took over the Keating/coal industry-inspired Australian climate retreat and turbo-charged it.

The piece I am quoting from below  [Gilchrist, G. (1996) “Climate Changes: Why We Are Seen As Rebels” Sydney Morning Herald 8th July] was published during the second lot of international climate negotiations in Geneva. (In “COP1” Berlin in 1995, chaired by Angela Merkel, everyone except Australia and Saudi Arabia had agreed that actual emissions cuts were needed.  The third meeting, in Kyoto in 1997 was the deadline, and Geneva a crucial staging post).

Australia was busy demanding special treatment for itself (given its coal exports and high domestic per capita emissions – that’s what happens when you also burn coal for ‘leccy.)

Gilchrist writes

Federal Cabinet’s decision on the greenhouse issue a month ago was a triumph of strategic long-term lobbying by the Business Council of Australia, which represents Australia’s biggest 100 firms, and about 20 other industry associations.

More than five years of intensive lobbying behind the scenes in Canberra paid off spectacularly.

He then details some of the tactics used (clever and strategic ones. These are not stupid people), and then gives an overview.  Imma quote a whole chunk, because it bears repeating;

A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The Australian position has changed from being a very wide one that recognised the science, the need to be putting new technologies into developing countries and giving them financial assistance, and that recognised the need for adaptation strategies but also included trade concerns. “Now, instead of the holistic approach, we’ve zoomed in on the bottom line and trade is the only driving consideration.”

Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter, a major natural gas exporter, and a major exporter of aluminium smelted using vast amounts of electricity from coal-fired power stations. That makes Australia one of the world’s highest producers of greenhouse gases per capita.

Canberra insiders say the final position of the Howard Government on greenhouse shows that when lobbyists for vested interest groups succeed in winning over bureaucrats, they invariably win the policy debate.

“If a bureaucracy and a lobby group are as one mind, it’s almost impossible for governments to receive alternative advice,” said Mr Bob Gordon, managing director of Australian Business Links, a business consultancy which represents companies with renewable energy interests. “In which case, the interests of the public can be a major casualty.”

One thought on “How to defend your interests (shame about the lack of a habitable planet, but what can you do?)

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  1. Corporatism displacing democratic politics.

    excerpt from: Chapter 9
    Networks in Power
    External influences working within government
    p. 262
    Stuart Weir & David Beetham
    Political Power and Democratic Control in Britain: The Democratic Audit of the United Kingdom

    the whole machinery of government turns upon the daily
    assumption that officials and departments will be advised, assisted, lobbied and criticised
    by organised interests; their specialist knowledge and often their active consent is vital to
    much of the policy-making process, including major public decisions. However, the
    involvement of interest groups in policy-making through policy communities and
    networks attached to government departments is ungoverned by any framework of rules
    to ensure that the public—and ministers for that matter—know what is going on, the
    policy options agreed and discarded, the arguments for and against decisions, the interests
    which are protected and those which aren’t. The bargaining is secretive as well as being
    informal, and has been kept secret by governments because it falls within the domains of
    policy advice and commercial confidentiality.
    Thus the role of influential interest groups is often a parallel, and more decisive, system
    of representation to that of the people through Parliament. For the authors of a
    contemporary study of government in Britain, ‘the major locus of public power in Britain
    is focused around a federation of the great departments of state and their client groups’
    (Harden and Lewis 1988:70).

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