Feb 14, 2006

Climate of fear clouds Howard Government climate policy

Climate of fear clouds Howard Government climate policy


14 February 2006

The Australian Government’s policy on climate change must be motivated by a desire to shift energy use and production to clean and efficient sources. Australia’s national interest must always come first, not vested interests.

Last night’s Four Corners raised serious allegations that senior CSIRO scientists are being silenced on climate change issues when it does not suit the Howard Government’s political message.

It is scandalous that Australia’s top scientists are being gagged from saying we need greenhouse gas emission targets or that environment refugees will be an issue when Pacific Islands flood because of climate change.

CSIRO scientists are operating in a climate of fear where anything that indicates they “disagreed with current government policy” is censored.

Australians need to hear the advice and views of Australia’s top scientists and the Government should give them a forum, not silence them. Government needs reasoned knowledge-based argument from scientists, not fearful compromised advice clouded by Howard Government ideology.

This is behaviour consistent with an arrogant Government that is hiding from scrutiny over the wheat-for-weapons scandal.

Last night’s Four Corners also raised serious allegations that the Howard Government’s climate change policy is driven by a select group of lobbyists with vested interests.

Direct testimony from Guy Pearse (former senior staff member for Environment Minister and Government Senate Leader Robert Hill) on Four Corners strongly suggests the Howard Government’s decision to back-flip on support for Kyoto followed unreasonable influence by a select group of lobbyists with vested interests.

Mr Pearse’s serious allegation that lobbyists have infiltrated the inner workings of the Howard Government, with easy access to and even writing confidential Cabinet papers, must be fully and promptly answered by the Government.

In December 1997, John Howard said the Kyoto Protocol was a “stunning diplomatic success” and “a win for the environment and a win for Australian jobs”. Yet, in June 2002, John Howard decided his Government was against ratifying Kyoto.

In 1997 John Howard was right about the Kyoto Protocol, but he’s wrong now.