Going nuclear and the distraction from cutting fossil fuel output

Contributed from Victoria

Peter Dutton’s nuclear crusade is a charade, at least in part about hiding the intention to extent Australia’s production of oil and gas and break prior commitments. One can’t help but notice that Labor’s Albanese government been lacklustre in standing in the way of this.

The seemingly choreographed dance over what some of the media is irresponsibility naming the new “culture wars.’ Belies a kind of consensus. Labor and the Coalition are united in their ambition to minimise reduction of the fossil fuel industry and grow it wherever they can. The differences lie in how they go about it. The Coalition happens to have a more militant approach.

This doesn’t mean that Labor under Albanese is inherently anti-nuclear. If it were, it wouldn’t have welcomed the AUKUS deal American nuclear warships to Australian ports. The connection is this. Dutton’s nuclear plan is in part about the creation of a nuclear industry, which means building the capacity to build it, the know-how, and radioactive waste disposal capacity. This is necessary to service nuclear power submarines, and the ships that will follow them. Labor under Albanese has not been adverse towards such an industry. Washington is pushing for it, for use by American forces increasingly stationing here.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has just given permission Senex Energy to expand its Atlas Stege 3 project to operate up to 151 coal seam gas wells. A gift like this to a company owned by Gina Rinehart in partnership with the South Korean steel giant Posco, says a great deal. Rhinehart has a long record of opposition to carbon emission controls. Coal seam is the dirtiest form of gas extraction, imposing major contamination of the land, livestock, and water table.

Photo by Patrick Hamilton: Gena Rinehart favoured by Albanese government pictured holding a lump of coal in 2011 at the Alpha Coal Project, Central Queensland

Note that Peter Dutton and the Coalition have said nothing to oppose the deal. This is what bipartisanship looks like. Both sides insist that energy security and the economic wellbeing of Australia depends on continuing the fossil fuel industry. They could say that a leap of investment in in genuine renewable alternatives is the road to energy security and a healthy economy. But they won’t because their interests are too tied to the fossil fuel industry.

Dutton and the Coalition are bent on a new form of disguised climate change denialism. Albanese and his government are following the road of more gradual relaxation, through the application of measures that widen the gap between proclaimed targets and real outcomes and covering this with questionable measurement methods.

Dubbing the differences that there are as culture wars is irresponsible because it turns attention away from what ire the important questions. What is Australia’s progress in eliminating carbon emissions? How well are we progressing in building real alternatives and the future green and a successful new economy?

Although our politicians are collectively failing, all is not lost. Much of Australia is still determined to turn this around. This includes the bulk of Labor’s membership and base. There are those within the Coalition ranks who feel the same, and support for the Greens and independents to whom the climate is a critical issue is on the rise.

The danger for now is falling for the distraction. Only by those fighting for a genuine and adequate response to the climate crisis insisting on sticking to the need for a major stepping up of action towards eliminating carbon emissions once and for all, and as soon as possible, will this be avoided.

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