Scott Morrison has changed his mind and will now attend the COP26 climate change forum in Glasgow. It was obvious Morrison didn’t want to got to COP26 for a number of reasons: it’s all about climate change action, which is anathema to the Liberal–National Coalition; it’s an international meeting where Australia’s embarrassingly poor policies on climate change action – among the worst in the OECD community – will be the focus; it’s the first encounter with the French Prime Minister after the cancellation of the $90 billion submarine contract; and attending the meeting rules out the possibility of a November election.
But Prince Charles said he would “be shocked” if Morrison didn’t attend and Queen Elizabeth II announced she was irritated about inaction on climate change and instructed leaders to not “just talk, act on climate”.
Morrison is a monarchist – not as staunch as Tony Abbott, but a monarchist nevertheless. And if the Queen and the British Royal Family are showing their displeasure, then Morrison had to act. He’s in a bind: we’re still not sure if he will go to Glasgow, and we will only believe it is happening once the prime ministerial plane touches down on the tarmac at Glasgow International Airport.
But Morrison is an opportunist and has skill in being able to manipulate any situation towards his advantage.
Humiliation at COP26? ‘How dare the unrepresentative officials at the United Nations tell Australia what to do.’
Billboards at Glasgow and Times Square in New York shaming Australia on climate change inaction? ‘Those inner city socialists are trying to embarrass our national pride.’
Carbon tariffs that will crucify the Australian economy? ‘We will decide which products come into this country and the circumstances in which they arrive.’
The Bob Brown-led anti-Adani campaign in Queensland during the 2019 federal election campaign shamed the Australian government, but backfired when locals felt they were being told what to do by outsiders and interstaters, didn’t like being told what to do, and decided to show their displeasure by giving many seats in regional Queensland a 15% swing towards the government. Morrison would be looking at this to see if can swing things his way again.
The direction for both parties in the lead up to the next election? If it is based on climate change issues, Labor will keep it simple: if you want action on climate change, vote Labor.
The Coalition will do the opposite, and will try to make climate change action as complex as possible, distort as many issues as possible and then declare: if you don’t understand it, don’t vote for it. It worked for Paul Keating in the 1993 GST-influenced election; it could work for Morrison now.
So, we’re headed for another climate change election – following on the election of 1990, where Labor slid back into government on environment preferences, and the 2007 election, which according to Kevin Rudd, was the issue that was the “greatest moral challenge of our times”. And if it is another climate change election, it could just be the issue that sweeps Scott Morrison out to electoral oblivion.