Labor's Anti-Science Green Deal Betrays Knowledge Nation
Political parties have to change with the times. Sometimes they go too far. For example, in the time that my former Labor colleague Barry Jones was Science and/or Technology Minister from 1983 until 1990, and indeed in more recent times in his Knowledge Nation, Barry Jones and Labor put their faith in science. Science and technology were friends of working men and women. The party platform notes that the nation's capability in science is central to, among other things, its environmental survival. Science was a core value.
Unfortunately, the Jones' and the Labor party's commitment to scientific endeavour, and by implication to Knowledge Nation, has been sold for a few second preferences. In 1990 Labor had insufficient first preference votes to retain government. The second preferences of Greens and Democrats helped Labor survive. Labor pursues the same strategy this election, but at what cost to a fundamental value?
Three commitments in particular smack of a commitment to irrationality as much as to the environment. Labor will ratify and implement the Kyoto protocol, it opposes a new reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney, and it will endorse the Earth Charter. Labor was never a blind adherent of technological determinism, but these commitments are a part of what Patrick Moore, founder of Greenpeace, described as: 'Our original vision of Spaceship Earth and one human family was stolen and transformed into a virulent attack on corporations, technology, trade and science.'
The Kyoto commitment will destroy the wealth and jobs of Australians, and yet no cost-benefit analysis of Greenhouse has ever been undertaken. As Professor Garth Partridge, Director of the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies at the University of Tasmania says, 'in view of the uncertainties, it would be cheaper and more sensible to spend money on adaptation to climate change if and when it occurs.'
The replacement of the reactor at Lucas Heights has been the subject of much enquiry, the latest being a Senate Report. A Labor/Democrat majority recommended further studies. This, despite the support of the scientific community for replacement. To be sure, scientists are just another lobby, but their reasons were compelling. 'To not replace the facility within the next five years would dramatically diminish Australia's long term capabilities in emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, new materials processing, nuclear medicine, and environmental management processes.'
Labor will establish a Commissioner for the Environment, an Office of Sustainable Development and a National Sustainability Council. This massive political infrastructure will be based on, among other things, a commitment to the spirit and aims of the Earth Charter. The Charter is a declaration of principles for building a 'just, sustainable and peaceful global society'. The Earth Charter has been developed by a global coalition of green organisations and community groups.
It is also a pseudo-religious document that is opposed to science. For example, it seeks to 'recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.' There goes medical research! Again, 'eradicate genetically modified organisms harmful to the environment.' This is an anti-GM food clause, it will be used to strangle research and production, and with it the hope of feeding the Third World.
Most important is its adherence to the very unscientific precautionary principle. 'Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.' This implies the absence of harm, it ignores the classic scientific approach of proof.
Labor appears to have reneged on a fundamental value, its commitment to scientific endeavour. It is now with the fairies at the bottom of the garden.