Steering the ship of state isn’t the easiest experience. Not only is it a matter of always tacking between Scylla and Charybdis. Even senior officers on the bridge — let alone the other ranks — will try to push the tiller different ways. And if that’s not enough the captain, the prime minister, never knows quite knows what’s going on in the engine room, AKA the public service.
How does he reassure the passengers, the voters, you and me?
Prime ministers have a number of special tools at their disposal, and one of the oldest and most reliable is “the drop”. A trusted — or largely trusted — member of the media is given a nicely prepackaged story in exchange for a prominent and sympathetic run.
And that’s whats happened in The Sunday Telegraph today where Scott Morrison has effectively declared “How good is climate science!”
Let’s hear it in in Annika Smethurst’s words:
Senior members of the Prime Minister’s staff have warned climate change doubters within the Morrison government to toe the line.
It comes as new evidence emerges about Scott Morrison’s long-term acceptance of climate change despite accusations the summer bushfire disaster had prompted him to change his language.
An analysis of Mr Morrison’s speeches over his 13-year parliamentary career reveal he has always accepted climate change science and previously called for Australia to take “sensible” actions.
“The global issues are significant and if they are not addressed then we will not be able to save the Murray, we will not be able to stop the Reef from bleaching, and we will not be able to avoid the impacts of climate change,” he said in 2008.
“The world, I believe, will wake up on this issue at some point.
“At that time, I believe we must be the world leaders in the technology, services and expertise that will then be in high demand.”
He also called on Australia to “address the use of coal”.
That’s all very interesting indeed. The usual form of words if the analysis had been produced by Ms Smethurst or with help from colleagues would be “an analysis by The Sunday Telegraph”. This analysis wouldn’t have come from the Prime Minister’s office itself, would it? If so, could it possibly be a teensy-weensy bit subjective, deigned to reassure poor dumb mug punters in the current cacophony of climate catastrophe?
The Sunday Telegraph understands backbencher Craig Kelly was recently confronted by senior members of the PM’s staff, including Mr Morrison’s principal private secretary Yaron Finkelstein, who warned him not to do anymore interviews after he appeared on UK television claiming there was no link between climate change and Australia’s bushfire crisis.
Asked about a recent change in language on climate change, Mr Morrison denied any shift saying the government he leads “has always made that connection”.
Mr Kelly is one of a dozen Coalition MPs who have attempted to debunk the link between climate change and fires.
The Spectator Australia understands something a little different: that Kelly, among others, was told to STFU by the Prime Minister himself in a telephone hook up last week.
Also last week, Malcolm Turnbull produced a piece for Time magazine that had all the subtlety of the Kremlin’s recent unveiling of its new hypersonic cruise missile capacity:
In most countries, asking people whether they believe in the science of climate change is like asking them whether they believe in gravity. It is a simple matter of physics. The more greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, the hotter our climate will become.
But in Australia, as in the U.S., this issue has been hijacked by a toxic, climate-denying alliance of right-wing politics and media … as well as vested business interests, especially in the coal industry.
As prime minister, I tried to ensure that our climate and energy policies were governed by engineering and economics, not ideology and idiocy. Tragically, the climate-denying political right in Australia has turned what should be a practical question of how to respond to a real physical threat into a matter of values or belief…
Is Captain Morrison now navigating with the charts bequeathed to him by his predecessor at the helm of The Australia? If so, what do the other members of the crew think?
Or is this just an attempt to reassure the passengers? They might not know much about the finer point points of seafaring but trust the captain to take them on the voyage they signed up for, steering out of harm’s way but on the straightest, quickest possible path otherwise.
So, will it work? Word from the bridge of the ship of state, we must remember, gets filtered through a strange device known as the media.
Then there’s also that substitute crew ready to take over, known as the opposition, always keen to offer their own take on the course the captain is steering.
That course has more than a bit of the Costa Concordia about it at the moment. It appears that someone thinks they’re being very clever with a short term manoeuvre.
If the manoeuvre goes wrong, however, a massive, messy salvage operation will be needed.
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