Canberra’s Labor supporters could not help but be dismayed by the performance of their Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh in a recent interview with ABC radio’s Adam Shirley. It was an exercise in sophistry worthy of its own episode of Yes Minister…except, of course that Mr Leigh is not a minister and will not become one if he persists in substituting spin for plain speaking…and cowardice for political courage.
Some months ago he took me to task for advocating Australia’s withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan which I had condemned as an exercise in futility. In response, he penned a letter to me defending our participation with the usual blather about reducing the threat of terrorism and ‘helping to improve the humanitarian position of the Afghan people.’
Since then more Australian soldiers have died needlessly.
Now they are heading home to suffer the agony of their post traumatic stress disorder. I have recently completed writing the biographies of two of them to be published next year. And one of my unwelcome discoveries was that the PTSD doesn’t confine itself to the soldiers; their wives and children suffer a seemingly endless emotional torture. And for what, Andrew Leigh? Let’s see what happens in Afghanistan when the last of the Americans leave.
Andrew Leigh’s more recent contribution on the ABC was on a subject no less important for Australians and indeed the world: Labor’s climate change policy. Apparently he has joined the weak sisters who surround ‘Slippery Bill’ Shorten urging the party to wave through Tony Abbott’s legislation to repeal the price on carbon. He says it’s the policy Labor took to the election since Kevin Rudd announced that they would move from the fixed price (the so-called carbon tax) to an Emissions Trading Scheme a year earlier than originally scheduled. He conflates this policy with the Abbott plan to kill carbon pricing with no ETS to take its place.
Adam Shirley did a nice job in exposing the logical fallacy embedded in Andrew Leigh’s argument. But really, that wasn’t the point; politics is not about sophistry, nor even expedience. It’s about taking a clear and unambiguous position on the big issues of the day. And there is nothing bigger than climate change.
Everyone knows the Abbott plan is a sham, a smokescreen to disguise his firmly held view that the world’s scientists are alarmists and we should not be interfering with Nature (for which read God’s ineffable plan) as embodied in the beliefs of his spiritual adviser, Cardinal George Pell.
By abandoning the fight – even symbolically – Labor would have surrendered the field to the mythmakers; and for the most transient political relief from the ‘carbon tax’ bogey created from thin air (as it were) by Tony Abbott. And that’s the way they were headed until Anthony Albanese put some backbone into them.
The conservatives, and much of the mainstream media, it seems, fell and remain under the spell of the most irresponsible Opposition Leader in Australia’s history. Sadly, as Prime Minister, he is now opposed by one of the most ineffectual.