The science minister, Karen Andrews, has said it’s “time for everyone to move on” from ideological debates on climate change.
“Every second that we spend discussing if climate change is real is a second we don’t spend addressing these issues,” she told Nine Newspapers. “Let’s move on and get over this.”
Yet the seconds members of her party have spent denying the climate emergency and its impacts not only stretch into hours, they have derailed Australia’s attempts at a coordinated response for a decade.
The bushfire crisis has led to a change in language on climate change and its impact on natural disasters among the Coalition, with the prime minister, Scott Morrison, claiming the government he leads “has always made that connection and that has never been in dispute”.
Except it has.
Morrison may have signalled his pivot to “evolving” his government’s climate policy – a notion Andrews picked up with a call to “adapt and mitigate” the impact of the changes – but there are many within the party room who continue to openly doubt the science.
An analysis of the social media postings on public Facebook and Twitter pages by federal Liberal and National members of federal parliament show most MPs who posted about the fires throughout the season were either mentioning places to donate, or passing on emergency services information.
But doubters continue to exist within the government. Asked on Wednesday about his message to backbenchers who continue to dispute the science, Morrison said “every member of Parliament … has a right to speak their mind.”
Here’s what MPs have been saying.
A serial and constant denier of climate change, the New South Wales MP most recently made international headlines when he called a British meteorologist an “ignorant pommie weather girl” after openly denying the existence of climate change.
“Well firstly there is no link, the facts that cause the fires are the drought and the drying of the environment and on this our climate scientists down here have been very clear and they have said that there is no link between drought and climate change.”
Kelly doubled down on his comments in an interview with Piers Morgan in the midst of the bushfire crisis.
Just hours after Andrews’ comments, Kelly was back on Facebook denying Australia could do anything in terms of lowering emissions which “will have any measurable effect on global temperatures, sea levels or bad weather.”
He may have to limit his views to his social media though. Government MPs say Kelly has been encouraged to once again avoid interviews – he was previously stopped from appearing on the ABC’s Q&A program before the 2019 election campaign.
The Queensland MP continues to point to debunked and false theories that arson is to blame for the majority of blazes this summer. He also openly and consistently disputes the link between climate change and worsening disasters and “hat tips” Kelly for his work in this space, linking to Kelly’s posts.
Unashamedly pro-coal, the Queensland senator declared it had been “such an honour to represent the Australian mining sector” when he briefly stepped down from the ministry, during the section 44 constitutional issues which weighed down the previous parliament.
While agreeing that Australia should reduce carbon emissions, he also told the ABC on 12 December “what I don’t agree with is that doing so in Australia would significantly or at all reduce bushfire risk.”
“I don’t think you can at all, at this stage, link individual events to particular outcomes. The fires have not started due to climate change”.
After leading the charge against the carbon price, Joyce has since acknowledged climate change is real and happening. Yet he continues to float debunked theories.
“There are a range of things that affect the climate and, on a global scale, you should be part of it, and acknowledge it would have an effect and I acknowledge that there are other issues as well,” he told Sky News on 11 November.
“There’s just the oscillation of the seasons. There’s a change in the magnetic field of the sun.”
After his surprise election to the Senate, Rennick doubled down on his views during a November 2019 interview with Sky News.
“Yeah, it is a serious accusation. And I’ll stand by it,” he said. “I don’t believe the record, the changing records and the way they’ve gone about it.”
The NT senator insists it is the Greens’ agenda which led “to these horrible fires”.