The same day Morrison posted his video, Coalition MP Tim Wilson tweeted: “2019 saw our government launch and continue 790 practical emissions reduction projects. We continue to grow our investments in emissions reduction here and abroad. We’re getting emissions down – all without any new taxes.”
Twitter rounded on Wilson, both for the obvious untruths – emissions in Australia have been rising since the Abbott government abolished the price on carbon in 2013, although the government is now using changes to how soil carbon is counted to make it look like they aren’t – and for being so tone deaf to the public mood around the bushfires, emissions and climate change.
The government is hammering two complementary yet contradictory points: we’re doing something about climate change (we’re not, really), and our share of global emissions is so small that it doesn’t really matter what we do anyway (they’re not, and it does).
Coalition ministers and MPs have been so on-message that they now seem to be living in a parallel reality to the rest of us, constructed of talking points and deliberate blindness to the obvious. You have to wonder how long they can live with this level of cognitive dissonance before it does them permanent psychological and moral damage.
People say that we live in a post-truth age, when no one knows (or cares about) the difference between fake news and real, truth-telling and lies. If you accept that, maybe the government can go on with its refusal to properly acknowledge the role of climate change in the current drought, heatwaves and fires, to accept that our real emissions are really rising despite the number shuffling, and to take real action about it to stop things getting even worse.
But regimes were sustained by propaganda, lies and fake news before the internet and social media, until enough citizens stopped buying the party line and their power quickly crumbled – think of East Germany at the end of the Cold War.
Some time in the next few years, Scott Morrison or his successor as leader of the Liberal Party will have to come clean with Australia about climate change and his government’s role in stymying action, from his predecessor Tony Abbott’s repeal of Labor’s price on carbon in 2013 to the spin and number games they are using today.
Scott Morrison can be the prime minister who owns up to his and his government’s mistakes and obfuscations, or the blusterer who spins it until the end.
How it plays out is still up to him, although an extension of this summer’s fires into autumn or a repeat next summer would surely take that choice away.
Matt Holden is a Melbourne writer.