Climate of the Nation | Between the Lines


The Wrap with Richard Denniss

There has never been a more profitable time to cause climate change. This year, while millions of Australians are struggling with a cost of living crisis, fossil fuel companies operating in Australia made $140 billion in profits. The fossil fuel industry will never tire of making that much money, which is why strong state, national and international policy action is required.

So this week I’m heading to New York, where on September 20, at the UN headquarters, leaders from around the world will meet at the UN Climate Ambition Summit. Sadly, I’m going there to talk to leaders, scientists and community groups from around the world about Australia’s planned fossil fuel expansion.

Australia is already the world’s third largest exporter of fossil fuels but, despite the warnings of the world’s scientists, our state and federal governments still have big expansion plans with 110 new fossil fuel projects in the development pipeline. And of course we spend more than $11 billion per year on fossil fuel subsidies to help encourage such projects.

Put simply: Australia’s ambitions to prolong and expand the fossil fuel industry could be the undoing of climate ambition around the world. If the potential host of a UN climate conference (COP) won’t rein in the fossil fuel industry, why would anyone else?

It is that serious. But nothing is set in stone.

This week, we released Climate of the Nation 2023 (see below). It showed that there is overwhelming public support among Australians for phasing out fossil fuels, and for policies that see fossil fuel companies footing the bill for the climate damage they cause.

If Australia is serious about its climate ambition, it’s time to get serious about phasing fossil fuels and about redirecting money back into climate-disaster affected communities, both here in Australia and to our friends in the Pacific. The science is long settled but Climate of the Nation 2023 should give our leaders confidence that these policies are popular, and politically safe.

— Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

Climate of the Nation 2023

Yesterday, Climate of the Nation 2023 was launched by Independent ACT Senator David Pocock at Parliament House.

The report is the latest annual instalment of Australia’s longest continuous survey of community attitudes to climate change.

It shows that even when contending with an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, Australians remain deeply concerned about climate change, and they know the issues are connected.

So much so that 75% of Australians are concerned about the impact of the climate crisis on food supply and the cost of insurance premiums, and most Aussies support policies that force fossil fuel companies to foot the bill for the damage they cause.

(L-R Dr Richard Denniss, Dr Graeme Palmer, Senator David Pocock and Jenny Dowell OAM at the launch of the 2023 Climate of the Nation Report)

We were privileged to be joined by Lismore community leaders Jenny Dowell OAM, former Mayor of Lismore City Council, and Dr Graeme Palmer, a small business owner, whose community experienced major climate-related floods in 2017 and again in 2022.

They shared their experiences of the aftermath of the floods, including skyrocketing insurance costs, and failed promises of buybacks – a reminder that climate ambition is not enough, and that real, sincere action is needed to support communities affected by climate disasters.

Launch day wrapped up with Politics in the Pub, where Jenny and Graeme joined Richard Denniss and Liz Morison, researcher at the Australia Institute and author of the report, to unpack the findings.

You can catch up on that conversation here.

Judy Horacek Cartoon

All cartoons © Judy Horacek

Competition is a Customer’s Best Friend

At a time when Qantas is making record profits, it is deeply curious that the Albanese government would decide to reduce competition by blocking Qatar Airways’ application to fly an extra 21 flights each week into Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, writes Matt Grudnoff in the Guardian.

The cost of big companies such as Qantas being able to wield their power due to a lack of competition has a real and tangible cost for all consumers. The best solution is the one big companies fear the most: more competition.

Read more: Qantas Flies High on Scant Competition and Regulation – and Consumers Pay the Price

If You Don’t Know, Find Out

David Harper AM KC, former judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, penned an op-ed in the Guardian about the case for a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum on the Voice to Parliament.

In it, he outlines how a Yes vote strives for improved policies and democratic processes through the inclusion of more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices, while the case for No offers nothing to close the gap.

“The constitution should embody the values and principles of the society it represents”, writes David Harper.

“If Australia’s constitution continues to overlook the rights and concerns of its First Nations people, it continues a racist legacy of exclusion.”

Read more: If you don’t know about the Indigenous voice, find out. When you do, you’ll vote yes

Three-Eyed Fish on the Menu

In August, Japan began what will be a decades-long process of releasing more than one million tons of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown into the Pacific Ocean.

Dr Emma Shortis, senior researcher with the International & Security Affairs Program, examines Australia’s muted response, the significant concerns of Pacific Islander peoples, and why the issue fell so easily into the ideological and political divisions of ‘strategic competition’ in the region.

Read more: Eating the three-eyed fish: where is Australia on nuclear wastewater in the Pacific?

Minister Plibersek Approves Another Coal Mine

Our Coal Mine Tracker has announced the approval of another coal mine, making it the fourth since May last year.

On 30 August 2023, the Gregory Crinum coal mine M Block expansion was approved by the Federal Government, an approval that will last until 31 December 2073.

The Gregory Crinum mine will release 30 million tonnes of emissions over its lifetime.

At every step along the way this new coal expansion proposal should have been stopped, because that’s what climate action requires, but it wasn’t.

Visit our Coal Mine Tracker and add your name to ask Minister Plibersek to stop approving coal mines.

Missed the Isabella Weber Webinar?

You can catch up on the Isabella Weber webinar, and all of our webinars via our YouTube channel or on our website.

All of our webinars are recorded and freely available for viewing.

Follow the Money Podcast

This week’s Follow the Money episode Who Should Pay the Cost of Climate Change examines how, at the same time as the cost of living crisis is being made worse by climate change, fossil fuel companies are making record profits and asks the question – how can our Government make them pay the bill?

Listen to: Who Should Pay the Cost of Climate Change

Last week’s Follow the Money episode Dead in the Water featured Kate McBride discussing the new deal to save the Murray-Darling basin, which followed another mass fish kill, and a survey that found there wasn’t a single adult Murray Cod in the Lower Darling-Bakka.

Listen to Dead in the Water

The Quote

Transparency brings justice – positive change comes when brave individuals speak up.

— From the open letter where we joined the Human Rights Law Centre and more than 70 other organisations in calling for the Government to drop the prosecution of whistleblowers and fix the law.

Add your name to protect whistleblowers.

The Win

The Right Direction: NSW Increases Coal Royalties

NSW have increased their coal royalty system in a move that could see them collecting an extra $2.7 billion off the back of mining projects.

In August, Rod Campbell wrote about how Queensland’s coal royalty system was delivering huge revenue , despite the protestations it elicited from the mining companies in the state, with BHP CEO Mike Henry going so far as to say Queenslander’s would ‘rue the day’ the changes were made.

Rather than regretting any reforms, Queensland enjoyed $4.3 billion in coal royalties in 2022-23.

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and a chorus of Australian economists, have urged the Australian Government to make the “no brainer” decision and boost taxes on energy companies following the Russian invasion. Other countries have, including Rishi Sunak’s conservative UK government (predicted to raise £5 billion in one year) and even Russia itself.

Read more: Multinational miners rue the day Palaszczuk and Dick delivered for Queenslanders

The Bin

Avocado Toast Guy Returns for Second Bite

Millionaire property developer Tim Gurner appeared on stage at an Australian Financial Review property summit last Tuesday, and sealed his fate as a cartoonishly out of touch property mogul.

Apparently forgetting he was broadcasting to the digital age, or perhaps just not caring either way, Gurner shared his enlightened opinion about the best way to improve levels of productivity in the economy.

“We need to see unemployment rise. Unemployment has to jump 40, 50 percent in my view. We need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around.

Stopping for no one, he continued.

“There’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them, as opposed to the other way around…We’ve got to kill that attitude and that has to come through hurting the economy.”

But, as Jim Stanford writes, this rhetoric is less a bizarre outlier and rather more reminiscent of a “glimpse into the soul of the business community.”

Read more from Jim Stanford’s latest op-ed published in the New Daily: Millionaire Tim Gurner’s refreshing honesty reveals the soul of business

Join Our Team!

We’re hiring a Digital Campaigner to join the team.

Based in Canberra, the Digital Campaigner will develop and execute digital campaigns that engage and mobilise our supporters, raise awareness about critical issues, and drive meaningful policy change.

Apply before 29 September, details here.

Last Call for the Anne Kantor Fellowship positions!

The Australia Institute is hiring for three new positions:

Applications can be found via the links above, on Seek and Ethical Jobs.

More details about the Anne Kantor Fellowship Program.

What’s On

Webinar: The Global Financial Crisis 15 Years On: What Have We Learned? | 11:00am Friday 15 September

Free, RSVP essential

Politics in the Pub: Whistleblowing in Australia | 6:30pm Wednesday 18 October

Free, RSVP essential

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