19 January, 2020

We’ve had 57 bushfire inquiries. Another won’t tell us a single thing we don’t already know

As our country battles the most extensive fires of our lifetime, there are increasing calls for a royal commission into the states and territories’ preparedness and the Federal Government’s response to the disaster.

Good fire and land management needs to be done with
long-term perspective, not a short-term political focus. 
P
A royal commission has coercive powers beyond a government inquiry, and the need for one implies there are facts and evidence that would otherwise be “hidden” to an inquiry or review.

Research I’ve recently conducted with other fire experts has concluded there have been 57 formal public inquiries, reviews and royal commissions related to bushfires and fire management since 1939, most of which are listed here.

I have given expert evidence to at least seven of them, including the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

That is more than one inquiry every two years in the past 80 years. Do we need yet another?


Can Scott Morrison seize this watershed moment for climate policy?

Andrew Hirst, the no-nonsense Liberal Party federal director, had a blunt warning for cabinet ministers who were still swept up in shock of Morrison's May Miracle.

Images of thick smoke blanketing Parliament House have put Australia at the centre of a new global debate on climate change.
Images of thick smoke blanketing Parliament House have put
 Australia at the centre of a new global debate on climate change.

In the weeks following the Coalition's election victory, Hirst was invited to present his findings about why and how the government had won re-election, face-to-face with 23 men and women in the cabinet room.

The result was largely driven by economic reasons, those seated around the table recall him saying, and the victory should not be misrepresented by any other issue. It had not been a referendum on climate change, as some had billed it.

Hirst - who had a front-row seat during the past decade of the Coalition climate wars as a senior aide to both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull - told the room global warming remained a significant issue to many voters, especially in inner-city electorates, and the party remained vulnerable on the topic.


Read the story from The Sydney Morning Herald by Rob Harris - “Can Scott Morrison seize this watershed moment for climate policy?

Anthony Albanese flags 'ambitious' emissions target but won't recommit to 45% reduction

Anthony Albanese has described the decision to recommit to a 45% emissions reduction target by 2030 as “a mistake” and declared Labor would not take the same franking credits policy to the next election.
Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese
Anthony Albanese on Labor’s 2019 election policies:
‘Everything stayed the same and we just added
more on … [which] doesn’t end well.’
In comments to Sky News on Sunday, Albanese confirmed Labor had repositioned by dumping its 2016 election commitments since “our policies aren’t there until we announce them proactively, positively”.
Albanese promised Labor would “take climate change seriously” and had a “very strong” policy that aimed to be “as ambitious as possible” but did not commit to outbid the Coalition because he hoped the Morrison government would take action before the next election.

Read the story from The Guardian by Paul Karp - “Anthony Albanese flags 'ambitious' emissions target but won't recommit to 45% reduction.” 

Court Quashes Youth Climate Change Case Against Government

A federal appeals court has thrown out the landmark climate change lawsuit brought on behalf of young people against the federal government.
While the young plaintiffs “have made a compelling case that action is needed,” wrote Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz in a 32-page opinion, climate change is not an issue for the courts. “Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power. Rather, the plaintiffs’ impressive case for redress must be presented to the political branches of government.”
The two members in the majority of the three-judge panel thus agreed with the Trump administration that the issues brought up in the case, Juliana v. United States did not belong before the courts.
The appeals court decision reverses an earlier ruling by a district court judge, Ann Aiken, that would have let the case go forward. Instead, the appeals court gave instructions to the lower court to dismiss the case.

Read the story from The New York Times by John Schwartz - “Court Quashes Youth Climate Change Case Against Government.”

Leunig produces flames and fury

Leunig’s regular musings in the Melbourne Age seem to drive people to their extremes (and that how it should be) as they either love him or loathe him.
Here’s an example:

Behind the smokescreen, the Coalition's stance on climate change hasn't changed at all

The speed with which the conservative side of politics and the media has gone from assuring us climate change was not a problem, so we don’t need to worry about reducing emissions, to asserting that climate change is a problem, but we still don’t need to worry about reducing emissions, is breathtaking. Literally, given the levels of smoke still around.
You don’t get a cookie for saying you think climate change is real.

Bushfire smoke haze blankets Melbourne
The government’s actions over the past decade mean they
 have not earned the benefit of doubt, rather they have
earned our total scepticism.
I’m sorry, you don’t. All you get is the capacity to say you have reached 1990 levels of comprehension – as that was when the first IPCC report was issued. You don’t get a prize for spending 30 years doing all you can to halt, undermine and dismantle action to reduce emissions, only to now say: “Hey, climate change is real.”

Consider that the Sydney Morning Herald this week ran a front page story headlined “Minister slams climate debate”, with the lead that “Australia’s bushfire crisis has prompted a blunt warning from Science Minister Karen Andrews to those she says are wasting time arguing about whether climate change is real”.


Read the story from The Guardian by Greg Jericho - “Behind the smokescreen, the Coalition's stance on climate change hasn't changed at all.”

Thousands flock to second climate change rally in Melbourne

Thousands of protesters took to Melbourne’s streets for the second time in as many weeks demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and immediate action on climate change.
The protestors gathered at the State Library.
The protestors gathered at the State Library. 
As 15 bushfires continued to burn in Victoria, the crowd marched from the steps of the State Library, through the streets of the city, chanting "System change on climate change, shut the mines down" and "ScoMo ... we deserve a future too”.
Organisers estimated about 2000 people took to the streets.
Uni Students for Climate Justice co-convener Beth Jackson said their message was simple.
"We’re demanding that Scott Morrison be sacked, we’re demanding that the fossil fuel corporations that caused this pay a levy for what they’ve done, and we're demanding a complete transition to renewable energy," Ms Jackson said.

Read the story from The Age by Tate Papworth - “Thousands flock to second climate change rally in Melbourne.”