Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Fielding demontrates why politics is not tackling climate change

First some history. Steven Fielding was elected as a Victorian Senator at the 2004 Federal election. In the election, Fielding got:
  • 45,204 primary votes,
  • which was 0.13 of a quota,
  • and was 1.8% of the total vote.
Preferences deals got him elected over David Risstrom from the Greens who gained 8.7% of the primary vote which was more than 2/3rds of a quota.

The most damaging deal was done by the Labor party with Family First. Labor gave their preferences to Steven Fielding rather than to David Risstrom - this was what elected Fielding in the end.

This article from The Age explains the intricacies of the preference deals that elected Fielding:

How party preferences picked Family First - Election 2004

This also gave John Howard control of the Senate - with Fielding on side - which resulted in Work Choices, student union reforms, lack of real action on climate change and a host of other bad things.

Senator Kim Carr (Labor Socialist Left faction), Stephen Newnham (Victorian Labor State Secretary)  and  Alan Griffin (MP, Bruce, Socialist Left faction) did the preference deal with Family First. They may have miscalculated and thought Fielding would not get enough votes, but in the end he did. This outcome was contrary to the wishes of an estimated 90% of Labor supporters who voted "above the line" on the Senate ballot, and preferred the Greens over Family First.

This demonstrates that major party politics (some might say all politics) has devolved to a game played to "get in". The game revolves around getting candidates elected with the first prize being forming a government. The game as played now has almost nothing to do with principles, long term vision, morals or just simply "doing the right thing".

Some more about Steven Fielding.

Senator Fielding, for better or worse, is there to represent the people of Victoria, along with eleven other Victorian Senators. Up until recently he has been fairly silent on the topic of climate change, but this has changed after a trip to the United States in June 2009.

During this trip, Fielding attended a gathering of "climate change sceptics and denialists" run by the right wing U.S.-based think tank - the Heartland Institute - which is partly funded by fossil fuel industry interests.

For more information on this see Fielding's climate mission from The Age.

Fielding, born and bred in suburban Melbourne, is a member of the CityLife Church, a large Pentecostal church which may have been involved in the formation of the shadowy Family First party during the lead up to the 2004 Australian federal election.

He has worked as an engineer and a senior superannuation executive before entering politics and was a member of the Knox City Council in 2003-04.

One thing is for sure - he is no climate scientist.

Soon after the "climate denialist conference" Fielding appears to believe the falsehood that the climate change emergency that we and our fellow travellers on planet earth are now facing is "part of a natural cycle, associated with solar flares". He has also presented this discredited crackpot theory to one of President Obama's senior advisers.

In doing so, he chooses to ignore the vast body of scientific evidence that climate change is in fact caused largely by increased greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity - including the large scale burning of fossil fuels and vast deforestation as a couple of examples.

Here is the "money quote" from Fielding:

"Australians must be given the opportunity to debate the possibility that climate change was part of a naturally occurring, 1500-year cycle or an increase in solar activity,"

Source: Fielding offered talks to sway climate stance | theage.com.au

Nobody seems to know, including Fielding himself, who he now represents. He opposed the "alcopops legislation" in a game of brinkmanship in the Senate and scuttled the bill - despite alcohol and health experts supporting the legislation. This was not a very "family friendly outcome".

It seems his support has eroded among his local Christian base too. His unpredictable behaviour in the senate has highlighted he is out of his depth. "between two rocks and a hard place" and not really sure what he is there for.

Some Labor party folk have even come out boxing and said he should be supporting the Labor government as it was their preferences that elected him.

Which brings me to my main topic - how "politics as usual" is badly failing our community and planet earth.

So we now have a dill in the Senate who got there by back room deals with political parties and appears ready and willing to scuttle any real and effective policy action to reduce our carbon emissions.

Opposing the Labor government's proposed weak, ineffective and unjust Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme would not be a bad thing given its serious faults. However, Fielding, along with a sizeable cadre of climate change sceptics within the Liberal and National Parties (most notably Barnaby Joyce), and a few within Labor too, would have us do nothing.

This is like being in a car about to drive of a cliff with the person driving and quite a few passengers apparently oblivious of the impending disaster.

We have the Labor party ignoring the advice of their erstwhile "chief advisor on climate change and associated economics" Ross Garnaut by delivering weak and ineffective policy that will not reduce carbon emissions (the CPRS).

The Liberal party opposes the CPRS on the basis that "it will cost us jobs" and that our profligate carbon addicted lifestyle can continue on indefinitely.

The Labor party then launches into lengthy personal attacks on Malcolm Turnbull as leader of the opposition using the both the parliament and the media. They are hypocrites - as their CPRS is effectively useless too.

The Greens insist that real action on climate change is an urgent imperative, are are attacked by Labor's Climate Change Minister Penny Wong for "blocking action" on climate change too.

And now we have the looming threat of the joker in the pack - Steven Fielding - most likely throwing a spanner in the works with his "casting vote" in the Senate for all the wrong reasons.

We need to find a way to get climate change and energy policy free from political interference and obscuration.

We need to link it to measures supported by scientific evidence - such as the need to reduce atmospheric CO2 to around 300ppm and stabilise global temperature increases to below 1 degree.

It is now obvious that a 2 degrees rise now has unacceptable risk of severe consequences such as drought, bushfires, acidification of the oceans and sea level rises of 2m to 7m within 100 years.

The Labor government of Australia is still comfortable with a target in the range of 450 to 550ppm CO2 which is clearly not acceptable. They are playing Russian roulette with our future.

See also

1 comment:

Fran said...

Speaking as an active Greens supporter, what you say in relation to Fielding is beyond reproach, but frankly, I'd sooner no ETS than one that locks in advantages for big polluters.

Unless we can get stuff on free certificates, the cap, treatment of REDD credits resolved suitably, I'd say defer