Here’s what the excellent books by Guy Pearse and Clive Hamilton about the Australian government’s climate policy under John Howard miss(1); during the premiership of Paul Keating, much loved for his views on Aboriginal reconciliation, Labor was also a “blocker” on climate change, both domestically and internationally.
The reason is pretty simple. It’s four letters. C.O.A.L. It was a big Australian export back in the day, and it’s a much bigger one now. (2)
So, I will be writing much more (40,000 words? More?) on this. For now, two little snippets, separated by twenty years.
This from August 1994. The author is Jeremy Leggett (3).
… the foreign minister warned that Australia might refuse to discuss greenhouse-gas reduction commitments at all. The Cabinet had actually discussed the option of not accepting commitments on climate change, he admitted. The government had only ever put forward its target as an interim planning measure.
And, 20 years and 5 months later, at the Lima Climate Conference …
Lima: Trade Minister Andrew Robb has told business leaders at climate change negotiations in Lima that Canberra may not sign up to a new global deal if major trade competitors are not pulling their weight, stating Australia will not “get it in the neck”…. Robb told the meeting with business officials – which included representatives of BHP Billiton and the Business Council of Australia – Australia would make a particular effort to ensure trade competitors “are as ambitious as we will be.”
“If we are not convinced they (trade competitors) are doing what they should, it will influence whether we sign up or not. Outcomes must be comparable…we are not going to get it in the neck and increase our costs for nothing,” he said. [The Age]
Liberal, Labor, 1994, 2014. Plus ςa change…
(1) It would be unfair to say “miss altogether.” They make very little of it, preferring to stick the boot into the Liberals. It’s an understandable aim, but we shouldn’t lose sight of just how short-sighted governments of any hue have been.
(2) Though as Pearse, Hamilton, and many others have pointed out – favouring mineral extraction every time has consequences for tourism, agriculture, health, manufacturing etc. For a recent (August 2014) example, see this Reserve Bank of Australia discussion paper, The Effectof the Mining Boom on the Australian Economy.
“This paper estimates the effects of the mining boom in Australia, using a large-scale structural macro-econometric model, AUS -M. We estimate that the mining boom boosted real per capita household disposable income by 13 per cent by 2013.
The boom has contributed to a large appreciation of the Australian dollar that has weighed on other industries exposed to trade, such as manufacturing and agriculture.
However, because manufacturing benefits from higher demand for
inputs to mining, the deindustrialisation that sometimes accompanies resource booms– the so-called ‘Dutch disease’ has not been strong.”
(3) Leggett, J. (2001) The Carbon War: Global Warming and the End of the Oil Era New York: Routledge, p. 165.