Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has linked his damning verdict on the state of Australian politics to the overthrow of Malcolm Turnbull last August, accusing his own colleagues of bowing to “irrational pressure” from “shouty” commentators and warning this is now an entrenched problem.
He refused to define the “shouty press”, saying: “That’ll just ruin the rest of my life. I don’t need that.”
She sits in the national security subcommittee of the cabinet and has run Australia’s external intelligence agency with aplomb. While she has her detractors inside the government, Labor strategists have a healthy regard for her electoral appeal. She is the only Liberal who makes them nervous and may induce voters to take another look at this government and to scrutinise Bill Shorten one last time before electing him.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has accused her Opposition counterpart Tanya Plibersek of wanting to provide for a “terrorist picnic” in Syria.
Tony Abbott appears to be laying the groundwork for Australia to extend its airstrikes against Islamic State extremists from Iraq into Syria, but Ms Plibersek, said she would rather see an increase in Australia’s humanitarian role.
There was a funny moment yesterday in Parliament, when cameras caught Julie Bishop rolling her eyes while Joe Hockey was speaking. Later she put her head in her hands.
What was Australia’s Foreign Minister reacting to? It might have been reports that surfaced yesterday morning that the Expenditure Review Committee – the government’s notorious razor gang – had recommended yet more cuts to the foreign aid budget.
You could be forgiven for feeling a little sympathy for Bishop. She had just returned from Vanuatu, where Cyclone Pam had wreaked a trail of destruction across the island chain. And yet no-one had bothered to inform her of these latest cuts to her foreign aid budget, a key item in any foreign minister’s toolkit.
The rather pointed gestures from the foreign minister highlighted ongoing tensions in the federal cabinet. The government’s best performing minister by some margin, Bishop has constantly surpassed expectations since taking office. The contrast with Hockey, whose performance in the key role of Treasurer has been dismal, is stark.
There is considerable injustice, then, in the fact that Bishop’s portfolio has time and again been asked to carry the bulk of the pain of Joe Hockey’s faltering efforts at budget repair. Of course, Bishop is only the responsible minister. The true victims of the foreign aid austerity are the poorest and neediest people in Australia’s region – precisely those who most deserve our support.
Australian voters have a somewhat ambivalent attitude to foreign aid. If you ask them which part of the budget should be slashed to help consolidate the deficit, foreign aid typically tops the list. Populist sentiment often reflects the old saw of charity beginning at home. Maverick Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has been a vocal critic of the foreign aid budget, preferring to see such largesse expended in her own impoverished island home.
But foreign aid can sometimes be popular. When disaster strikes, Australians can be remarkably generous – as our warm-hearted response to the 2004 tsunami showed. Already, we’ve seen a beneficent response to Vanuatu’s devastation.
The real problem for foreign aid is that it has no strong lobby group or noisy affected industry to complain when funding is cut. Governments have responded by making foreign aid their first port of call whenever spending cuts are mentioned.
The rot set in under Labor. Kevin Rudd began his government with bold plans to lift Australia’s foreign aid spending to 0.5 per cent of our gross national income, in line with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals that we’d signed up for. By the time Julia Gillard became prime minister, the 0.5 per cent target was a distant dream, and foreign aid became a huge target for a government desperate to claim a balanced budget.
Joe Hockey continued the trend. In fact, he cut even deeper. $7.6 billion deeper. More than a fifth of all the 2014 budget savings came from foreign aid.
In December 2014, Hockey did it again. The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook cut a further $3.7 billion from foreign aid. On some analyses, that takes Australia’s foreign aid down to its lowest level since 1954.
The upshot is that Australia is in danger of becoming a Scrooge. As we get richer, we are getting more miserly. Our economy continues to grow, meaning we are wealthier than ever. But our generosity seems to be declining in direct opposition to our wealth.
As the ANU’s Stephen Howes and Jonathan Pryke noted back in December, the cuts will play havoc with existing aid programs. “How do you cut another quarter from an already-pruned aid program?” they ask. “The aid program that emerges from the resulting slash-and-burn will be a very different beast.”
It already is.
The abolition of AusAID in 2013 was welcomed by many in the aid sector, arguing that the organisation had a mixed record and was often inefficient in its use of government funding. Unfortunately, the big cuts since have made it impossible to judge whether the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is handling its new responsibilities any better. An environment where bureaucrats are scrambling to work out how to slash $1 billion from a $5 billion in just six months is hardly a recipe for good governance.
Figures like this should give us all pause for thought. Australia faces significant challenges in our region in future decades, and we won’t improve our chances of managing them by slashing aid to the less developed countries in our neighbourhood.
When governments fall and states fail, the cost of responding rapidly outstrips anything we spend in aid. One recent estimate put the total cost of Australia’s RAMSI intervention in the Solomon Islands at $2.6 billion. Prevention is always cheaper than cure.
The nightmare scenario is the disintegration of Papua New Guinea, our nearest neighbour and a country with massive development and governance challenges. Yet in recent times Australian relations with PNG have been focused on entirely selfish motivations, like the need to secure a jail site for seaborne asylum seekers.
As the Lowy Institute’s Jenny Haywood-Jones wrote in her assessment of the RAMSI intervention, “even if Australia does not make another large-scale intervention in the Pacific Islands region, the need of Papua New Guinea and Pacific Island countries for external assistance for a variety of governance, economic and security challenges is unlikely to disappear.”
But you won’t hear much about Australia’s regional future in the current debate on budget priorities. The ABC yesterday framed the story as a personal tiff between Bishop and Hockey, essentially ignoring the policy angle altogether.
By coincidence, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was in Canberra yesterday, appearing alongside Tony Abbott in a media conference. Someone at least asked Abbott about Australia’s foreign aid cuts, forcing Abbott to admit that, yes, they had happened.
When asked about Australia’s foreign aid cuts, Prime Minister Dung remained silent. Perhaps he thought the less said, the better.
“Ms Bishop has made several similar statements recently. In a Network Ten interview on February 10, she said: “We can’t solve all the problems of the budget debt and deficit, the massive unprecedented size of it that we inherited from Labor – because it was the worst set of financial accounts inherited by any incoming government in Australia’s history.”
The verdict: Large borrowings to finance Australia’s participation in World War I and World War II and the impact of the Great Depression led to much higher deficits and levels of debt than any government has experienced since. The Howard Government also inherited more gross and net debt and a higher budget deficit relative to GDP than the Abbott Government. Ms Bishop is wrong.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that the effects of climate change are having a devastating impact on present and future Australia, Kirsten Tona reports that the Abbott Government continues to ignore the evidence.
By 2070, Australia’s average temperature will rise by anything up to five degrees Celsius, our rainfall will be significantly lower and our sea levels higher. This data comes from the CSIRO, not from the-sky-is-falling conspiracy theorists, so …. why is the Australian Government not preparing?
It is a sometimes uncomfortable paradox of democracy that while governments—elected—come and go, much of the real work of the state is done behind the scenes by unelected bureaucrats and institutions.
But, there are times we have reason to be grateful for that.
While the current Prime Minister of Australia is on record as saying that the arguments behind climate change are “absolute crap”, Australia’s premier scientific body, the CSIRO, has been quietly beavering away, using proven scientific methodologies to produce realistic models of what climate change may look like in our country.
And the news is: hotter, and drier.
Temperatures will go up, rainfall down. Ocean acidity levels will rise, as will the incidence of certain extreme weather events.
Global sea levels rose by about 17 cm during the 20th century, and are projected to keep rising, as are ocean acidity levels.
Air and ocean temperatures across Australia are now, on average, almost a degree Celsius warmer than they were in 1910, with most of the warming occurring since 1950. The Climate Change In Australia website use 24 of the world’s best models to predict what Australia might look like in 2030, 2050 and 2070.
The best projections have average temperatures rising by 1-2.5° within 50 years, if carbon emmissions are brought under control, soon. The worst projections say average temperatures in Australia will rise by 5° within 50 years.
Climate change is real, and here to stay.
Climate Change in Australia is an initiative of the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology in partnership with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, through the Australian Climate Change Science Program.
Governments come and go, and party policy is based on a wide range of political factors, strong scientific research being merely one. Or, should we say, occasionally one.
But the CSIRO and the BOM have to deal with the evidence. And they have to try, current government & party policy notwithstanding, to educate the public about their findings.
To this end, they have produced an unfeted, but extremely useful, set of reports, analyses, even posters.
But…who has been educated? Have you seen these projections? Where are the news stories?
How much public money was spent on this very important set of projections, and why are the public not being given these posters, being referred to this website? If you are planning where you and/or your children/grandchildren are going to live in the future, wouldn’t you want to see this?
Meanwhile Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in Lima trying to defend her party’s policies on climate change.
There is some controversy around her attendance at this, a precursor to a more important conference being held in Paris, at the end of 2015. Reports say that when Bishop first proposed attending the Lima talks, the “prime minister’s office” rejected her request. (“The prime minister’s office” is often, in journalist-speak, used as code for “Peta Credlin”).
It is said that Julie Bishop was furious about this, and took it to a full meeting of Cabinet, where her attendance was approved.
However, “the prime minister’s office” then insisted she only attend the talks under the tutelage of known climate skeptic, Trade Minister Andrew Robb.
SIAMESE FIGHTING FISH
Now it is being widely reported that Peta Credlin and Julie Bishop have had a massive falling-out. (Although, it must be noted, Bishop herself denies this).
But climate change, the melting of the icecaps, rising sea levels, reduced rainfall and global warming are surely too important to be left in the hands of those who would ignore the science in favour of political grandstanding.
Or in the hands of their advisors, who frequently concentrate on the sale of the message rather than the predicament of the people.
Or…in the hands of the Murdoch press, who are encouraging the populace to blame the alleged rift between Bishop and Credlin on Tony Abbott, no longer, it seems, news.com.au’s blue-eyed boy.
In 2003, George W. Bush, then President of the USA, was advised by notorious Newspeaker Frank Luntz to emphasise the notion that the science of climate change was unsettled, uncertain. Not because it really was uncertain, but because that was what the public already believed.
In a quite shockingly cynical memo, Luntz told Bush Snr: “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science … Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community.
He wrote: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”
The CSIRO do not think there is no consensus on the science of climate change. The CSIRO think climate change is already happening. So do the Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Australian Climate Change Science Program.
So too, it seems, does Julie Bishop.
But Peta Credlin doesn’t. And if she doesn’t, Tony Abbott doesn’t. And so, our commitment to emission reduction and other important planks in the platform of preparing for continuing climate change, is left in the hands of people who are unelected, or who seem to care a lot more about being elected, than about actually governing.
This article was first published on Newpolitics.com.au as Government ignoring climate change while the planet burns and has been reproduced with permission.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop speaks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The working relationship between Julie Bishop and Peta Credlin has reportedly broken down, setting the scene for a potential showdown between the two most powerful women in the country.
News Corp is reporting growing tensions between the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s polarising chief-of-staff. It follows a week of damaging revelations about Ms Bishop’s apparent frustration with the conduct and influence of Mr Abbott’s office.
“They are like two Siamese fighting fish stuck in the same tank,” an unidentified Coalition frontbencher told The Australian newspaper.
“Tony (Abbott) isn’t going to get rid of Peta and Julie isn’t going to stop.”
Both parties deny a rift, the report notes. Ms Credlin has described her relationship with Ms Bishop as “strong and constructive”.
However, the report claims Ms Bishop will now refuse to take directives from Ms Credlin, a position supported by a number of ministers. Some MPs, such as Queensland senator Ian Macdonald, have publicly complained Ms Credlin is too controlling.
Discontent with Ms Credlin has fuelled speculation she could leave Mr Abbott’s office ahead of the 2016 election to take up a seat in the House of Representatives or Senate.
It has been suggested she could either take stood-aside Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos’ NSW Senate seat or Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews’ safe Melbourne seat of Menzies in the event either retired – although neither have said they will.
In response to questions from Fairfax Media about any plans Ms Credlin has to enter Parliament next year, a spokeswoman for Mr Abbott replied, “Peta Credlin has no intention of running for Parliament at this time – state or federal, House or Senate”.
“No intention … at this time” is often used in politics to allow for wriggle room if needed in the future.
Ms Bishop is currently in Lima for climate talks.
On Wednesday, Fairfax Media revealed that after Mr Abbott’s office blocked Ms Bishop’s proposal to travel to the global climate negotiations, she took the matter to cabinet to get the decision reversed.
Last week, Ms Bishop was forced to deny a report she “went bananas” at Mr Abbott over his decision to have Trade Minister Andrew Robb chaperone her at the climate talks.
Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop will have a lot of explaining to do when she arrives here in Lima, Peru, ahead of her address to the UN climate summit tomorrow.
It will take all of her diplomatic skills to avoid Australia suffering further ignominy at the negotiations, having already been named the world’s worst-performing industrial nation on climate change in a report by the think tank Germanwatch.
Australia has also scooped no fewer than three Fossil of the Day Awards for blocking progress at the talks (as judged by Climate Action Network, which includes 800 international environmental and climate justice organisations) in the first week of the meeting.
Global public opinion on climate change seems to be way ahead of Australia’s leadership. Australia has declined to pledge any money to the Green Climate Fund, unlike many developed countries including New Zealand and Norway, both of which are part of the negotiating group led by Australia.
One of the “fossil” awards was given to Australia because it, along with Belgium and Ireland, is among the only developed countries that have not so far contributed to the Green Climate Fund, designed to help developing countries reduce their carbon emissions and adapt to climate impacts.
Representatives of 14 Australian aid, development and environment campaign groups, including Oxfam and World Vision, have called on the Australian government to reconsider its refusal to contribute to the fund.
“Twenty-three countries have now pledged US$9.95 billion of the fund’s initial $10-15 billion target, including some developing nations,” the article said.
While the United States has pledged US$3 billion (A$3.6 billion) to the fund, and Japan roughly half that, Australia has not contributed to it at all.
Australia has defended its lack of support for the Green Climate Fund, saying that it will instead support climate change measures through its overseas aid budget, much of which goes to neighbouring Asian and Pacific countries. But critics point out that Australia’s last budget contained cuts to foreign aid, and the stance was deemed worth of another fossil award.
Australia picked up its other fossil award for its stance on loss and damage related to climate. It said that loss and damage should be considered as part of the issue of climate adaptation, rather than as a standalone part of the Paris Climate Agreement, to be finalised in December 2015. This is in direct contrast to the stance of those countries most likely to be affected by climate change, including many of the world’s least developed nations. Once a typhoon or a storm surge causes huge damage, you cannot adapt to it.
Australia has already suffered severe loss and damage from climate change from a longer and more severe bushfire season, more severe flooding and hurricanes. Australia has resources to cope with this. The Philippines clearly does not have the resources to cope with many more severe typhoons.
Bishop moves in
Despite Australia’s disappointing stance so far, some commentators hold out more hope for the rest of the Lima talks with the attendance (at her own insistence) of Julie Bishop. She will be there with Australia’s Trade Minister Andrew Robb – a climate change sceptic – as her apparent chaperone, at the request of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Robb’s inclusion is being seen as a signal to those within Australia’s Coalition government who favour more ambitious emissions-reduction targets. The message is that Abbott remains opposed to ramping up his climate policy, even as the rest of the world positions itself to do so.
Julie Bishop lobbies nations with heritage sites to block Great Barrier Reef danger call
Expert says Bishop’s reef claims defy science
Expert says Bishop’s reef claims defy science
FOREIGN Minister Julie Bishop will declare the Great Barrier Reef is not “in danger” as she today heads off an international push to blacklist the national icon.
Ms Bishop will warn world leaders to back off, arguing a push to list the Australian icon will put their own heritage sites in the firing line.
The Foreign Minister believes a successful ruling against Australia would set a precedent activists will use to list key world heritage sites across the world.
“Every country that has an environmental icon that activists seize upon would be at risk,” she said.
In a bid to prevent UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee declaring the Reef “in danger” next year, Ms Bishop plans to lobby each country on the committee that the ruling would set a precedent for their own nations.
Ms Bishop will hold meetings with other world leaders on the sidelines of a climate change summit which begins in Lima, Peru today.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will head off a push to blacklist the Great Barrier Reef.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will head off a push to blacklist the Great Barrier Reef.
Her message suggests major tourist attractions including Peru’s Machu Picchu and the US’s Yellowstone National Park could be threatened as a result of a negative listing for the Reef.
Ms Bishop will argue Australia has provided a “textbook case” on how to address environmental threats with its policies to protect the Reef and should not be punished by an “in danger” ruling that would have “significant implications” for Queensland’s tourism, coastal development and mining.
“There is no justification for an ‘in danger’ listing by the World Heritage Committee,” Mr Bishop told The Courier-Mail.
“It would send a message around the world that even if you meet all of the criteria set out by the World Heritage Committee, there is still a risk that they will place an area on the ‘in danger’ list.
“It would have significant implications for Australia but it would also set a very dangerous precedent for countries who don’t have the opportunity to take the action that Australia has.”
Bishop takes Obama to task on reef
Bishop takes Obama to task on reef
The World Heritage Committee will meet next June to decide whether to formally declare the Reef “in danger”.
UNESCO has been investigating threats to the Reef from development since 2012 and has called for a ban on new port developments in Queensland until 2015.
Ms Bishop said Australia had already addressed all warnings about the Reef by banning the dumping of port dredge waste, limiting agricultural run-off and targeting the crown of thorns starfish.
She will tell world leaders our steps in emissions reduction should be taken into account.
She will also seek support from others not on the committee, including the USA, and warn a negative ruling about the Reef could have implications for other marine ecosystems not on the World Heritage list, such as the coral reefs off Honolulu.
Bishop gives the Chinese broadcasting to the Pacific Island Nations a freebie. Ports, Air bases come with sphere of influence and friendship don’t they?
Julie Bishop out of pure retribution cut the ABC’s DFAT contract. 40 years of Broadcasting to the Pacific Island Nations has been handed to the Chinese. So much for us being the pivot of the Pacific pillock is closer to the mark.
Tony Abbott’s climate change ‘conversion’ runs aground
New York: Julie Bishop has rejected Barack Obama’s assertion that the Great Barrier Reef is under threat from climate change in a further sign of the Australian government’s displeasure with the US President’s speech that overshadowed the G20 in Brisbane.
But world leading scientists have rejected Ms Bishop’s claims, pointing out that rising temperatures threaten the reef with mass bleaching, while fragile ecosystems will suffer due to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the oceans.
The Foreign Minister had previously gently chided the US President, saying she personally briefed the United States about potential threats to the reef just days before Mr Obama’s address last Saturday, but in an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media in New York, Ms Bishop went further and directly contradicted the President.
In his speech, Mr Obama warned “the incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef” is threatened by climate change.
“Because I have not had time to go to the Great Barrier Reef and I want to come back, and I want my daughters to be able to come back, and I want them to be able to bring their daughters or sons to visit. And I want that there 50 years from now,” he told an audience at the University of Queensland.
But on Friday Ms Bishop said the Australian government was already acting to protect the reef from its greatest threats, which she stressed did not include climate change.
“It’s not under threat from climate change because its biggest threat is nutrient runoffs from agricultural land [and] the second biggest threat is natural disasters, but this has been for 200 years,” she told Fairfax Media in New York.
However, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, backed the US President, saying Mr Obama was “right on the money”.
“We have one of the jewels of the planet in our possession and we should care a lot about climate and he wasn’t getting that from our leader [Prime Minister Tony Abbott],” Dr Hoegh-Guldberg said. Peer reviewed research by Dr Hoegh-Guldberg says that even global warming limited to 2 degrees will be devastating to the reefs.
Great promotion for Julie Bishop and Foreign Aid in this morning’s Age Amanda Vanstone. You couldn’t help yourself though taking a swipe at Australians on Social Welfare suggesting most who are on welfare are malingering and want to stay there. You suggest we live in a nanny state and those on welfare should be seriously reassessed. I agree we do have too many regulations but it’s not in welfare. We have become a litigious society the nature of insurance has changed such that government bodies have set up countless regulations that have left individuals stranded. No win no pay lawyers are better insured than their clients. They now sit and cherry pick.
Those on welfare without family live below the poverty line Amanda and it’s increasing. With unemployment running so high what jobs do you suggest they take on begging? With rents so high I guess garages are regarded as suitable accommodation for pensioners. When Coles and Woolies sell tomatoes for $8.99kg but pensioners would be only to happy to buy misshapen ones for $2kg if only they could find them. Public health doesn’t allow fruit and veg barrows on the street you pollies and councillers have seen to that. One and all are leaners and not true deservers like the Cambodians what a bitch.
You fail to mention Julie Bishop’s cut of 5 billion in Foreign Aid or that the once standalone department has been merged with Foreign Trade. That the new government policy is Aid for Trade and no longer supports non-profit NGO’s. They are no longer guaranteed of their funds. You don’t have regard for the turnover of staff at the embassies that have little or no experience in their postings compared to those NGO’s that have been there for years and gave feed back. What’s the new model of operation Amanda profit? The Cambodians that have eye problems seem less short-sighted than you Amanda and more easily cured. If that program you think so highly of is not delivering some sort of return Amanda it just might find itself blind sided.
Tell me Amanda accounting wise which department is the humanitarian aid to Iraq going to be billed? Who is on the ground insuring it’s delivered to those that need it and not to some black market? Are the arms being dropped coming out of the Aid budget or Defence? Who and how is is this being audited Amanda??