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Who would have guessed that Bill Gates and JB-HiFi had the answers all along

Opinion

Scott Morrison has had his four minutes on the Glasgow stage. He didn’t tell the COP26 delegates about his JB-HiFi solution but Dennis Atkins has done a shallow dive into the PM’s latest wading pool of policy.

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Who knew getting a climate change policy together was so easy? Just slip down to JB-HiFi, pick up some cutting edge technology and match it to the index for Bill Gates’s How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, a kind of boy’s own guide to saving the globe.

Easy peasy.

That, in a nutshell, is how we got where we are. Shuffling around the edges of the G20 leaders’ summit in Rome and the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, looking awkward but feeling so very confident we’ve got this.

In Scott Morrison’s flow brain he has got it. He knows he’s nailed what Queensland economist and climate science swat Ross Garnaut called a “wickedly diabolical” problem in a report to Kevin Rudd 12 years ago.

Morrison boasts he sees everything as transactional and isn’t interested in chit-chat – unless it’s a wallflower lunge for the Gallic hand of the French president.

Emmanuel Macron, who plays international diplomacy as skilfully as Morrison plays it hamfistedly, isn’t about to let the Australian prime minister forget the cost of dudding the shipbuilding workers of Cherbourg in the $90 billion submarine bait and switch.

It’s a transaction Morrison will feel for some time – and not just in international circles where the PM’s name and trust will have an enduring distance. It will also carry a political cost in those inner city Liberal seats where voters are already having second and third thoughts about voting for the Coalition because of the value of climate measures, the treatment of women and integrity in public life.

You might call it yet another own goal by someone who could be Australia’s Richard Dunne – the Irish player credited with the most scores against his own side in the English Premier League.

So Rome went not at all well for Morrison (although you can never discount the ability of regional Queensland voters to cheer his boof-headed nose thumbing of the French). Let’s see how Glasgow pans out.

He can squeak through with what’s quite probably the least substantial piece of public policy with which any Australian leader has swaggered his way on to an international stage.

His “the Australian Way” branding of this “no new measures or policies” Plan, announced with more fanfare than a Royal Wedding, could work for him in those hard-to-please regional, work-with-your-hands seats in the exurbs around Sydney, along the Queensland resource rich coast and outside Perth.

Even in some metro areas where FIFO live during their weeks or days off Morrison could garner or maintain some support.

This is the magic in getting your policy from a JB-HiFi Christmas catalogue and some February scrolling through the latest best sellers on Amazon.

It just works so well when you’re not moving your own brain out of idle and you’re hoping those voters who like it like that will appreciate the lack of effort.

The JB-HiFi reveal happened when Morrison showcased his Plan a week ago. Morrison, who is a bit of a bestie with JB-HiFi supremo Richard Murray, told us, in between sneaking into the Guinness Record Book for the most uses of the word Plan, the way to Net Zero was as simple as looking at the shelves of the home goods megastore.

“One of the safest assumptions you can make (is) that the rapid escalation of technology will continue to drive … costs down,” said Morrison. “Anyone who’d walk into any JB Hi-Fi store anywhere in the country today and when they walked in there five years ago, will know the change in the price of what they were buying today to what it was five years ago.”

Ditching any attachment to grammar, he went on to talk about “the increase in its capacity and its capabilities and all of those things … that is the world we know. This is a plan for the world that we know and where it’s heading.”

So simple.

In the same news conference Morrison cited tech billionaire Gates to back his technology first, Australian Way Plan.

Morrison said Gates supported the view that “if you seek to mandate and force (getting) to 2030, you run the risk of diverting resources from these important longer term technologies, which have much longer lead times that will be essential and critical to meeting your 2050 objectives”.

Morrison has been going on about Gates for months, since he found the tech guy’s best selling book on Amazon early this year.

No doubt looking down at the “if you liked this you might like these books” feature on Amazon, Morrison found Daniel Yergen’s The New Map, Alan Finkel’s Quarterly Essay Getting to Zero and David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet.

Yergen’s book is, like its predecessor The Prize, a solid booster for oil, gas and fossil fuels generally.

Finkel’s essay and Attenborough’s companion book for his Netflix series are solid works which do nothing by being mentioned along with the Morrison Plan other than draw attention to the hollowness of the government’s approach.

The Grattan Institute’s Tony Wood, one of the nation’s more serious climate policy analysts, reckons Morrison has cherry-picked Gates who not only talks about technology but also pushes the role financial markets have to play. This is the start of a conversation about a carbon price aka a tax.

But why would anyone get too caught up on detail if they’ve got it all figured by some online shopping with JB-HiFi and Amazon. Morrison even has a role for the tech homewares store in looking after the developing world.

In Rome Morrison said rich nations shouldn’t get too worried about sending wads of compensation cash to those nations now threatened by climate change but haven’t had the advantages of using technology since the dawn of the Industrial Age.

“The way that is achieved for (developing nations) is ensuring that we can get those technology costs as low as possible and so they can be taken up in developing countries and they can realise what they hope to achieve,” Morrison told the media.

That’s the answer. Send them a JB-HiFi gift card.

 

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