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On how to be a really good populist ScoMo: read the mood on climate and win!

NEWS FROM THE FRONT DESK ISSUE  No 404: If you’re confused about Canberra right now, you’re not alone. Think how former PM Malcolm Turnbull must feel. On the one hand we’ve never seen him so happy as during his farewell speech to the nation, thinking he’d snatched victory from Dutton and handed him defeat instead. On the other, did he?

Or was he played by new PM Scott Morrison from the start, as the noise now suggests?

Right now Turnbull is turning his anger against Dutton but Dutton is starting to look like a pawn, struggling in Morrison’s wake, after the intricate number crunching that’s been salaciously uncovered since the coup thanks to Karen Middleton at The Saturday Paper.

Key, Middleton said was the riddle of the five missing votes: while 45 people voted for the spill against Turnbull only 40 subsequently voted for Dutton. Once Dutton was dumped the stage was clear for Morrison to come bounding over the neighbourhood fence, all happy chappy and neighbourly to rescue the day, sort of, for Turnbull. What he rescued of course was a scrap of pride.

If the thing sounds strange now, it’s going to get stranger as we head to the polls.

Why it’s important for our patch is that if people complained about it being difficult to pin down where Turnbull stood on climate and emissions, it’s going to be even harder with Morrison.

If you tried to follow the magician’s lightning fast illusion on stage during the coup and saw just smoke and mirrors you will get a sense of what might lie ahead.

First is that it’s now clear Morrison didn’t suddenly get the idea into his head to help his PM save face. This had been planned for years. What Morrison might stand for is getting to the top job, and to be fair, no more and no less than any other politician. As someone said on the phone this week you have to have a massive ego to contemplate running the country.

What’s important for the people actually making the country function is not so much if they are ego driven – we don’t doubt that – but whether they also have any strong standards that they might want to fight for.

Where Morrison stands on a number of issues, and how deep inside the pockets he is of the tight little fossil fuel group that dominates our political system, is anyone’s guess.

So far he’s danced with coal in Parliament, supported the National Energy Guarantee, but canned the idea of reducing emissions and he now supports the Paris accord but trotted out security issues in the Asia Pacific as a good reason to do so.

He told people last week he’s sympathetic to concerns for the environment and hinted that this might be because so many people loved the ABC’s “War on Waste”.

This man is seriously agile. And entertaining. Popping out from behind the curtain with the cheesiest of grins – all singing, all dancing, juggling, throwing fire sticks, tumbling and triple somersaulting, faster than the eye can see. Like the very best populists are.

“I hear you Australia; I’m on your side,” he’s saying.

We’ll see.

Consumer surveys are go

If Morrison really cares about the mood of the people then he will be paying attention to the recent surveys that show most of us now really care about climate action.

We heard last week from the Australia Institute that concern about climate change is now 73 per cent, up from 66 per cent in 2017.

And this week came a survey from HP and Planet Ark that demonstrated that consumers are increasingly on the same bandwidth.

The figures here are even more dramatic:

  • nine in 10 Australian consumers and businesses are concerned about environmental sustainability and an even greater number are concerned about plastic pollution
  • Only half of Australians (consumers: 48 per cent, businesses: 50 per cent) feel they are doing enough in their everyday lives to protect the environment
  • More than two in three Australian consumers (71 per cent) and three in four (77 per cent) Australian businesses are willing to pay more for environmentally-friendly products
  • 70 per cent of Australians aged 22-30 strongly prefer to, or will only, work for a company that promotes environmentally sustainable practices

Note the bit about being prepared to pay more, for quality, you could argue. This has been the bugbear of many a sustainability campaigner when everything is brought down to cost and cost is a proferred as a reason to back off on sustainability.

But better nearly always costs more if it’s a consumer product. And better now means not just luxury, but something that doesn’t end up in landfill overnight or that isn’t pumped full of toxic chemicals. The best things, of course, are still free. But watch the oligopolies; they might try to privatise clean air next.

The survey, from PHD Research, surveyed more than 1000 Australian Gen X (aged 38-53) and Gen Y (aged 22-37) consumers and more than 600 Australian businesses, ranging from SoHo (small office/home office with 1-4 employees) to medium-sized (51-500 employees).

In a result that will resonate with property owners, 70 per cent of Australians aged 22-30 said they wanted to work for a company that’s on their environmental and ethical bandwidth. Buildings are key to that. And see the latest GRESB results where the biggest and best Aussie companies can again bask in their moment of glory. We at The Fifth Estate, however, and many others spread throughout this land, want to know how the trickle down effect is going to work. Caring and sharing folks, that’s the name of the game now –  good to remember.

The survey also found that preferences for keep cups or recycling was strong among Gen Xers and that both consumers and businesses are concerned about marine plastic pollution, landfill waste, and impact on the natural environment as the “three leading environmental sustainability concerns”.

So ScoMo, here’s the mood, you can read it here every day of the week. Now all power to you to get it across the line and not be derailed by that mean little cohort of dirty coal lovers trying to kill us all.

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