The gift that keeps on giving: of solar panels and Australian Prime Ministers #climate #auspol

On 20 October 1997 a team of Greenpeace activists scaled the walls surrounding Kirribilli House, the Sydney residence of Australian Prime Minister, John Howard. Solar panels were rushed past the security guards and lifted up on to the roof as a ‘gift’ to the Prime Minister. From the roof, the protesters used mobile phones to inform the Australian and international media about their opposition to the Australian Government’s refusal to support common and binding greenhouse-gas emission targets.

The Prime Minister’s response was that ‘noisy groups such as Greenpeace will…. have absolutely no impact at all on the direction of policy’. That policy, according to the Prime Minister, was driven by the view that ‘economic reform has produced significant reorientation of the Australian economy towards the export sector in general and resource processing sectors in particular….’”

Wiseman, J. (1998) Global Nation? Australia and the politics of globalisation Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Page 86-7

Fast forward 18 long years, and in March this year we get this-

Australia’s Tony Abbott Rejects Solar Panels, Cites Security Concerns

“Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rejected a gift of solar panels offered by a Christian group that ran a crowdfunding campaign late 2014, citing security concerns as a primary reason.”

Common-Grace-1The first ‘gift’ was perhaps a white elephant gambit, an attempt to weigh the recipient down with embarrassment. The second may have been too, or a sincere effort to get a man who wears his faith heavily, to wake up. It failed too, of course.

[Update – as a good friend points out – one of the first things Reagan did upon taking office was to remove the solar panels that Carter put up.]

The bosses know that there are important symbolic battles being fought (and won – by them) here. Australia has been turning its back on the sun for decades. By now, if the early trajectory around research and development had been sustained, it might well have been an energy superpower in renewables and energy efficiency. We will never know, of course, absent a time machine and the willingness to run a parallel experiment (sort of hippie Kyle Reese?)

Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide accumulates….

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