As Barnaby Joyce unleashes new tension of climate denial, can Labor close the credibility gap? | Peter Lewis

WWhile the Prime Minister is locked in the Lodge in quarantine, his Coalition partners have infected the body politic with a new Delta strain of climate denial by restaurant Barnaby Joyce at the second highest office in the country.

After barely surviving the ‘G7 plus besties’ event in Cornwall with a combination of belligerent anti-China deviation and embarrassment in the face of Australia’s stubborn resistance to global climate action, Scott Morrison returned home. him to find his country cousins ​​in turmoil. Rediscovering this particular branch of the family was the last thing the Prime Minister relied on as he searched for his roots in his spare time.

There has been an undeniable change in Morrison’s climate rhetoric since Christmas. He relaxed his support for new coal mines, focused on gas as a transition, and left open the idea of ​​reaching zero emissions at a time that may or may not look like 2050. It’s not about not exactly kissing Greta Thunberg, but at least he stopped petting lumps of coal in parliament.

In truth, the Prime Minister is caught between a rapidly changing political environment as the Biden administration seeks to rebuild an international consensus on the climate and the reality that Australian business and state governments have gone far beyond Canberra. in their ambitions and, more precisely, their behavior. Where EV support was an attack awakened on weekends 18 months ago, now they are operating as usual reform of a conservative centrist government in New South Wales.

It takes skillful political skills to remove obstacles to climate action that will hurt Australia’s interests while trying to cling to the decade-long political advantage that turbocharging fossil fuels into war fodder. cultural provided. But a nuanced provision that recognizes the need to transition the energy market while managing the expectations of rural voters is not part of Joyce’s DNA.

Joyce is the human foghorn of Australian politics, whose idea of ​​massaging a message is to hit him on the head. While Michael McCormack’s incompetence has allowed Morrison to slowly recalibrate with minimal collateral damage, Joyce will dust off his biggest climatic hits and raise Vitriol to 11 just to let us know he’s baaaaaaack.

The dilemma for Morrison is that most of the Australian public is right behind him as he slowly walks away from the “Coal Forever” club. While they don’t want to see the coal industry shut down overnight, findings from this week’s Guardian Essential Report suggest they would much prefer a government to invest in renewables.

New Coal Boosters barely manage to muster a quorum, even among voters in the Coalition and parties to their right, while support for renewables is a unifying call from the Progressive side.

The government was prepared to reject that consensus, arming the prospect of local mine closures, hoping that city voters would focus more on their negative gear and postage credits. What is starting to change is the prospect that the world will change without us and that this will have a long term economic cost, not only to mining communities but to all Australian export-oriented industries.

You can see from the strong reaction to the following statements, that the idea of ​​climate-related economic risk is turning into new unpredictable strains.

The other complication for the prime minister that this week’s report notes is the immediate dividend of Biden’s presidential victory, with a significant shift in relative attitudes toward Washington and Beijing.

While climate denial was a central part of the Trumpian consensus, supporting real climate action will be the price of entry to seriously engage with an administration that quickly restored the goodwill of Australians.

Just two years ago, China moved closer to Donald’s United States as our long-term partner of choice. That party is over for now, and while Joyce continues to interfere with the fossil fuel industry, Morrison will continue to be placed in the nasty corner by the Biden administration, or worse yet, forced to sit down with it. Boris Johnson.

Real-life experience has shown Labor how a belligerent climate aberration can upend a larger message and force the party to play straight in its corner. But after falling for this trick several times over the past decade, they will surely be able to see Joyce coming this time around.

To his credit, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has managed to take much of the heat of the climate issue on his side, acknowledging that a passionate campaign against a grassroots group will have predictable consequences.

Joyce’s rise allows Labor to set their benchmarks within the framework of the global consensus as Morrison focuses on his noisy right flank, thwarted by the same forces that redeemed his predecessor.

The increasingly credible narratives of risks and opportunities provide a platform to reshape the employment narrative, especially in regional communities undergoing their own economic transformations since the pandemic.

And holding the Morrison government accountable for laws that encourage the hiring and contracting of workers in secure and stable jobs provides a bridge for workers to the labor movement.

For Labor, climate change may no longer be an impossible show.

Peter Lewis will discuss the results of this week’s Guardian Essential Report with Guardian Australia political editor Katharine Murphy on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

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