This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning till the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
Scientists tell us the average person expels the equivalent of about 500 litres of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide each day. What a shame they are yet to measure the emission levels of federal politicians because yesterday surely set a new record for air pollution on the campaign trail.
As a new set of polls confirmed Labor was maintaining a sizeable lead over the Coalition after two weeks of campaigning, the issue of climate change - regarded as the most important challenge facing the world and certainly the most threatening for many sitting Liberals - finally nudged its way into the election debate. And then, as most things of substance tend to do in this campaign, it quickly evaporated into a predictable haze of hot air.
It all began after the Coalition's candidate for the Queensland seat of Flynn called the government's commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 a "flexible plan" that left a good deal of "wriggle room". Scott Morrison, in Townsville to announce funding for new hydrogen hubs, was forced to reiterate his net-zero pledge but took the opportunity of claiming Labor planned to revive the Gillard government's infamous "carbon tax".
Anthony Albanese, campaigning from his home while isolating with COVID-19, then found himself on radio having to confirm - again - that "there will be no carbon tax, ever."
This, unfortunately, is about as good as it gets in Australian politics when it comes to the greatest existential threat faced by humanity. And it's one of the key reasons why voters who cite global warming as a major issue often tune out when politicians reduce such a complex topic to cliched shorthand.
Despite all the bluster and phony outrage, the only party to offer anything new on climate change yesterday was the Greens. And even they seemed drawn into this orgy of hyperbole by making the extraordinary promise that if they end up holding the balance of power they will introduce legislation allowing flood victims to sue gas and coal companies for climate-fueled damage.
Meanwhile, the climate story for the major parties remains unchanged. Both are committed to net zero emissions by 2050, which is simply balancing the amount of human-created greenhouse emissions through reductions and other methods of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere like tree planting.
The Coalition says it is likely to overshoot its interim target to reduce emissions by at least 26 per cent in the next eight years, while Labor has promised to reach 43 per cent by 2030. Both, however, differ in approach; the government says it is focused on funding research to lower clean-energy costs while Labor has pledged to place caps on the nation's biggest polluters, which include energy giants like AGL and EnergyAustralia. And most scientists agree neither party is committed to doing enough.
That this is a campaign more about keeping up appearances than anything else became patently clear yesterday as the Prime Minister prepared to address the media at a Queensland worksite. Before he began a sign advising workers that "If you mess up, 'Fess up'" was covered up.
It's why politicians always try never to be photographed near an exit sign. And it's why the rest of us in this campaign would definitely like to find one.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What more should the government and opposition be doing about climate change? And where do you rate global warming as an issue in this campaign? Send us your views:
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Labor pledged to increase foreign aid to Pacific nations by $525 million over the next four years as well as revamping visa schemes for Pacific workers, increasing patrols to combat illegal fishing and "listen and act" on warnings from islands in the region about the impact of climate change.
- Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull launched a scathing attack on defence minister Peter Dutton, labelling his recent comments about Chinese aggression "bombastic and belligerent."
- The latest Newspoll showed Labor leading the Coalition 53-47 percent on a two-party basis, although Scott Morrison widened his lead over Anthony Albanese as preferred PM, 46-37 per cent. An Ipsos poll published by The Australian Financial Review showed Labor leading the Coalition 55-45 per cent.
- The Bureau of Statistics will release the latest CPI figures at 11.30am, with some economists expecting the cost of living to have jumped by 4.6 per cent since this time last year.
THEY SAID IT: "We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office." - Aesop.
YOU SAID IT: "There is no doubt we should require all political discussion, statements and advertising to be truthful. The AEC either has no power or doesn't want to use what it does have. How to enforce it seems to be an issue." - Don.
"A question for both parties: Will you limit the amounts spent on political advertising and also introduce truth in politics and political advertising? We are fed up with scare campaigns and lies, lies, lies - especially from our current PM!" - Carol.
"Legislating against falsehoods would be better." - Ian.
"I would support truth in advertising to apply to political parties, but without dealing with the likes of Twitter and Facebook it might not achieve much. Better to destroy some of the big tech companies' business models by making them responsible as publishers for what ends up on their platforms." - Richard.
"Re: Solomon Islands. Shouldn't we look in our own backyard first? We have been selling our greatest asset - land - to Chinese backed companies for years. We also leased the port of Darwin to the Chinese. They don't need to build military bases in the Solomons to force their way in. The Government invited the Chinese government in a long time ago." - Lee.
"We should be handling the China thing diplomatically, not like a bull in a China shop." - Narelle.
"Sadly the boat has already left on the China issue. For years successive governments have allowed China to purchase businesses and property in Australia and they are doing it at a rate of knots - buying Australia and other countries by stealth and wealth rather than war. It's time to put a stop to all foreign ownership of business or property in Australia." - Gail.
"Solomon Islands made their mind up when they supported China on Taiwan. We all should have taken more interest when we sent police there for the unrest. We supported them then and with hundreds of millions dollars - but we clearly didn't give enough to cover some needs." - Guy.
"Of course there should be a major overhaul of our taxation system. This country desperately needs a 'Scandinavian' type system if we are to overcome our ever growing inequality. I am sure that the majority of the population would not mind an increase in taxes if it was seen to be fair and involve better services." - Murray.
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