As previously observed on this blog, the greatest area of neglect in the mainstream media’s coverage of the election is climate change.
The most coverage it has had was during Sunday evening’s debate between Rudd and Abbott, where just over 10 per cent of the time was allocated to climate policy. Even then the quality of the climate change policy debate left a lot to be desired.
The importance of policies to prevent dangerous climate change has not been reflected in either the tabloids or the broadsheets.
A Factiva search on all articles in the past week (commencing on day one of the election campaign) in the Australian press specifically dealing with “climate policy”, “carbon pricing” and “carbon tax”, has returned only seven articles. All of these articles are from News Corp and Fairfax newspapers.
The Financial Review got off to a reasonable start with the most detailed comparison of the climate change policies put forward by Labor and the Coalition. However, this analysis failed to include the Greens' climate policies. The same day, the Sydney Morning Herald also had a snapshot summary of the two major parties and Greens climate policies. But since that, there has been scant coverage in the Fairfax press.
The Australian has had three articles: one looked at carbon policy from the standpoint of business modelling, and another at an ETS as an impost on the economy, which turns on climate change denial. On August 12, The Australian published an article by Queensland Nationals senator Ron Boswell, also on why an ETS could hurt Australia. The Herald Sun also had an article on why the carbon tax had to go as it was hurting business.
Of course, beyond the fact that these papers take different sides regarding carbon policy, none have actually linked the policies of either of the parties to the reality of climate change. Even the economic arguments are without rigour. No-one is taking Rudd to task over his climate backflip from when he was last in power. What is also missing is any discussion of the economic cost to the global economy of not taking action, the impacts of climate change already being experienced by people around the world, or our ethical obligations as a wealthy high-polluting nation.
As Andrew Glikson has pointed out, with only 0.3 per cent of global population, Australia emits 1.8 per cent of global greenhouse gases and our plans to quadruple coal exports over the next 10 years will put Australia’s GHG emissions on a par with Middle East oil.
David Holmes is Senior Lecturer, Communications and Media Studies at Monash University.