It's a mad mad mad mad week, environmentally
First, there was a debate on the ABC's Q&A (similar to Question Time on the BBC) about climate change. This turned out to reveal more about the differences between the sexes on the subject than who was the most likely to change the minds of either warmists or deniers. The women – Dr Megan Clark, Chief Executive of CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation); Anna Rose, co-founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition; and Rebecca Huntley, author and social commentator – were articulate, reasoned and affable. The men – Nick Minchin, former Liberal MP and well-known climate-change sceptic; and asset investor Clive Palmer – were generalizing, conservative and condescending, not to mention a tad puerile. Palmer, when addressed by chair Tony Jones at one stage, pretended he'd been nodding off. Maybe he wasn't pretending.
Then came a report, What matters to Australians, produced by the University of Technology in Sydney and the Melbourne Business School, recording 'a startling decline in the Australian population's concerns about environmental sustainability'. Fifteen hundred adults completed a questionnaire about their attitudes to society, politics and economics, including the issues of industrial pollution, climate change, renewable energy and depletion of energy resources. Only logging and habitat destruction appeared in the top 25 concerns, and no global issues were placed. The researchers concluded:
What we see in these results is a picture of a relatively conservative society concerned with local issues that influence its members' daily lives... Australians are effectively indifferent to global and societal issues, rating these significantly lower... While Australia is globally oriented in some ways, the tyranny of distance means most people aren't actually engaged with global issues as much as some might expect.
Such indifference was not to be seen, however, in the Courier Mail's reader comments following rookie Queensland Premier Campbell Newman's reaction to the news that Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke had placed the koalas of Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory on the nation's list of threatened species. Newman fears that this will add to already vast amounts of 'green tape' – ie bureaucracy – delaying the progress of development in the state, and pile more woe upon the already struggling construction industry. 'Why does the Federal Government need to get involved?' he whined.
So, let's just get this straight. In Campbell Newman's world, this
is at risk from (the increased protection of) this?
Many Courier Mail readers pointed out exactly why the Federal Government has to step in to protect endangered animals from those seeking to fast-track plans for more resource, urban and infrastructure development. Some correspondents were regretting already how they'd voted in the recent State election, now that they see Newman's true colours. Friends of koalas have been campaigning for a change to the animal's status for ages in the light of plummeting numbers, especially in Southeast Queensland, so many people were celebrating Minister Burke's announcement.
And then, a couple of days ago, the same Clive Palmer, also head of Waratah Coal, was interviewed by Steve Austin on ABC Radio Brisbane. The former had just declared his interest in seeking selection as a LNP candidate for Lilley (in Brisbane) in the next Federal election. (Lilley is currently the seat of Treasurer Wayne Swan: Mr Palmer believes he could do a better job.) To what extent this was another of Palmer's diversionary tactics, tossed to a gullible media, remains to be seen.
The interview seemed to be a revelatory experience for Steve Austin: what a great Aussie bloke Mr Palmer is; devoted to Queensland and country; creator of jobs for Aussie battlers so they can buy Christmas pressies for their kids and take them on holidays; charitable supporter of too many organisations to mention; builder of Titanic 2; and he loves his wife.
But then he was asked about the Nature Refugeª in central Queensland that he intends to bulldoze out of the way of his China First coal-mining and -exporting project. What followed was a disparaging and error-strewn dismissal of the case for conservation. What was troubling about this was not Mr Palmer's platitudinous, inaccurate and vague bluster as much as Steve Austin's lack of facts about the place. He had no comeback at all: no 'what about the 150 bird species using the Refuge?'; 'what about the biodiversity research and experimental land trials carried out there?'; 'what about the koalas?'
In just a couple of minutes, the ABC completely undermined those campaigning for conservation in the face of the inexorable progress of mineral exploitation.
To many climate scientists the world over, it must seem extraordinary that in Australia the national broadcaster still sees fit to debate whether anthropogenic global warming poses a serious challenge. But the ABC (like the BBC) and other media outlets feel they have to present the other side of an argument, even when its tenets are majorly sidelined. Unfortunately, this practice didn't extend to Mornings with Steve Austin the other day, and, as yet, the owners of the Nature Refuge in question have been given no opportunity to set the record straight.
ª see Bimblebox, March 2012
ªª on 7 May Steve Austin interviewed Paul Donatiu, Executive Co-ordinator of the National Parks Association of Queensland, and Paula Cassoni, co-owner of Bimblebox Nature Refuge, who were able to refute Clive Palmer's misinformation about the current state and history of the Nature Refuge
This post was last updated on 9 May 2012