Prime Minister Julia Gillard was supposed to launch Labor's new policy to tackle climate change on July 23. But in essence she merely restated the same old Labor climate policy: delay, delay and delay again.
Gillard's speech was pages long, but her climate agenda can be summarised in just four words: more talk, less action.
The core promise was that her government would create a “citizens’ assembly” to discuss options to deal with global warming. Perhaps the government will propose the ice caps and glaciers hold off from melting until Gillard's august assembly has concluded its deliberations.
Another promise was that a Gillard government would make sure all coal-fired power stations were "ready" to capture carbon dioxide.
But they can be made as “ready” as they like. What Gillard failed to mention was that no coal-fired power station will actually capture and store greenhouse gases anytime soon because the technology to do so does not exist.
A third announcement was to give $1 billion over 10 years to upgrade Australia's electricity grid for renewable energy. That's great — except the full cost of the job is about 90 times what is on offer.
For weeks, Gillard has repeated that she can’t take action until there is a "community consensus". Yet the consensus exists and has existed for years now. A majority of Australians want stronger action on climate change.
Labor's 2007 election victory gave it a strong mandate to cut emissions sharply. It has wasted those three years. Gillard will now seek a mandate in this election to waste another three.
The policy announcement was met with snap protests in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Climate action groups and peak environment bodies have condemned Gillard's refusal to commit to serious action.
But some of the most powerful condemnations of Gillard's climate policy can be found in her own past statements.
In 2008 she said: "We all know that our planet is getting hotter — climate change is the biggest social and economic challenge of our generation. The science is overwhelming and after years of inaction, we can no longer sit on our hands and hope that the problem goes away."
A year later, she told ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy: “Well Mr Turnbull this morning has made an important point that delay is denial; that if the extremists and sceptics take over the Liberal Party and say, ‘oh what we want is a Senate committee and a report in February’, what that really means is denial. That means that they are locked in to not acting on climate change.”
The old Gillard sounded better than the new Gillard. Climate change is the biggest social and economic challenge of our generation. Climate action delay is as bad as climate denial.
The science is overwhelming. The science demands an emergency response: direct government investment in renewable energy and direct action to phase out fossil fuels.
Both big parties are selling out our future at this election. It's time to mobilise in response. The August 15 Walk Against Warming protests in all major cities provide a good opportunity to do this.