While the Biden presidency pushes forward international climate action, both the Morrison government and its Labor opposition are fractured over emissions policy.After a hiatus caused by coronavirus, the twin issues of climate change and energy have resumed their place, secured over two decades, as the most intractable and dangerous in Australian politics.
A “business as usual” response to climate change will cost Australia at least $29 billion a year, according to a new study. The World Wide Fund for Nature report projected that Australia’s economy will be the fifth worst-affected over the next three decades. This was a best-case scenario, and did not factor in the cost of more intense bushfires. “Because so much of Australia’s population, infrastructure and service sector output is concentrated in coastal areas, we are more vulnerable than most to sea-level rise and storm surges,” said WWF-Australia economist Joshua Bishop. The modelling shows that the global price of some key commodities will rise by almost 10 per cent. The report noted that environmentally friendly land-use management techniques alone could halve the hit to national GDP. The news comes as an Australian Conservation Foundation analysis found that the fossil-fuel industry has doubled its donations to the major parties in the past four years.
Coronavirus crackdown: Chinese academics are putting their names to a petition calling for freedom of speech, in response to China’s secretive handling of the coronavirus outbreak. The South China Morning Post reports that the petition calls for a national day for freedom of speech on February 6, the date that doctor Li Wenliang died from the virus that he was punished for first raising the alarm about. The petition, addressed to the National People’s Congress, lists four other demands: to protect people’s right to freedom of expression; to discuss the issue at NPC meetings; to ensure no one is punished, threatened, interrogated, censored or locked up for their speech; and to give equitable treatment to people from the virus epicentre of Hubei province. Some of the signatories have already had social media accounts blocked.
Religious discrimination division: NSW Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says her party’s religious discrimination bill does not adequately protect religious groups and should be scrapped in favour of a single framework for all anti-discrimination laws. Attorney-General Christian Porter says he will undertake yet another round of consultations with community and religious groups before introducing it to parliament. Fierravanti-Wells has also spoken out about the bushfire crisis, calling for the use of “communications meta-data” to investigate a completely unfounded conspiracy theory that “ecoterrorists” were behind the summer’s unprecedented bushfires.
Submarines contract: The French company responsible for Australia’s $80 billion Future Submarines program says local firms may not get half of the value of the contracts, reports The Australian ($). Naval Group Australia chief executive John Davis refused to confirm whether the Australian industry content for the submarines would reach 50 per cent. Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick said the company should not abandon commitments to local industry.