On his trip to the US this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison did his best to avoid the issue of climate change. Even though he was in the neighbourhood, Mr Morrison chose to skip a special session of the United Nations on climate change that most other world leaders, including even US President Donald Trump, attended. Yet the issue just would not go away and Mr Morrison’s attempts to divert attention from it have only exposed the contradictions in his position.
He felt compelled to defend Australia’s climate policies when he addressed a separate UN session on Wednesday (US time). ‘‘Australia’s internal and global critics on climate change willingly overlook or perhaps ignore our achievements,’’ he said. He later blamed this ‘‘completely false’’ criticism of his government on the media.
The Age, which has indeed criticised the government’s policies, is flattered by Mr Morrison’s view of our persuasive power, but he is wrong if he is suggesting that coverage such as ours has swayed the UN or world leaders. They have based their assessment on Mr Morrison’s own actions and on the facts of Australia’s policies.
They see that Mr Morrison has a record of trivialising the threat of climate change, including his schoolboy prank of bringing a lump of coal into Parliament. He had been told he would not be allowed to address the session he skipped because of his weak climate policies. But that was no excuse not to turn up.
The Prime Minister characterised the concern over climate change expressed by young people at the UN as “needless anxiety”. Without naming Greta Thunberg, who addressed the UN, Mr Morrison suggested her speech was inappropriate. “Let teenagers be teenagers,” he said. But he also encouraged young people to have a “passionate independent view” – provided they were given context. While he spoke to his own daughters about fossil fuels, he did not have deep conversations with them about emission targets.