Peter Walsh: The Australian Labor Party should ditch the Greenies

Peter Walsh was a senator and finance minister in the Hawke Labor government

Since the 1980s, Australian Labor Party policy has been incrementally hijacked by well-heeled, self-indulgent, morally vain and would-be authoritarian activists, whom the media often misdescribes as the intelligentsia. If language had been less debauched, they would have been more accurately described as secular religious fundamentalists, as contemptuous of the values and aspirations of mainstream Australians as Mao Zedong was of Chinese peasants.

The consequences for Labor have been four successive electoral defeats. Short of a self-destructive Coalition implosion, there is little chance of reversing this electoral trend in the near future. Some smart Labor people have been long aware of the poisoned chalice handed to Labor by green ideologues and their media cheer squad. Opposition resources spokesman Martin Ferguson is one person to have attacked their holy grail: global warming and the Kyoto Protocol. Writing on this page recently, Ferguson drew attention to the mutual exclusivity of green hostility to economic growth, the greens' self-proclaimed commitment to social justice, their Kyoto-inspired eagerness to export technically efficient Australian industry to Third World countries (thereby increasing greenhouse gas emissions), and their secular religious veto of the only economically feasible alternative to fossil fuel for base load power: nuclear energy.

To secular religious fundamentalists - and others who should know better - global warming, induced by burning fossil fuels, is responsible for all disagreeable or dangerous climatic events: extreme high temperatures, extreme low temperatures, drought, floods, dying coral reefs and rising sea levels. Never mind that one of its high priests, Stephen Schneider, was predicting a catastrophic ice age only 35 years ago. The Kyoto hypothesis, so we are told, must be accepted without reservation. In several important respects empirical evidence does not confirm the climate model or models on which the Kyoto hypothesis is based. For example:

* Satellite temperature sensors - the most reliable source of global temperature data - show little if any increase in the lower tropospheric temperature.

* Precipitation on the Antarctic continent is increasing.

* Evidence, not yet conclusive, does suggest a small rise in surface temperature since 1970, but to fit the Kyoto models this should have happened 50 years ago. It didn't.

* Anyone who knows anything - including the authors associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - concedes their models are imprecise, even if they have not been designed to prop up favoured or predetermined conclusions. But Ian Castles and David Henderson's exposure of the fanciful economic statistics incorporated in IPCC models suggests they have been fiddled. If your case is immaculate, why feed lies into it?

* Authentic history is more reliable than models, doctored or otherwise. The Vikings, who settled Greenland early in the second millennium, grew barley crops for several centuries. To do that, the climate would have to be at least 2C warmer than now, but glaciers did not melt, sea levels did not rise, coral reefs did not disappear and atmospheric carbon dioxide remained stable. How come?

To divert attention from the enormous damage ratification of Kyoto would inflict on the Australian economy, the green cheer squad asserts we are forgoing a golden opportunity to make a fortune from carbon trading. That is another lie. At best, an honest international carbon trading system would reduce, to some extent, the losses of Kyoto compliance.

But who will regulate and audit an international market? Another misbegotten, self serving and corrupt offspring of a corrupt UN? Another IPCC? In the aftermath of the oil-for-food scandal, does anybody really believe the UN would run an honest chook raffle? Asserting that carbon trading will produce windfall gains for all is cargo cultism resurrected: the hoax of the decade, or perhaps century.

Planting forests for carbon sinks has become a fashionable stunt for populist politicians. Western Australia's populist Government announced it will plant enough trees to offset emissions from its proposed desalination plant. Recent research from Stamford University says that plants, including forests, produce 30per cent of the world's methane emissions. What about that?

Of one thing we can be certain. If rising atmospheric carbon dioxide really is a problem that threatens civilisation, Kyoto is not the answer. Nor is another populist stunt, renewable energy - unless we ignore the social and economic damage inflicted by an enormous increase in energy prices. Parasitic rent seekers who market windmills and solar panels (and would-be rent-seeking ethanol producers) are beneficiaries of the captive market already delivered to them by mandatory renewable energy targets, so they naturally demand those targets be increased. They may run into a political problem they have not anticipated.

A proposal to establish a wind farm in Denmark, Western Australia, an area much loved and populated by politically correct green nimbies, is being torpedoed by the residents. Consequently, federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has refused to allocate it any money from the federal renewable energy slush fund, because the green nimbies, including the local Green state parliamentarian, don't want it. Be alert for many repeats of this hypocrisy.

The only economically viable answer to the emissions problem, if indeed it is a problem, is nuclear power, as Ferguson points out. In recent years, Labor has stubbornly truckled for Green preferences, which have helped lower the party's primary vote. But if it wants to remain a major party, Labor should pay more attention to Ferguson and distance itself from a movement that alienates a large body of traditional Labor voters.


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