Next time the Liberals or the Nationals share their horror about the idea of “quotas” for supporting women in leadership, consider (again) the role quotas play in The Nationals’ hold on power in Australia.
For one, they already get a Deputy Prime Minister as part of their Coalition agreement with the Morrison Government. The meritorious Barnaby Joyce fills that position, a man whose most recent antics include stating that his party won’t be held “hostage” over climate action in Australia. He also became a quota appointment on the Women’s Taskforce, much to plenty of disgust earlier this year given he previously stood down from the leadership of the Nationals due to a credible and still unresolved sexual harassment allegation (which he denies).
Not they’ve got another quota feather in the cap, this time with Keith Pitt being (re)elevated to Cabinet, as part of the massive price Australia will pay The Nationals for their support in signing on to the net zero by 2050 target, the absolute bare minimum that Australia can take to the COP 26 Summit in Glasgow next week. This agreement means that The Nationals return to having a quota of five in Cabinet.
Pitt takes his reward (which includes a pay rise), despite being staunchly against the net zero commitment and despite being one of the country’s most vocal climate deniers and advocates for coal. Last week when ABC Radio National’s Fran Kelly repeatedly asked Pitt if he believed in climate change he responded, “the climate’s always been changing Fran” and went on to say that Australia could not make an “iota” of difference.
It seems Pitt reserves his ambition for other causes. Last month, he led a push for the fossil fuel sector to receive a newly created $250 billion taxpayer-funded loan. He’s no fan of renewables, telling the house to: “find me a solar panel that works in the dark”, failing to acknowledge the existence of batteries.
He’s been one of the leading men (and they are mostly men) to have held Australia back on climate action, contributing to the glacial progress globally that has ultimately jeopardized the future of our kids and grandchildren. Pitt and his gaggle of Nationals’ naysayers have also failed to see the business opportunity in moving to a greener economy, risking Australia’s ability to most competitively participate in a decarbonised global economy. They claim to be protecting regional Australia when regional Australia seems to have the most to lose in a warming Australia. And they claim to be protecting jobs and economic interests while ignoring the opportunities for positioning the economy for the future.
As The Australia Institute highlights today, modeling from Deloitte Access Economics finds that reducing emissions by 46% by 2030 would lead to $210 billion in economic benefits.
But we’ll be having none of it, not with Pitt, Joyce, Christensen and friends dictating the terms. Rather, the Nationals will be “compensated” for signing off on the bare minimum, knowing full well that Australia loses, as they win in these negotiations.
Now imagine, just for a moment, where we’d be if it was quotas for women we had. Instead of quotas for Nationals.