Australia Turns Toward Climate Action. Will it Make a Difference?

May 28, 2022

Above, Michael Mann spent a sabbatical year in Australia and, as well as being witness to a catastrophic series of fires and floods – aggressively promoted climate science in numerous TV appearances, as above. Whatever the reason, Australians made a sharp turn away from climate denying PM Scott Morrison in a recent election, and toward a science based policy on climate.
Does it show a larger shift in Western democracies, and can it still make a difference?


Climate change is heating up elections — and the right is getting torched.

Voters in Australia dumped Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National government from power on Saturday in what has been dubbed the country’s “climate election.” High-profile Liberals were driven from the party’s inner-city heartlands losing six seats to pro-climate independents and at least one to the Greens. 

New Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese flew to Japan Monday to meet leaders from the Quad — a grouping including Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. — bearing a message: “There’s a new government in Australia, and it’s a government that represents a change in terms of the way that we deal with the world on issues like climate change.”

Below, Prior to the election, Australian media devoted a lot of serious attention to climate science myth busting.

The role climate plays in Australia’s politics is extreme, but not unique. Climate change is emerging as an electoral issue and other governments also risk being hurt or outflanked on the left by voters who want further-reaching climate action.

In Germany, the center right was sideswiped by a Green wave. Britain’s governing Tories are being pressured by climate rebels on the party’s right wing. In France, it’s a problem for the center. In the U.S., Joe Biden looks set to suffer. 

That’s why Australia’s election is a warning to “center-right parties worldwide,” said John Flesher, the international spokesperson for the U.K. Conservative Environment Network, a pressure group that aims to promote environmentalism within the Tory party. “Voters of all stripes want politicians to act decisively to tackle climate change.”

Down Under, Morrison’s undoing is being parsed more bluntly. 

“They tried to bullshit their climate policies and they got punished,” said Richie Merzian, a former Australian diplomat who is now director of the climate and energy program at the Australia Institute.

It’s the most dramatic example in a series of recent elections in which climate has played a role.


8 Responses to “Australia Turns Toward Climate Action. Will it Make a Difference?”

  1. John Englart Says:

    Yes, acting on climate change was a key issue, along with integrity and addressing gender issues in the Australian parliament. The Morrison Government period was bookended by the devastating catastrophic bushfires of the summer of 2019/2020, and the record flooding events in Central and South-east Queensland and northern New South Wales in February March 2022, including the city of Brisbane, and the NSW northern rivers regional city of Lismore.

    The Greens went from 1 MP to 4, with 3 new Greens elected in City of Brisbane electorates. Community Independents hit at the heart of the conservative Liberal Party being elected in 6 seats in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth high socio-economic electorates. Labor also made several gains in seats, although they took to the election quite a small policy target, with sufficient climate ambition to be seen as being more ambitious, while still falling short of what the science says is needed.

    I wrote this background analysis on the climate election for The Energy Mix for Canadian readers, which also explains a little of our voting system where voting is mandatory by all adults 18 and over (with some exceptions) run by an independent Federal authority: Australian Electoral Commission, and use of preferential voting (ranked choise) for Lower house electorates, and proportional election with preferences for our upper house (Senate).

  2. John Englart Says:

    Also keep in mind we had blatant bias by Murdoch newspaper and Television media against Labor, Greens and Community Independents and for Liberal and National Parties during the election.

    We also had billionaire Clive Palmer funding the United Australia Party campaign to the tune of about Au$100 million, running on an anti-vax, anti vaccine mandate, and freedom slogan, but this resulted in just 4.1% of the national vote withno MPs or Senators elected. Clive Palmer wants to develop the Waratah coal mine in the Galilee Basin of central Queensland.

    See this analysis of media coverage of the election

    Focussed people oriented Community organising campaigns were vital to get community Independents and Greens elected. Very similar to the face to face community campaigns as conducted in Georgia in the US.

  3. J4Zonian Says:

    Australians, like USers, voted for the least possible amount of change you could actually call change (if you were lying). IOW they now partly forswear the denial part of their climate grief (though obviously not really) and (while staying in denial as much as they can without exploding their brains with cog-emo dissonance) have moved onto the bullshitting phase of grief.*

    Not familiar with that phase? It’s often called bargaining. But we in the countries of the Amurican-speaking world have been too steeped in the psychosis of the tripartisan far right** to recover so fast. Our version of bargaining with climate death is to try to bullshit Earth into believing doing nothing is doing something. To bullshit Earth into believing 2030 is 2050, net zero equals zero, and solutions can be friendly with reactionaries.

    It won’t work. Earth won’t bargain, and won’t buy bullshit.

    We need to embrace acceptance, aka reality. ALL reality. As soon as possible. That’s as opposed to continuing the bullshit bargaining that is capitalism, which until we reach acceptance will pervade every phase/task/idea/emotion we try to move through.

    * Note that there are not actually phases of grief but tasks. Many have to be performed superficially, and then again, sometimes deeper or differently, and again, peeled away like layers of an onion.

    ** (tripartisan in both countries–US Rs, Ds, and Is***, and Aussie Libs, Labs and Nats)

    *** aka white propertytarians

    • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

      You are talking the normal two party situation J4. The massive swing to, and election of many, non two party candidates would be fantasy not many years ago. Here in Oz, we do not vote new governments in, we vote old governments out! As CC was big, biggest issue, any gov that ignores it is in trouble.
      Do not give into despair, it’s depressing. Enjoy this win.
      Look for solutions.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        I can’t begin to tell you how arrogant and patronizing that is, and how wrong every single thing you said about me is, and any lessons about the US you think apply. You either haven’t been reading, or paying attention, or understanding much of anything I’ve said for years here, and I have no hope I can change that with 1 comment here.

        It’s too soon to tell, because the empire will strike back, but it seems Oz may still have a somewhat functioning democracy. The US doesn’t.

        • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

          Not arrogant or patronizing at all! Have said things to you, don’t believe have ever said anything about you.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            You are talking the normal two party situation J4.
            No, I’m not. I’m talking about a 1-party system & the psychological system that’s created & maintains it. Your assumption—about me—was wrong despite scores of comments in which I’ve pointed that system out.

            The massive swing to, and election of many, non two party candidates would be fantasy not many years ago. Here in Oz, we do not vote new governments in, we vote old governments out!
            You think I don’t know about your elections? I’ve shown I do. The US also votes against, & as a result swings back & forth wildly & seemingly without reason, although Republican election theft, gerrymandering, voter suppression, corruption, control of courts… will end that if they win again. As I said, however, we don’t even know if Australia will change. let alone the US. Australia’s 1-party system isn’t as autocratic as the US’s but it’s there. And promises aren’t policy & policy isn’t results.

            As CC was…biggest issue, any gov that ignores it is in trouble.
            No, any gov that doesn’t convince people it’s trying is in trouble. Look at the use of the oligarchic duopoly system in the US to play off each other, blame the other party (or Sinemanchin) for failures to please the voters when actually they have no desire to do what voters want; they want to please the funders. Although it’s better off, Australia also has a strong anti-RE oligarchy—coal, mining, shipping, etc. & obviously quite a few people easily fooled. The oligarchy’s not going to just give up; there are endless ploys & gambits, & Australia has had huge swings back & forth before, & climate policies it doesn’t have any more.

            Do not give into despair, it’s depressing.
            I’ve never given any indication I might! Either a woefully wrong assumption—about me—or useless generic bromide. Arrogant, patronizing, & insulting either way.

            Look for solutions.
            I know what the solutions are; I’ve been telling people about them for 40 years. The last 15+ I’ve come to understand both problems & solutions virtually no one else is talking about or acknowledging even when I’ve explained them a dozen times (sad, pitiful woeful US denial & fear of psychology). Where have you been & why are you giving me advice, since you’ve apparently never read (or understood) anything I’ve written? Or even what you’ve written?

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            Bluntly J4, we are basically on the same page except your perception of my attitude to thee. Yes the empire will strike back with all it’s entrenched power.

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