Bob Katter

September 2010 – Making the most astounding headlines today was Bob Katter, one of the three key Independents who are deciding the future of this country, with his statement on ABC radio that two of giants of climate change Nicholas Stern and Australia’s Ross Garnaut were “lightweight” and “stupid.”

The remarks came as Labor and the Greens announced agreement on a number of issues including a multi-party, expert Climate Change Committee in a prospective Labor Government.

Green and climate groups welcomed the Climate Change Committee, but Opposition Leader Tony Abbott promptly renamed the committee the Carbon Tax Committee.

At least the major parties were now drawing a more clear demarcation along climate change lines. Or were they?

As Climate Institute chief executive officer John Connor pointed out to The Fifth Estate today, Abbott has backed a renewable energy target, which has an “effective” carbon price of $15 a tonne. But of course this is no time to highlight such an inconvenient matter.

How confusing can things get?

Mr Katter, whom we are sorely tempted to refer to now as the Mad Hatter – after so many journalists solemnly, declared he was not as unbalanced as his 10 gallon cowboy hat suggests – today said he simply does not “agree” with the climate scientists and their opinions backed by major reports from Nicholas Stern and Ross Garnaut. As if the climate science is a matter of opinion.

“I think their positions are fairly lightweight,” he told AM.

“I’ve heard their viewpoint many times, and I simply disagree with them dramatically.

“Just to indicate how stupid those people are, there is a very unassailable scientific case that there will be a problem arising in the oceans. They don’t mention that.”

Demonstrating remarkable sense of balance and calmness, Mr Connor said that Katter had some fairly passionate views about renewable energy but simply hasn’t made the connection with a carbon price yet – which he avowedly rejects.

“We met yesterday [on Tuesday]with [Tony] Windsor and [Rob] Oakshott and briefly with Bob Katter and had an hour and a half of discussion. Katter is a big supporter of renewable energy and he’s concerned about the acidification of the oceans and he wants to rein in pollution,” Connor says.

“At the end of the day he is a big supporter of a clean energy corridor between Mt Isa and Townsville. And regional Australia has so much to benefit from harvesting clean energy.”

At the same time, Mr Katter speaks passionately against a carbon price, Mr  Connor said.

What’s still missing is “an understanding that without a price tag on pollution we’re not going to get investment in those energy sources. It’s part of the engagement he and others need to have,” said Connor, demonstrating calmness and balance in counterpoint to Mr Katter’s wild remarks.

“Don’t expect that to happen overnight.”

But who will run the country? Surely the Independents will side with their heavily conservative climate change-denying constituents and we will end up with no climate action at all?

Connor, preaching what he practices says:  “It’s very important we take a chill pill and let the Independents work their way through the issues.”

It seems Labor was finally getting the message on climate change, judging by today’s announcement. It might also have been spurred by the Climate Institute exit poll, which showed that a third of The Greens vote would have gone to Labor if Labor had not delayed an emissions trading scheme.

Mr Connor agreed it was a case of a “pox on both your houses,” in response to a “no content – no outcome” election.

Mr Connor today also formally welcomed the agreement between the Labor Party and The Greens for a Climate Change Committee.

He said that Australia’s “pollution politics” had become mired in scare campaigns and misinformation and a new approach was urgently needed.

“Enshrining an independent Climate Change Commission, can help pull action on pollution and climate change out of the political quagmire,” he said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry also welcomed the Committee and said it should legislate for a price on carbon.

This would herald increased investment in sustainable energy in rural Australia where he said a majority of Australians are in favour of such a measure, he said.

“Just as world-renowned climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern said today in Canberra, a price on carbon is fundamental to action on climate change.

“An Auspoll survey conducted in June found 70 per cent of Australians support putting a price tag on pollution.”

Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, pointed out that The Greens supported many benefits for rural Australia.

“The Greens are growing rapidly across regional Australia, winning votes from farmers and many former National Party constituents, because we have a positive vision for the bush while the Nationals offer only scare campaigns harking back to a past long gone,” Milne said.

“Unlike the Nationals, the Greens want to deliver the NBN, providing communications, health and education benefits for people across regional Australia, as well as a food security plan that protects prime agricultural land, and much more.”

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