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A shameful week in Australian politics

KEVIN RUDD: Does the Prime Minister recall his industry minister saying just six months ago: "I am a sceptic of the connection between emissions and climate change"? Does the Prime Minister support this statement?

Mr HOWARD: It is not only remarks made by people in this parliament. There is a farmer I know who is sceptical about that connection as well! But we can debate. Let me say to the Leader of the Opposition that the jury is still out on the degree of connection.

- House of Representatives, 2.54pm 6.2.07

JOHN HOWARD: I was wrong to talk about climate change and drought when the question was about climate change and emissions. For the record, I do believe there is a connection between climate change and emissions. I do not really think the jury is out on that.

- House of Representatives, 6.32pm, 6.2.07

"I made a mistake in the first day when I mistook a question about the link between global warming and greenhouse gases, climate change, sorry, and emissions, for a question between climate change and drought because that had been on everybody’s lips and okay, I made a mistake."

- John Howard continuing the Freudian slippage on 3AW, 9.2.07

In the week following the latest IPCC report, the least we could have expected is some endorsement of the report, some acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation, some attempt at adopting a bipartisan strategy for a solution, and some goddamn leadership. We got none of that from the Government, and especially none of the latter from our Prime Minister.

A Prime Minister who, elsewhere this week, has said that a global increase in temperature of four to six degrees would "inconvenience some people"; who continues to spruik nuclear power as the "cleanest and greenest" energy available; who won't take a lead on carbon trading; who refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol because "it is not in Australia's interests"; who refuses to take any action that "would harm Australia's competitiveness in the world economy, who refuses to set targets for emissions reductions that would affect jobs in the coal industry.

Stupid, visionless, prat. Even his "national" water strategy for the Murray-Darling basin, which not only doesn't provide solutions for five out of six state capital cities (and the sixth doesn't like the proposal), but doesn't even factor in many of the tributaries of the Murray and Darling, has bogged down in political stalemate this week. It looked great on the surface, but like all major waterways these days, it gets murkier beneath the surface.

And then this week there was the pathetic sight of new Minister for the Environment Malcolm Turnbull mouthing Howard's crackpot policies. A multimillionaire former journalist, lawyer, merchant banker (read that as rhyming slang at your will) and Ozemail co-founder, as president of the Australian Republican Movement he described Howard in 1999 as "the Prime Minister who broke Australia's heart". In 2007, the aspirant future PM has become just another member of Howard's School Debating Team (along with Abbott, Costello, Lord Downer and token chick Julie Bishop). Trying to justify the shunning of Kyoto, the unwillingness to support carbon trading markets, the protection in perpetuity of the coalmining industry. Ridiculing Al Gore's message because it was delivered by Al Gore. Denying, even, that there is a crisis.

And what was the problem with the Labor Party's credibility on water again? Oh yes, that decision by Queensland Premier Wayne Goss in 1989 not to build a dam near Brisbane. When, you see, Kevin Rudd was Goss' chief-of-staff.

Keep drawing that bow, Malcolm. Sure it's long enough for you?

I'm not suggesting that the Labor Party has got it totally right on climate change, or that they haven't been playing politics themselves. Although I'd trust Peter Garrett's judgment on environmental matters over Turnbull's any day.

Maybe someone should explain to John Howard what global warming will do to the cricket - how dry the outfields will become, how many days play will be lost at Bellerive Oval due to tropical monsoons, how the crowd numbers will drop off because people will not be able to afford a ticket, if indeed they are still alive at all.

The main barrier to taking a unified approach to long-term environmental management in this country is that we lack a leader of unity. John Howard is incapable of unifying the Australian public. He is incapable of taking leadership on the world stage (certainly not without the approval of Chairman George and CEO Dick). He is incapable of being trusted (GST, Children Overboard, Iraq, AWB, etc etc). Any time you ring up to query your phone bill, you know that he is incapable of preserving Australian jobs.

And he is incapable of understanding that "climate change", "global warming", "emissions", "greenhouse gases" and "drought" are not interchangeable buzzwords.