Skip to Content

Leading article Australia

Dumb question

The greatest insult imaginable to the intelligence of the average Australian voter was served up the other night by Bill Shorten on the ABC’s Q&A. When asked to put a figure to the cost of his carbon emissions reduction policies, Mr Shorten replied that this was a ‘dumb question’. The man who would be our next PM went on to assert that it was not possible to talk about the cost of climate ‘action’ without considering the cost of climate ‘inaction’.

This is not the first time Mr Shorten has evaded addressing the dollar cost of his climate change policies. But it is the first time he has sneered at those who dare to ask, in a condescending manner reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’.

Firstly, by dismissing the question as ‘dumb’, Mr Shorten displays both ignorance and arrogance about the fundamentals of a democratic election campaign. What, after all, is the point of ‘facing the voters’ other than for the public – or, hopefully acting on their behalf, the media – to ask any and all questions about policy and cost? Why traipse through shopping malls, why knock on doors, why shake a thousand hands if not to answer ‘dumb’ questions wherever and however they appear about the impact of your ideas and intentions on the public purse? There should be, by definition, no question or no questioner too ‘dumb’ to be addressed and satisfactorily answered by those who wish to help themselves to our generous tax-dollars.


Secondly, the comparison between the cost of ‘action’ and ‘inaction’ on climate change has already been answered by experts. According to Dr Brian Fisher’s modelling for BA Economics, some half a trillion dollars will be ripped out of our hands over the next decade thanks to climate policies if Labor wins government. It is up to Mr Shorten to dispute that figure by offering an alternative. Given his reluctance to do so, the average voter must assume that Dr Fisher’s figures are on the money. That’s the cost of ‘action’. And as for the cost of ‘inaction’, we also have the testimony of the Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, who effectively put the cost of not doing anything about climate change as ‘virtually nothing’. This he did in June 2017 in the context of questions by Senator Ian Macdonald at Senate Estimates about what impact it would have on the world’s temperatures if we removed all of Australia’s carbon emissions in entirety. The Chief Scientist was unequivocal; ‘virtually nothing’ he said. Ipso facto, the cost of doing ‘nothing’ about climate change is precisely that: nothing. The climate in future years will be as good or as bad as it would have been regardless of our efforts.

If the doomsday predictions of rising oceans, floods, cyclones, bushfires, etc. are to occur (which is highly doubtful), they will not be prevented or mitigated one iota by Labor’s costly policies.

Interestingly, if a serious comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of climate change were to be undertaken, it would have to include the indisputable ‘benefit’ of the increased ‘greening’ of our planet, including parts of Australia, thanks to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as has been documented by NASA. Similarly, any honest, apolitical audit of climate change policies would have to include the fact that decreasing our emissions in many instances will have the knock-on effect of increasing emissions in other parts of the planet for myriad reasons – thereby rendering our efforts, again, pointless.

There is nothing ‘dumb’ about questioning the cost of Labor’s ‘fingers-crossed-they-work’ targets and subsidies. Apart from a lucky handful of wealthy renewables investors, every ordinary Australian business, big or small, every worker, every tradie, every retiree, every kid’s future prospects and every household stands to lose far more than they can possibly gain from Labor’s adherence to the climate change cult. The only question is how much. They should be told.

It is reasonable to assume that Mr Shorten does know the cost of his policies, but is either too scared to tell us – once a number is on the table, it becomes a noose around his neck, much as ‘30 newspolls’ became a number Malcolm Turnbull could never escape – or he simply does not care.

Which brings us to the election. This week, John Stone, James Allan and David Flint all offer up their voting tips. As far as The Spectator Australia is concerned, vote Liberals in the House of Reps. Then vote 1 to 12 below the line in the Senate, putting your favourite conservative candidates in your own order of preference based on what you know of the individuals themselves.


Show comments
Close