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April 23rd 2016 print

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott: What Went Wrong

The former PM ponders what he might have done to make the Turnbull coup less likely or, perhaps more accurately, less likely to succeed. Abandoning efforts to reform Section 18C, he concedes, alienated supporters, but the greater flaw was a failure to communicate

abott turnbullNo change of leadership happens overnight, as political parties don’t lightly cull their leaders, especially in government. Inevitably, it involves much disruption and lasting bad blood. It’s hard to vote no-confidence in the prime minister without casting aspersions on the government too. It only happens when a majority of MPs have concluded that they’d be more likely to gain promotion, win their seats, or hold government under someone else. The question for me is not just what others might have done wrong but what I could have done better or differently to have made the coup less likely.

Inevitably, some criticism is justified. No one makes the right call on everything. There are some “no win” decisions, no matter who or how gifted the decision-maker might be. I am convinced that the Abbott government got the big things right. Equally, there’s no doubt that there were mistakes in smaller things that loomed large enough for my colleagues to think that they would fare better under a new leader.

No one could credibly claim that I ran a “do nothing” government. My 2013 election campaign pledge was that we’d stop the boats, scrap the carbon tax, build the roads of the twenty-first century and get the budget back under control. Just two years on, with the partial exception of budget savings, the Abbott government had substantially delivered. In addition, we’d finalised three historic free-trade agreements with our largest trading partners; ended the practice of bailing out failing businesses; ramped up national security against unprecedented terror threats at home and abroad; and there was an orderly process in place to handle complex and contentious issues such as tax reform and federation reform via two white papers. Despite headwinds abroad, some 300,000 extra jobs had been created in an economy that was “under new management and open for business”.

If the Abbott government really had been chaotic and dysfunctional, as alleged, how did all this happen? Stopping the boats was supposed to be impossible. Labor said it was an undeliverable three-word slogan. The boats were stopped because the government had a crystal-clear objective, a well-thought-through plan, and the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances; and, most importantly, the ability of ministers to work together with senior officials and with thousands of personnel to get things done.

If the Abbott government really did have zero ability to work with the Senate, how did we manage the repeal of the carbon tax and the mining tax, plus significant pension reform and a raft of savings totalling $50 billion over the forward estimates? If I had failed to grow into the job of being prime minister, who or what persuaded the leaders of Korea, Japan and China that FTAs which had eluded my predecessors for a decade were a good idea; and how had the G20 that I chaired been such a diplomatic success? If the Abbott government had been uninterested in economics or incapable of serious reform, how could we have resisted the pressure from big businesses to bail them out of trouble? If I really had been incapable of putting nation before party, how did the government maintain bipartisanship on four tranches of national security legislation?

If the Abbott office really had been oppressive, why was staff turnover so low? How could a badly managed operation have managed to despatch a Labor government in almost record time? No large office working under great pressure is free from tension or personality clashes but my team was highly professional and included some who’d worked in senior roles in the Howard office and ministry with which, they thought, mine stood comparison. The last thing former members of my staff deserve is to have their reputations blackened by people trying to justify a change of leadership.

The most compelling vindication of the Abbott government has been the Turnbull government’s maintenance of its key policies: including turning around illegal immigrant boats, direct action on climate change, a plebiscite on same-sex marriage and stripping terrorists with dual nationality of their Australian citizenship.

Notoriously, the Rudd–Gillard government wasted many billions of dollars building grossly over-priced school halls and installing (and then removing) roof batts that caused houses to burn down. It stopped the live cattle trade with Indonesia in panic at a television program. It announced four years of surpluses while delivering the biggest deficits in our history. By contrast, the worst failure of the Abbott government was our inability to get our political opponents to support unpopular reforms in the Senate.

All prime ministers have to make hard calls, as so many decisions are contentious, even within parties, and have to be resolved by someone taking a side. The challenge is to ensure that people feel sufficiently “in the loop” to accept the decisions that go against them. There were some issues that the Abbott government could have managed better or not pursued at all. Still, some of our thorniest problems were handled with a collegiality quite at odds with the repeated allegations of “command and control”.

After winning the leadership by just one vote in 2009, at Kevin Andrews’s urging I held an unprecedented secret ballot where the party room overwhelmingly confirmed that we would oppose the then-Labor government’s emissions trading scheme. Once the policy question had been resolved, there was no ideological “get square” because our party, in John Howard’s words, flourishes as a “broad church”. Successful political parties need to make the most of all their talent; so once he’d decided to stay in the Parliament, I restored Malcolm Turnbull to the shadow cabinet in the post-2010 election reshuffle.

Our direct-action policy on climate change—tree planting on poor soils, improved pasture, and new technology—was designed not only to reduce emissions but to improve our economic performance as well. By adopting such measures in preference to an emissions trading scheme, the party stayed united because these measures made sense regardless of the precise extent of man-made global warming.

Same-sex marriage became a fraught issue as soon as Labor changed its position to allow a conscience vote. Prior to the 2013 election, my response to colleagues who were keen for change was that there couldn’t be a free vote on a matter of party policy. More importantly, we couldn’t credibly damn Labor on the carbon tax (for having one policy before an election but a different one afterwards) if we did exactly the same with same-sex marriage.

Going into the 2013 election, our position was that same-sex marriage would be a matter for the Coalition party room if a private member’s bill were to come up in the next parliament. By the time one did, in mid-2015, the National Party remained overwhelmingly opposed while a significant minority in the Liberal Party had become strongly in favour.

As prime minister, John Howard had shrewdly pointed out that the Liberal Party was the representative, in this country, of both the small-l liberal and the conservative political traditions. In my judgment, the principal political party of the centre-Right could not lightly abandon an understanding of marriage that had stood since time immemorial. We needed an outcome that accommodated changing views inside the party and within the community but that respected the traditional concept of marriage.

“In this climate … it became beneath the dignity of a prime minister to serve in the local rural fire brigade or to do surf patrol, at least if it meant wearing Speedos!”

In our party room debate, almost every MP spoke and about two-thirds supported marriage between a man and a woman. In my judgment, the minority view was too strong for the pre-existing policy to stand unaltered for another term but that meant finding a mechanism to deal with it that both sides could respect with an outcome that nearly everyone could accept. Hence, a plebiscite in the next term of parliament so that this issue, heartfelt on both sides, could be decided by the Australian people and not just by easy-to-lobby MPs. For those in favour, this opened the door to change; but it also maintained the possibility that the traditional position could be confirmed for a long time to come. The job of each side would be to persuade the public, not just to pressure MPs. Thus a bitter party-room showdown was avoided and what could have been a continuing distraction was resolved.

Not all the contentious issues that the Abbott government faced were as successfully managed. A very serious mistake, in retrospect, was abolishing the debt ceiling. This was done to avoid a confidence-sapping “fiscal cliff” early in the life of a new government. We never imagined that the cross-bench elected in 2013 would be so resistant to spending cuts. After its mistakes in government, we never imagined that the Labor Party would be so committed to unsustainable spending. What’s now apparent is that the debt ceiling would have forced both the opposition and the cross-bench to face fiscal reality in a way that no amount of cajoling could.

Another serious problem was how to balance pre-election commitments with the worse-than-expected budget position we inherited and the faster-than-Treasury-forecast collapse in the terms of trade. The budget repair challenge in 2014 was even bigger than in 2013 when, in opposition, I’d declared a “budget emergency”. The Abbott government tried to balance the need to keep commitments with the need for budget repair by starting some key savings measures (such as pension changes) after the next election. I thought that this was akin to John Howard promising “never, ever” to introduce a GST but then taking one to an election. Still, the public felt let down—and, in politics, it’s the perception that matters most.

At the very beginning of the Abbott government’s life, I made a series of decisions that were reasonable, even self-evident in principle, but which created much resentment in the party room. I stopped the employment of immediate family members in MPs’ own offices because of the inevitable perceptions of favouritism; I ended first-class overseas travel out of respect for taxpayers; and I restricted family travel within Australia and spouse travel overseas because family very rarely accompanied business trips in the private sector. These were perks that many MPs had understandably enjoyed and that previous prime ministers had tolerated. In some cases, having a spouse in the office, paid or unpaid, may have helped MPs’ work. With the benefit of hindsight, at the very least, I should have handled this more sensitively.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it illegal to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” people on race grounds. This is clearly a bad law. Our debates should be polite but they should never be guaranteed not to offend. The Coalition had opposed section 18C on free-speech grounds when it was introduced by the Keating government. Still, the Howard government had left it on the statute books, presumably because it was rarely used. It was only after columnist Andrew Bolt was successfully prosecuted in 2011 that the Coalition promised to “repeal it in its present form”.

A rather convoluted draft repeal bill prompted backbench threats to cross the floor and fierce criticism from state Liberal leaders. As well, by mid-2014, with the terror threat rising, I was already starting to consider new laws to crack down on Islamist hate preachers. Nevertheless, as soon as I said that changes to section 18C were “off the table”, there were cries of betrayal from conservatives who had hitherto been largely silent. With hindsight, I should have persisted with a simpler amendment along the lines of Senator Bob Day’s later private member’s bill.

Another big problem was the six-months-at-full-pay government-funded paid parental leave scheme that I’d first advocated in my book Battlelines and had taken to two elections as Coalition policy. If couples where both partners work for middle incomes are to have more children, it really must be easier to combine work and family. Modern conservatism should make it more practical for more people to have more children. Still, some colleagues felt deeply that it was valuing women in the workforce ahead of stay-at-home mums. Well before a group of conservative dissidents had emerged, I should have concluded that budget realities made this policy undeliverable.

The restoration of knighthoods in the Order of Australia was a personal decision. Sir Peter Cosgrove, Dame Quentin Bryce, Dame Marie Bashir and Sir Angus Houston were popular choices, but knighting Prince Philip generated a storm of criticism. No one raised it with me when I spent an hour in a public bar in Colac a few days after Australia Day 2015 but it was certainly cited by colleagues at the time of the attempted spill a fortnight later. I should have anticipated this hostility (even though Canada and New Zealand had not long before each conferred on Prince Philip their highest honour) and I should have left these awards in the hands of the council of the order. Likewise, the initial presence of only one woman in the cabinet was an avoidable error.

Looking back over my prime ministership, I should have done more media interviews, especially long-form interviews where voters see more personality and less adversarial sparring. Yes, there’s always the risk of mistakes but there’s also the chance to develop an argument and to engender confidence.

In retrospect, the small things that annoyed people tended to outweigh the big things that pleased them. There were always people willing the Abbott government to fail but I made some unnecessary enemies and left too many friends feeling under-appreciated. The Australian newspaper, for instance, welcomed the China free-trade deal but on its front page criticised the government for its inability to market its own success.

In this climate, everything became question­able, even volunteering in remote indigenous communities or the annual Pollie Pedal charity bike ride that would normally have been marks of authenticity, or at least originality. It became beneath the dignity of a prime minister to serve in the local rural fire brigade or to do surf patrol, at least if it meant wearing Speedos!

I can’t let pride in what was achieved under my leadership blind me to the flaws that made its termination easier, even if claims were exaggerated or exploited in self-serving ways. Enough went wrong to cause the Liberal Party to copy Labor’s decapitation of a first-term government, rather than to learn from it; and, for that, I must take responsibility.

I received a lot of public advice to drop key personnel, including Treasurer Joe Hockey and Chief of Staff Peta Credlin. As is now more apparent, it’s far from easy to deliver savings against a hostile Senate, with big spending “Abbott-proofed” in legislation. It’s far from easy to deliver tax reform in an era of chronic deficits. In prime ministers’ offices, there has to be a balance between “going with the flow” and “getting the message right”; even standing up to ministers when the situation demands it. My considered judgment was that dumping people who were working in lock-step with the prime minister was much more likely to trigger a crisis than to resolve one.

Looking back, the Abbott government’s biggest problem was people’s reluctance to accept that short-term pain might be needed for long-term gain. People readily believe that what’s said to be in the national interest is really just someone else’s self-interest. Resentment that someone, somewhere, somehow is getting a better deal is easy to exploit, especially in the era of social media and a Senate that no longer sees itself as a house of review. Governments have a big megaphone but it’s harder and harder to have a measured debate about anything that involves reducing benefits or services, however unsustainable they might be. Even if the fundamental point is conceded, there is always someone or something else that should be targeted.

The Abbott government was committed to budget surpluses—and to securing the savings to obtain them—so that we could responsibly deliver lower taxes and greater prosperity. We supported a Medicare co-payment because people should make a contribution to the services they receive, rather than expect something for nothing. We wanted school leavers to go to work or to stay in education or training because no one should begin adult life on social security, if there is an alternative. We wanted to reform pensions because you can’t have fewer workers supporting more pensioners without feeding inter-generational resentment. We sought a lower rate of increase in Commonwealth funding for public schools and public hospitals because the states should take more responsibility for the services they deliver. There was a moral purpose to all the reforms of the 2014 budget but it was lost in a welter of complaints about cruel cuts and broken promises that made the government look more interested in economic theory than in people’s lives.

People needed a greater appreciation of the government’s aims. We needed to explain better that sensible economic policy is not an end in itself but the means to a better society and to people being more able to achieve their potential. In the busy-ness of public life and in the crossfire of politics, the Abbott government was too often unable to convey that its fundamental purpose was a stronger society and more fulfilled people.

The conservative side of politics is not just about better economic management. We’re about the greater fairness, more thorough-going justice and deeper empowerment that a stronger economy makes possible. This was the challenge that the Abbott government couldn’t always rise to and that I hope to address in my future public life.

The Hon. Tony Abbott, the federal Member for Warringah, was Prime Minister of Australia from September 2013 to September 2015. This is the third and final article that he agreed in January to provide to Quadrant in defence of the Abbott government’s record. “The Economic Case for the Abbott Government” was published in the March issue and “The National Security Case for the Abbott Government” in April.

 

Comments [20]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    Excellent, self-searching article Tony, worthy of both an ex-journalist and ex-prime minister. It is great to see you confirming your intentions to continue in public life. Who knows, …?

    • Tezza says:

      I’ve enjoyed and learnt from all 3 of these essays, but this last one is the best and most thought-provoking for me.

      It’s telling that the first mistake you mention is dropping the debt ceiling. With that decision, pretty much all the Costello-era attempts to improve budget transparency and honesty and far-sightedness have been either abolished or circumvented.

      I appreciate your sensitive discussion of the same sex ‘marriage’ issue from the Liberal party leadership perspective.

      I agree we need more long-form interviews with Australian leaders. The Annabel Crabb interviews with you and Rudd were the best insights for voters in that election cycle – favourable to you and unfavourable to Rudd, in my view.

      Please hang in with Australian public life – we need you, even if many don’t know it yet!

  2. Margie Joan says:

    That is the best political essay I have ever read. It is full of all the qualities which make a person exceptional – acceptance of personal failings, clearly stated aims and objectives of what a government should stand for, a definite direction for government leading to ‘a stronger society and more fulfilled people.”

    Turnbull’s dastardly coup has been a disaster for Australia. Tony Abbott’s record as Prime Minister proves he is by far the best person for the job of leading the Coalition Government into the coming 2016 election.

    Time for those Liberals who supported Tony Abbott after the political back stabbing Turnbull’s coup, to call a spill, remove the traitorous Turnbull and reinstate our former Prime Minister to the top job.

    In contrast to Malcolm Turnbull’s dithering, waffling Rudd-like leadership, Tony Abbott is an outstanding politician who has always dedicated himself to work in the best interests of Australia and all Australians.

  3. ianl says:

    > … I was already starting to consider new laws to crack down on Islamist hate preachers

    Yes. yes, Mr Abbott, but that hasn’t happened. Only people who speak against sharia law and its’ accoutrements (Islamist hate preachers) are punished with 18C.

    I’m pleased that you stopped the boats and removed those two odious, stupid taxes. But you made a huge mistake in backing off 18C reform and I cannot forgive that act of cowardice. The ABC and Fauxfax beat you right up, didn’t they ?

    Of course I know Lord Waffle is worse, but now … so what ?

  4. Bran Dee says:

    A biography may disclose flaws but an autobiography is always self-serving.

    The media showed little respect for for the office when Tony Abbott was PM partly because he was unable to command respect. His appointment of the Minister of Communications was at the time, and more so in retrospect, the worst choice possible.
    The list of lost opportunities is endless and where was there any appetite shown to reform the ABC or to cut spending anywhere- any time?

    A high quality Liberal team would have been in office 3 years before it happened so let us turn the page, please.

  5. a propos says:

    There are not that many opportunities for a member of the public to witness and to understand such a lucid and, yet, so emphatically humble and sincere self analysis by a sitting politician. I was going to write “leaving an emotional hurt aside” and than stopped – why should Tony Abbott leave this hurt aside? Why should he not smoulder and rage at the eviscerating pain of an unjust and unseemly(to put it mildly) betrayal by those he trusted, nurtured and formed? I think he should but could not. That is the kind of an emotion/reason dichotomy , which is unavoidable in such a situation. To get above the hurt, to clearly, objectively and succinctly analyse one’s own shortcomings, mistakes and achievements, to refrain from the unseemly spectacle of the political blame game and remain committed to the wellbeing of fellow Australians – all this brings nothing but respect for a dignity and the decency Tony Abbott has.
    Thank you Mr Abbott.
    Thank you very much indeed, Sir.

  6. Matt says:

    Yes, 18C was a mistake. There is a clear distinction between what 18C addresses and the problem of inciting terrorism. The difference is that in one instance the reaction of the impacted party is that they don’t like what they hear but in the other the impacted party does like what they hear. Terrorism is about incitement and ‘background music’ that is generally spoken or stated in situations where the only hearers are like-minded. 18C is completely different. Hence drawing the link between 18C and counter-terrorism is a mistake. Terrorism requires completely different tools.

    The other issue is with the plebiscite. The plebiscite is not the issue so much as the failure to deal with the effective criminalisation of the approximately one in five Australians who hold the view that homosexual marriage is wrong because homosexual relationships are wrong and have no legitimate place in our society whatsoever. Hence as things currently stand it will be impossible for the plebiscite to be conducted in a fair manner since a large proportion of the population cannot publicly advance their arguments without fear of legally sanctioned hardship of some description. Not all those who hold that view are Christians, but for those who are the logic is very straightforward:
    Homosexual marriage is wrong because homosexual relationships are wrong.
    Homosexual relationships are wrong because that is the position of the God whom we worship.
    (If anyone has a problem with that then all I can suggest in response is to take it up with God. For those who think that God doesn’t hold that view then perhaps they are talking about a different god.)

  7. Mr Johnson says:

    The backtrack on 18c, the whale-sized Parental Leave scheme while preaching belt tightening, the Prince Phillip knighthood (et al) – I lashed you for them. And so did my friends, family, Bolt and a mountain of other commentators who were Conservative supporters. What we actually did was embolden the Liberal politicians who were being constantly seduced by Malcolm. We unwittingly helped them, and now many of us (Mr Bolt), lament that you are gone.

    It all reminds me a few lines from the song by Mick Jagger called Sympathy for the Devil.
    I shouted out,
    “Who killed the Kennedys?”
    When after all
    It was you and me.

    I can’t help thinking that we only made things worse.

  8. Tony, thank you for another readable and enjoyable article. However the biggest reasons for your supposed ‘failure’ are not those you outlined. To successfully ‘reverse’ the damage done to the social and economic fabric of our society, and even that done to civilisation everywhere, you/conservative politicians must explain clearly and logically what you stand for – free markets/capitalism/freedom – and what you oppose – totalitarianism of all sorts be it secular [communism/fascism/Nazism i.e. all varieties of socialism] or theological such as Islam.
    In practical terms it means that the LNP must take on the leftist media and go in really hard and explain the true nature/meaning of socialism. i.e. you must stress that socialists will take, by FORCE, the money/earnings from one section of the population [the wealth generators/productive] to give to another section of the population who won’t or don’t want to earn their money. Anybody tempted to vote socialist [because they think they might get 'something for nothing'] should be told forcefully and repeated that anybody who is prepared to sacrifice somebody else’s interest to gain a vote will not hesitate to later sacrifice them if there are more votes in it. Nothing more needs to be said about the threat of Islamic totalitarianism except to point out the hypocrisy of the leftists in the media and academia who devote more adverse comments to your Speedos than they do to the absolute barbarity of female genital mutilation or beheading of ‘infidels’.

  9. Ian MacDougall says:

    People needed a greater appreciation of the government’s aims. We needed to explain better…

    A common enough trope; there is scarcely a defeated politician who has not resorted to it. Yet what could be simpler than the mantra ‘stopped the boats‘ (hooray!); got rid of the carbon tax (boo!); got rid of the mining tax (boo!).
    I remain to be convinced that Tony Abbott’s much-vaunted ‘direct action’ will result in the net long-term removal of a single molecule of CO2 from the air, particularly given that the cynical consensus in the Coalition sponsoring this program, which is that AGW is a contrivance to divert hard-earned taxpayer dollars into the pockets (via research grants) of venal climatologists. Or as Tony (“the future is coal”) Abbott himself put it in his inimitable and never-revised way: “crap”.
    What ‘direct action’ undoubtedly does do is divert taxpayer dollars into the coffers of agribusiness via so-called ‘carbon offsets’, which in fire-prone Australia, are a dodgy proposition at best. Lovely carbon-offset sponsored eucalypt forest today: ash-pile tomorrow.
    Meanwhile, China, India and much of SE Asia depend for their fresh water supply on glacier-fed rivers arising in the Himalayan Plateau. The safest course, as Margaret Thatcher put it so well, is to give the planet the benefit of any doubt. That involves the whole Earth getting off fossil fuels asap. Hence the UN-brokered climate agreement Greg Hunt put his signature to yesterday.
    But as the priority of the Coalition has been business-as-usual, any measures taken by it in that direction are half-hearted and cynical at best.
    Global warming is best indicated by sea-level rise, which is due to thermal expansion of sea water and/or glacial melting. It is almost certainly down to GHGs humanity is pumping into the atmosphere from fossil fuel mining (vide the ‘burning Condomine’) and combustion of coal, and which Kevin Rudd in one of his more lucid moments called “the greatest moral issue of our time”.

    • Margie Joan says:

      Ian, here is an article about the benefits of coal which is the opposite view to yours. You may or may not like to read it:-
      http://pickeringpost.com/story/on-earth-day-we-should-celebrate-the-true-green-fuels/5955

      • I suspect your post will be ignored. Ian has made his mind up in the mode of a ‘true believer’ [in the religious sense] and nothing will convince him that there is no genuine/actual ‘evidence’ in the commonly accepted sense of the world that the miniscule amount of ‘warming’ caused by humans burning fossil fuels will cause a ‘catastrophe’. Here are a few of hundreds of links I have about ‘catastrophic AGW’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crefcQpwA5w , http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/11/03/jim-steeles-climate-change-presentation-to-the-ieee-life-members/
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qASFh0YfFpY

      • ianl says:

        Margie

        MacDougall pretends to science but much prefers ad homs and low level sarcasm

        I suspect even the quite low-level Pickering articles are a bit much for him.

        I’ve tried to enagage hime in actual scientific discourse but he avoids it, simply linking to idiotic websites like Sceptical Science. Good luck to you, but I know he will never admit that CO2 is but a minor, bit player.

        • Margie Joan says:

          Thanks for your reply ianl. In reference to your comment, “quite low-level Pickering articles”, I might add that Viv Forbes has written many erudite articles for Pickering Post on matters to do with the climate. It is the Left that complicates the chemistry of CO2.

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            Margie Joan:
            I went to the Pickering site.
            I have no argument with “coal saved the forests that were being cut down for smelters, forges, charcoal, heaters and stoves. Steel made with coke then replaced wood for mine props, bridges and tall buildings. As steam engines and iron ships replaced wooden windjammers in world navies and merchant fleets, the forests expanded.” (Etc.) It may be true about deforestation caused by sailing-era shipbuilding. I don’t know.
            Except it is rationalisation after the fact, and does not address the main climate issue, which is buildup of GHGs in the atmosphere, principally CO2 from fossil fuel combustion. That gas is being added faster than the natural sinks can remove it. It is also a heat-trapping gas, it acidifies sea-water, and biologists are concerned about the effect of this on marine ecosystems.
            I would definitely like the climate ‘sceptics’ to be right, but I have not seen any reason to change my thinking on the matter so far. And every time some dodgy political operator like Tony “the future is coal” Abbott launches an attack on the CSIRO and climatology, my conviction that the mainstream science is right only deepens.
            The fact is that a person’s political position is a good predictor of their stance on climate change. I remember Nick Minchin taking part in a TV program on the subject and opening with the statement “I am a conservative” and then going on to attack the mainstream science from that. And your statement above that “it is the Left that complicates the chemistry of CO2″ is in the same vein. For the chemistry of CO2 is decided by nature.
            CO2 is a heat-trapping gas, and it acidifies water, which can then go on to attck naturally occurring carbonates as found in shellfish, corals, etc.
            Its concentration in the air is increasing.
            Those facts are not exactly rocket chemistry. And politics cannot alter them one little bit.

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          ianl:

          …but I know he will never admit that CO2 is but a minor, bit player.

          I won’t. Because it’s not, however you choose to define “minor bit player”.

          • Margie Joan says:

            Thank you Ian for your detailed response and for taking the time to read the article on the green fuels. You are correct, it did not directly address the climate issue. The following two articles do address the issue directly. However, there is a fair bit of reading and listening if you open all the links:-

            Viv Forbes 7.4.2016, false assumption that global temperature is controlled by human production of two carbon bearing ‘Greenhouse Gases’.
            http://pickeringpost.com/story/carbon-delusions-and-defective-models/5894

            Viv Forbes 14.3.2016, The Earth’s climate is gradually cooling:-
            http://pickeringpost.com/glance/weather-ripples-and-climate-tides/5809
            Especially watch the video by Prof Carter.

            From a botanical point of view, Tony Abbott’s direct action plan is my favourite because the forests mop up and depend on CO2 for survival, and they in turn exhale the oxygen that is crucial for our survival.

  10. Ian MacDougall says:

    Margie,

    Thanks for the link.
    I’m a bit busy right now, but will respond asap.
    Watch this space.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Margie,
      The planet is warming, no matter what Pickering or Prof Carter might say. Proof of that is the fact that the global sea level is rising, as I have continuously reminded my fellow commenters on this site. The Topex and Jason series of satellite altimetry data says that ocean is rising (at 3.3 +/- 0.4 mm/yr}. This can only be due to glacial melt and/or thermal expansion of ocean water, meaning inescapably that the planet is warming.
      http://sealevel.colorado.edu/
      That’s 33 mm (3.3 cm) per decade, and 33 cm per century. That, plus increased energy in the atmosphere results in storm surges in the Pacific and possibly, wildfires in California and Australia.
      Climate ‘sceptics’ appear to me to have given up looking for alternative sources of CO2 for the air and H2O for the oceans, like volcanoes. Thay now argue that this warming is a good thing anyway. Etc. Etc.

  11. pgang says:

    Clearly there is a great deal of soul searching behind this honest appraisal, which demonstrates true character. Lack of communication always seemed to me to be the issue. The public never got the chance to warm to the government. I would also add that communication is a two-way street, and the government also failed to heed the concerns of its conservative base.

    Notice I use the term ‘the government’ in a proper sense. I don’t consider what we have now to be worthy of that title.