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December 07th 2009 print

David Flint

Abbott and media duplicity

The commentariat wrote off Tony Abbott but now they have egg on their faces over the weekend by-elections. In just a few days he has changed the debate. And the electors like what they see.

Tony Abbott "a complete disaster"

Describing the elevation of Tony Abbott as "a complete disaster", Malcolm Mackerras predicted the Liberal Party would lose former Treasurer Peter Costello’s seat of Higgins and go to preferences in former Defence Minister Brendan Nelson’s seat of Bradfield. These, he said, were once safe Liberal electorates where people now “wanted action on climate change”.

He agreed with a Newspoll survey in September that Tony Abbott’s leadership and position on climate change  would mean the Liberals would lose twenty seats at the next election, as the front page of The Weekend Australian’s on 28 November so unwisely proclaimed.

Professor Mackerras is one of the nation’s leading psephologists. But he is given to making predictions which can best be described in “Yes Minister” terms as courageous. On one celebrated occasion he predicted the defeat of Sir Joh Bjelke–Petersen’s Queensland government. The government was in fact returned. The next day Malcolm Mackerras received a package from the Premier’s office. On opening it, he found a scrubbing brush. He telephoned the Premier and asked why he had sent the brush. “It’s to scrub the egg off your face,” Sir Joh teased.

After the poll in Bradfield and Higgins, there will be many in the commentariat who will need to scrub the egg off their faces.

When the gallery favourite Joe Hockey did not win the leadership, the general  line was that the Liberals had committed suicide.  This only shows how out of touch so many in the press gallery are.

The reasons for the Abbott victory in the two by-elections are twofold.

First, opinion on global warming (now known as climate change) is changing. Its best days are over. The most propitious time to pass the ETS legislation has come and gone. It is all downhill from here. The other reason is Tony Abbott. Australians are now looking at him,not as a maverick front bencher, but as the alternative Prime Minister. And they are showing every sign of liking what they see.

As to opinion, the fact is that opinion polls are at best a snapshot. And opinions do change. The veil the campaigning media have put over the detail of and challenges to global warming and the ETS is slowly being lifted – against the will of the mainstream media who are still campaigning, rather than reporting. Their attempt to suppress or minimise reporting of that scandal known as “Climategate” demonstrates that. Compare that with, say, and their almost daily hysteria over the so called “children overboard.”

Media duplicity on this goes to the most basic questions. For example the mainstream media  have gone along with and left unquestioned the devious rebadging of anthropogenic global warming as “climate change.”   The reason for the change is that the planet is not warming as the computer projections predict. 

The mainstream media present the theory of anthropogenic global warming as proven – there is they say “a consensus”. They refer to infallible authority, the shorthand for which is “the  science”.

There is of course no “consensus”, science does not work like politics. Whenever you read or hear the term “the science”, know that this is a spin doctor designed device to try to tell you there is no other view among reputable scientists. This is a Stalinist approach to science, not consistent with the standards and practices of a disinterested search for the facts, the truth.

No one denies climate change; the only issue is the cause. Even if the 3 or 5% of carbon dioxide which results from man’s activities affects the climate significantly, Australia’s share is hardly worth talking about, a mere 0.18%. The Americans, Indians, Chinese and Europeans are clearly not going to reduce emissions significantly. And in the meantime what is to stop the other factors which have changed the climate for millions of years?

The public are beginning to realise they have been led up the garden path. There is a growing sense of betrayal over the behaviour of some of the scientists.  The Climategate outrage has shown the public that some climate scientists are prepared to do things – even break the law – to advance the theory of anthropogenic global warming in ways which are not consistent with their claimed status as disinterested scientists.

Then there is a growing realisation that   an early Australian ETS was pointless, creating a new burdensome tax, a slush fund with politicised handouts, a giant bureaucracy and an enormous and growing burden on the Australian people. The Rudd-Turnbull coalition to force this through so the Prime Minister could lord it over the other politicians at Copenhagen was the last straw. It proved too much for the rank and file, and forced the change in the Liberal leadership.

Kevin Rudd, along with other Western leaders has nominated global warming as the moral issue of this generation. But Copenhagen will not result in a binding international agreement which will achieve a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Nevertheless the Prime Minister will be taking one of the largest delegations to this useless talkfest. He will be there with something like 100 or so politicians, public servants and probably consultants, creating a massive carbon footprint.  

Rudd leaves himself open to the charge of hypocrisy on this wasteful extravagance as he does on the more important question of nuclear energy. Professor of Climate Change Barry Brook and Martin Nicholson argue that the case for nuclear power is stronger than ever now the newer fast reactors are safer and capable of providing clean power for generations. And why not help the Indians reduce their growing emissions? There is no good reason not to sell uranium to India, and pretend the prohibition is bi-partisan which it isn’t.

The other new factor is Tony Abbott as the alternative Prime Minister. To the elites he is unelectable, but the rank and file are looking at him anew. The attempt to brand him as Captain Catholic won’t work- Catholicism is now if not the establishment religion supplanting Anglicanism it has more adherents than any other. Abbott’s attachment is to the faith and its principles- neither he nor John Howard ever publicised when and where they would be in church to allow a post church doorstop as Kevin Rudd does. Rudd uses religion as a backdrop; Howard and Abbott believe you keep your devotional life private and not use it as decor.

In the same way Abbott kept his community work private and never let the media know when he would be on duty as a lifesaver or a fireman. Rudd tried to change the time of the dawn service in Asia so he could be shown on breakfast TV.

If they haven’t already, the electorate will work out these character differences. Abbott truthful, athletic, a frank and down to earth Australian, Rudd, a spin doctored bureaucrat. In a modern election, one man will stand out and appeal to both men and women as quintessentially what they imagine an Australian to be.

Just in a few days Abbott has already changed the debate. Now that he is in charge, his character is coming through. The Prime Minister should worry. The easy days when Malcolm Turnbull first tried to remove him on the flimsiest of grounds, then formed a coalition over the ETS have gone. We are about to see a new episode of pugilistic adversarial plain speaking politics. 

It will be entertaining. It will not be dull. And it will serve the nation’s best interest.