Leading article Australia

Tanya powder keg

14 June 2014

9:00 AM

14 June 2014

9:00 AM

Yet again, Tanya Plibersek has shown herself ill-equipped for the critical and sensitive portfolio of foreign affairs. Launching into a crass and erroneous attack on Tony Abbott, the woman who would presume to represent us on the international stage celebrated the success of his recent overseas trip by labelling him ‘Nigel No-friends’. That her spiteful, childish spray was based upon a silly media beat-up (where the Prime Minister was briefly photographed standing by himself awaiting Angela Merkel for a group photo at the D-Day celebrations) is to be expected from a leading light of Labor’s undergraduate class of ’98: that same quota-mandated intake of sanctimonious left-wing ideologues that gave us Julia Gillard and Nicola Roxon.

Ms Plibersek has form when it comes to publicly misrepresenting Australia’s conduct and image overseas. Recently on the ABC1’s Lateline, following an overblown claim of ‘significant friction’ and a ‘fractured’ relationship with Indonesia, she appeared flustered and unaware when apprised of recent positive comments from the Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa regarding the relationship and developments on completing a code of conduct.

This time around, Ms Plibersek chose to link a bit of Twitter silliness and an overexcited report by Laurie Oakes to make the serious charge that Australia’s interests were being undermined by the Coalition’s policies on climate change and the minor rescheduling of the prime ministerial diary. ‘Australians have to worry that he’ll be embarrassing us on the world stage,’ she stated.

Needless to say, the media were happy to spin such a line, with the Age among others claiming that ‘Australia risks seriously damaging its international reputation and being isolated in the global debate on climate change unless it rethinks its inaction on greenhouse gases.’ Er, no. To all intents and purposes the trip has been a success, with a strong focus on investment in the Australian economy. Any disagreement Mr Abbott may have with Barack Obama on climate change pales into insignificance compared to the hostility with which the President’s plans have been received from both sides of his own political sphere. It would appear the President cannot even convince members of his own party that higher energy costs and tougher regulations are the best way to tackle climate change. ‘President Obama’s new EPA rule is more proof that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky. Coal keeps the lights on… providing a way for thousands of Kentuckians to put food on their tables,’ said US Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes last week. Other Democrats are distancing themselves from the President’s anti-carbon agenda.

Ms Plibersek should recognise that Australia, far from being out of step on climate change, reflects the international consensus. Of the 190-odd nations within the UN framework convention on climate change, only 30 or so have a carbon or cap and trade scheme. Of those, 28 are part of the widely discredited EU ETS. Moreover, as Mr Abbott made clear this week, prospects for a legally binding, enforceable and verifiable global deal that replaces Kyoto are virtually zero.

The joke lies elsewhere

There was much mirth to be had at the stumbling performance of senator-elect Ricky Muir in his first major TV appearance. Clearly fazed not only by savvy reporter Mike Willesee but also by the entire concept of the ‘balance of power’ that he himself will jointly hold, Mr Muir gave a performance that was cringe-making, toe-curling, sphincter-tightening television at its very finest. Not since the equally flustered Jaymes Diaz attempted to articulate the six ‘pillars’ of the Coalition’s ‘stop the boats’ policy during the last election has the unrelenting glare of the media spotlight on one individual seemed so revealing, so sadistic and, well, so downright funny.

No doubt the senator-elect and his Motoring Enthusiasts party will be subjected to more ridicule when the rubber really does hit the road in a few weeks’ time. Yet the real joke lies elsewhere. Mr Muir may be televisually challenged, lacking the smooth media training and snappy soundbites of his peers. But his inarticulate responses were in reality no worse, and possibly not even as bad, as the sneering obfuscations and empty, emotional posturing with which Bill Shorten and his Labor party oppose the budget. Desperate to evade any responsibility for their own fiscal recklessness and stupidity, Labor offer not a single alternative solution to those measures urgently required to repair the structural damage they themselves wrought.

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