A chaotic, back-stabbing and farcical week in Australian politics saw the socially conservative, Scott Morrison, become the new Prime Minister earlier today, the country’s fifth Prime Minister in just over five years.
Australians have been watching the bitter leadership battle with a mixture of horror and humour at the political infighting, likening it to the TV series the Games of Thrones.
The hardliner Morrison replaces the moderate, Malcolm Turnbull, who had tried to save his career earlier in the week by ditching his flagship energy and climate polities.
Morrison, who was the Treasurer in the Government until this week, won an internal ballot of the party 45-40 over former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton who had attempted to depose of Turnbull earlier in the week.
Morrison said he would work to “bring our party back together which has been bruised and battered this week” and bring the country together. However, as the Guardian noted today: “There appears no end in sight to the civil war consuming the ruling Liberal-led coalition government.”
The Government has become a laughing stock on social media, with many people appalled at the political in-fighting. Mehreen Faruqi, the Green’s Senator for NSW tweeted: “What a week to start in Oz parliament. The circus continues while bushfires burn in winter, cruelty is inflicted on children in Nauru and working people battle to make ends meet. Shameful #auspol #libspill”
Moreover, from a climate perspective, Scott Morrison’s victory can only be bad news. Even though Turnbull dumped his climate and energy bill, he was still seen as a moderate in his own party.
Whereas Turnbull was said to be concerned about climate, Scott Morrison loves coal. Back in February last year, Morrison famously brought a lump of coal into the House of Representatives, supplied by the Minerals Council of Australia in the middle of the heatwave. “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared,” he said.
Morrison loves coal so much last year he would not rule out using money set aside in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to fund a new generation of coal-fired power stations. “Coal is a big part of the future under a Coalition Government and clearly that’s not the case under the alternative,” Morrison told ABC last February.
Contrary to Morrison’s statement, most climate scientists believe we should phase out coal as soon as possible. We know that the burning of coal is hurtling us all towards a climate cliff. We all have reason to be afraid of coal.
As Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics, at Charles Sturt University noted at the time of Morrison’s coal stunt in Parliament: “With these words Australia’s Treasurer Scott Morrison taunted the Opposition, attempting to ridicule its commitment to renewable energy”. The lump of coal was used to “mock those who want to hasten the transition away from fossil fuels.”
He continued: “The denial industry often reminds us that carbon is the source of life, and perhaps that thought lay behind Morrison’s swaggering parliamentary performance with his lump of coal. Yet carbon now in its fossilized form reminds us of our mortality. Is that so hard to grasp?”