Exposing the 'greenhouse mafia'

October 26, 2007

Guy Pearse — the speechwriter for the federal Coalition environment minister from 1997 to 2000 who blew the whistle last year on the Howard government's use of Australia's biggest polluters to write its greenhouse gas emissions policy — visited Melbourne on October 24 as part of an east-coast speaking tour.

Pearse introduced himself by saying that he was still a member of the Liberal Party. He said that from around 1990 until John Hewson's failed "Fightback" election campaign in 1993, official Liberal policy was for a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2000.

He recalled how, while working for the Liberal Party, he "ignored pennies dropping" as he became aware of the systematic deception of the public on climate change by the Howard government's public relations machine. This was when he decided to blow the whistle.

Pearse was interviewed by the ABC TV's Four Corners program on "The Greenhouse Mafia", aired in February 2006. After this, he said that the Liberals quietly turned their back on him.

Seeing absolutely no subsequent change in the government's approach to climate change, Pearse said he decided that revealing "the full story of how John Howard was confusing polluter interests with the national interest" led him to write his first book, High and Dry, published in July.

In his Melbourne meeting, Pearse discussed what basically amounted to the bribing of Howard's "inner circle" by the coal-mining lobby, with "large sums of money" flowing through "back and side doors" into the Liberal Party to avoid electoral disclosure requirements. In return, the government paid exorbitant consultancy fees to the polluters to guide government greenhouse gas policy.

The Australian Industry Greenhouse Network (AIGN) — the self-confessed "greenhouse mafia" — bragged among themselves and with top government bureaucrats like Pearse about how they "reverse managed" government climate policy to accord with the Business Council of Australia's approach to the environment.

He said government bureaucrats turned a blind eye to this "reverse management" because not rocking the boat gave them a chance of securing a lucrative job with the AIGN.

The government hired the polluters' policy writers as government policy consultants without a tender process — a procedure Pearse said he was disappointed had not been more widely publicised by the media after he blew the whistle.

He said that virtually all of Howard's front bench were climate change sceptics and that current federal tourism minister Fran Bailey had proposed "covering the Great Barrier Reef with shadecloth" to stop it being destroyed by global warming. Pearse said he went to Bunnings and costed this proposal at roughly $7.4 trillion.

Pearse concluded his talk by looking at the government's Be Climate Clever campaign, which he said should more rightly be called "climate conned" because "the more people are obsessed with their own emissions, the less likely they are to notice that overall emissions would rise by 60% by 2050 even if all household emissions were eliminated".

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