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John Passant

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January 2014



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Maurice Newman, climate change and the rationality of irrationality

Maurice Newman is the head of Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council. He is also a climate change denier. In a piece in The Australian on 31 December called ‘Crowds go cold on climate change‘ Newman said that ‘Australia, too, has become hostage to climate change madness.’ He said that ‘the scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling.’

He made a lot of the usual bullshit assertions about climate change, or rather the supposed lack of it, that do not stand up to scrutiny. As David Karoly wrote in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald called ‘Maurice Newman’s flat-earth thinking ignores climate change facts‘ in response to Newman’s denialism:

His piece is a mix of common climate change myths, misinformation and ideology. While Mr Newman is welcome to his opinions, his writing reveals his sad misunderstanding of the facts about climate change.

As Upton Sinclair wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

By the way, David Karoly is Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Melbourne and a member of the Climate Change Authority, which provides independent advice to the government on Australia’s emissions reduction targets, and other climate change initiatives.

But what would Karoly know in rebutting every one of Newman’s incorrect assertions as myths, misinformation and ideology? After all he is only a world renowned scientist, while Newman is a businessman and adviser to the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

It is not just Newman who thinks like this. Abbott is himself a climate change denier in both word and, now in power, in practice.  Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian is the home of anti-science on climate change.

At first blush it might seem the world has gone mad. How can such obvious rubbish get any support, least of all among seemingly rational business people and their politicians?  After all, these people are ‘successful’ in life, so you’d hope they rely on facts to make their judgements.

Well, for politicians it isn’t always the case. They can successfully build up hysteria about refugees based on no facts but rather lies and appealing to what they think is the xenophobia of Australians.

But business people too? Well, I think for both business people and politicians Karoly’s quote above, taken from Upton Sinclair, is apt. ‘As Upton Sinclair wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” ‘.

And it is not just salary. It is profit. And it is not just particular profits. It is the profits of the whole system.

The current profit system is built by and large on production that gives rise to greenhouse gas emissions. Adequately addressing that would upset if not wreck the whole economic system, a system of exploitation of workers to produce wealth for capital.

To address climate change requires addressing the system that produces it, that is overthrowing capitalism.

Capitalism is also a system with a short term view. Its Grundnorm is profit, and profit in the hands as quickly as possible of capitalists to reinvest for more profit.

On top of that competition forces production to occur in the cheapest ways to make commodities, and despite changes over the last decade or so, oil and coal are still much cheaper than renewable energy.

One neoliberal response to this has been to try to increase prices associated with the use of oil and coal. However governments are national while capitalism is international and without cooperation between hundreds of national governments no agreement can be reached to address the climate crisis globally.  Such agreement can’t be reached because governments reflect the interests of their nation based capitals in competition with other national capital. In particular newly developing capitalist powers like China and India are not going to give up cheap production models to favour the fading powers of US imperialism and European capital.

Third, neoliberal pricing mechanisms impose the cost of addressing climate change not on those who profit from the polluting system but from those who provide its wealth, that is workers. Profit remains sacrosanct while living standards will and must fall.

Fourth, in the past it has been the capitalist workers’ parties which have been able to impose systemic solutions that might hurt sections of capital but benefit the system as a whole. However the degeneration of social democratic parties around the globe into CAPITALIST workers’ parties makes them now unable or unlikely to fulfill this role.

When Maurice Newman displays his irrationality on climate change he is being perfectly rational. Capitalism is an irrational system which appears rational to those of us living in the madhouse. If we think only within its boundaries then what Newman says make sense from the point of view of capital even though it is complete and utter madness.

It is time to think outside the box of rational irrationality that capitalism has trapped us in. It is time for system change not climate change.



Pingback from Maurice Newman, climate change and the rationality of irrationality | OzHouse
Time January 1, 2014 at 9:11 pm

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Comment from Chris Warren
Time January 2, 2014 at 8:28 am

It may seem a quibble, but socialist economies based on cooperatives would also seek profits, and to the extent a workers cooperative may look to its own fortune, it operates as a form of private enterprise in competition with other cooperatives. This also leads to climate change.

Profit itself is not the problem, as anyone should be able to profit from THEIR OWN labour, skill, initiative etc.

The only problem is the subsequent accumulation of this profit and it is this practice that leads to rampant utilisation of fossil fuel either if workers seek to maximise and accumulate their own profits, or if some seek to accumulate the profits of others.

The only solution is a system of International ( eg United Nations, WTO, ILO, IMF, ICJ) endorsed and enforced quotas on fossil fuel usage. This has to apply under socialism and capitalism.

For instance: How would we convince a socialist cooperative that air travel must be restricted until CO2 concentrations are below 350ppm and that we cannot cover the globe with roads that produce 1,000MT of carbon emissions during construction per mile?


We need a higher level of civilisation and a superior form of humanity. The only question is ‘has time run out’?

It is up to the Left to provide a political economic alternative acceptable to global society, that can physically restrict fossil fuel utilisation and if need be, even limit population growth. Otherwise calls for system change just fall on deaf ears.

Comment from John
Time January 2, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Well, maybe some of the wealth would be set aside for reinvestment, yes, but the point about socialism is the abolition of the wages system and deep democracy. It is ending the exploitation that is capitalism by ending exploitation, so if you imagine cooperatives under capitalism then that isn’t socialism.

Comment from Chris Warren
Time January 3, 2014 at 7:04 am

Maybe time has run out, and our grandchildren will spit on our graves.

The latest research puts Abbott and Newman to shame.

In two generations from now, if CO2 emissions maintain current trends, the environment will be devastated.


Population control and aggressive, not-for-profit biochar programs should move up the political agenda. But we need international quotas on fossil fuels.

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