The Carbon Club – a brief review

Marian Wilkinson’s The Carbon Club (Allen & Unwin 2020) tells the sorry history of the fight against any meaningful climate change action in Australia by vested interests, pressure groups, lobbyists, politicians and the media. The endless catalogue of opposition is mostly the domain of the Liberal and National Parties but the trials of Labor are also documented. Included in the mistakes or missteps through the Rudd Gillard years are Rudd’s failure to call a double dissolution after the defeat of the Emissions Trading Bill in the Senate and Gillard’s “no carbon tax” statement – ruthlessly exploited by hostile politicians and the media. One major (and unrecognised) failure of the Labor interregnum was the lack of basic education on climate science to counter the powerful push against any meaningful climate action in the media.

Reading this book has made me very angry. In many ways it reads like a compendium of Australia’s climate criminals. The list is very long and starts with the ‘behind the scene’ movers like Hugh Morgan and Ray Evans. Then there are groups like the IPA and the Lavoissier group, funded by Australia’s wealthiest citizens (and coal owners) like Gina Rinehart and Palmer. With tame academics (usually geologists) like Carter and Plimer hired to muddy the waters of climate science and a host of ignorant and loud journalists including Bolt, Devine, McCrann, and Alan Jones. And the biggest criminal of them all pulling the puppet strings of the politicians from New York – Rupert Murdoch. Then there is the long list of politicians guided by ambition and the quest to get or hold power, cynically ignoring the public ‘good’ including Minchin, Bernardi, Abbott, Corman, Fifield, Morrison, Taylor and Joyce.

The Valley generators featured in the debate over Rudd’s Emissions Trading Bill and denialists like Evans used it to claim that because of high debt levels the Bill would make the generators bankrupt. The generators retained this powerful position during the Gillard ‘carbon tax’ discussions and thus were treated favourably in the ‘carbon tax’ legislation. The fact remains that these brown coal generators are the most polluting and logically should have been the first to close. Whilst Hazelwood is gone, the three remaining companies have given no indication of closing plans.

The blurb on the back cover states: “The Carbon Club reveals the truth behind Australia’s two decades of climate inaction”. This is somewhat of an understatement. The last chapter (The Road Ahead) brings us up to date through the agonising years of Turnbull PM (Hostage) to the bushfires, coronavirus and the ‘gas lead recovery’. Nothing much has changed. Wilkinson warns that “as the climate crisis escalates, the Morrison government and the fossil fuel industries, are in a race against time.”

The Carbon Club is a reminder of the bankruptcy of our current federal political system and the power of vested interests. It is well worth a read if your blood pressure is not too high.

*copy lent to me by Alistair Mailer of Newlands Arm