Published on Fairfax’s National Times website

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has revealed her political strategy for silencing critics of her pre-election dishonest declaration that “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”.

Labor’s official policy at the last election was for a “Citizen’s Assembly”, which was to spend 12 months building community consensus about the need for action on climate change.

She promised that the role of the “Citizen’s Assembly” was to engage in broad community consultation and discussion.

That commitment stands in stark contrast to the actions of the Prime Minister in Parliament this week where she avoided answering questions about the impact on households of her carbon tax and then sought to crush any debate about her carbon tax by repeatedly describing members of the Coalition as climate change “deniers”.

Using one of the cheapest debating tricks in the book, the Prime Minister claimed that she is with the majority in agreeing with every “reputable” scientist in the world on the issue of climate change, and that anyone who dares question whether a carbon tax in Australia will achieve any reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, is dismissed instantly as a “denier”.

She shamelessly ignores the fact that the Coalition released a direct action policy to tackle climate change over 12 months ago.

The Prime Minister and her ministers have repeatedly declared that the “science is settled” and there is no need for further debate on how to respond to the environmental challenges from climate change.

A Nobel Prize-winning scientist told me recently that “science is never settled” and that scientific assumptions and conclusions must always be challenged.

This eminent Noble Laureate pointed that had he accepted the so-called “settled science”, he would not have undertaken his important research, which challenged orthodox scientific propositions and led to new discoveries, which resulted in a Nobel Prize.

In using deliberately derogatory and pejorative terms such as “denier” the Prime Minister is seeking to intimidate people into silence – that is the only interpretation that can be construed by her behaviour.

What does the Prime Minister say about the views of the more than 1000 scientists quoted in a report to the US Senate, also tabled at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun?

It includes comments from Nobel Prize-Winning Stanford University Physicist Dr. Robert B. Laughlin: “Please remain calm: The Earth will heal itself – climate is beyond our power to control . . . Earth doesn’t care about governments or their legislation. You can’t find much actual global warming in present-day weather observations. Climate change is a matter of geologic time, something that the earth routinely does on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining itself.”

And comments from legendary atmospheric scientist the late Dr Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and formerly of NASA, who authored more than 190 studies and described as one of the most pre-eminent scientists of the last 100 years who said: “Since I am no longer affiliated with any organisation nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly . . . As a scientist I remain skeptical . . . The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.” 

What does Julia Gillard say of UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist who is of the view that: “Warming fears are the worst scientific scandal in the history . . . When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.”

Or US Government atmospheric scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration who has challenged the notion of scientific consensus on climate change and claims that: “It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.”

Prime Minister Gillard is not a scientist, yet she feels free to attack and denigrate anyone,  and that must include Nobel Prize winning scientists, who holds a view that differs from her own narrow political prism.

There is much more at stake in this carbon tax debate than whether science can or should ever be settled, and that includes the principle of free speech.

Next time Julia Gillard spits out the words “climate change denier” she would do well to remember the famous quote by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who summarised Voltaire’s beliefs on freedom of thought and expression as,  “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”