Governments were generally caught short by COVID-19. Scott Morrison boasts that he saw it earlier, and acted quicker and more decisively, than most – that he relied on medical and scientific advice, forged a “national” response, ignored ideology.
But his government has a split personality on the need to rely on science. It so easily ignores climate science, still swayed by a small rump of Coalition deniers.
In a sense, the experience of the pandemic is a dress rehearsal of what will happen with climate, if governments continue to ignore the science. There had been imprecise warnings of possible pandemics, but these had been ignored. Climate science is far more substantive, peer-assessed and uniform than that relied on to support the COVID responses; the predicted catastrophic weather events have become more frequent and more intense, and over decades.
Morrison, as a political conservative who would claim to believe in small government, low levels of regulation, and to rely on market forces as a basic response, should naturally advocate for a price on carbon. Unfortunately, in the climate wars of the past couple of decades, the Coalition has deliberately sought to confuse the issue of carbon pricing. Tony Abbott’s then chief of staff, Peta Credlin, has subsequently admitted that Julia Gillard, as Labor prime minister, never had a “carbon tax”; it was just a label that they adopted as a key to “brutal retail politics”.