THE patriarch of Australia’s biggest blue-collar union has launched a stinging assault on the credibility of the Rudd Government’s climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, calling him "wacko".
Australian Workers Union national president Bill Ludwig yesterday poured scorn on Professor Garnaut’s proposal that Australians move away from eating cattle and sheep and instead consume kangaroo meat because of environmental benefits.
Speaking to the AWU’s national conference on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Mr. Ludwig also challenged the science of man-made global warming, suggesting it could be caused by volcanoes.
The former shearer and influential figure in Queensland’s ALP told conference delegates he was not a climate change sceptic. But he said, nonetheless, that he supported debate on the science behind the theory, before launching into a headlong criticism of Professor Garnaut as author of the Government’s white paper on climate change.
The union chief said climate change was described initially as global warming, until evidence proved unequivocally that the planet actually got cooler.
"It’s not global warming any more, it’s climate change," Mr. Ludwig told delegates. "That gets them back in the game. These people are pretty flexible to be relevant in these times."
Mr. Ludwig ridiculed Professor Garnaut’s suggestion to move away from farming cattle and sheep and to rely instead on kangaroo meat because it could involve less land cultivation and less methane gas. "I thought, ‘Hello, here’s another wacko’," he said.
Mr. Ludwig also suggested climate change could be influenced by volcanoes, rather than human intervention.
Volcanoes released more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than humans had suggested, he said, and he joked that more efforts might be made to cap volcanoes than to introduce an emissions trading scheme.
Mr. Ludwig said the scientific community should not always be trusted to get things right, pointing to the unfounded alarm prior to the year 2000 about the so-called Millennium Bug, which did not have the drastic consequences some had predicted.
Mr. Ludwig’s comments came as his colleague Paul Howes, the AWU’s national secretary, renewed pressure on the Rudd Government to provide relief for companies battling hardship caused by the global financial crisis by offering exemptions from carbon permit payments.
The comments from Mr. Howes, contained in an AWU position released yesterday, revise the union’s endorsement in December of the white paper on the scheme.
Mr. Howes also argued that employers who benefited from taxpayer support under the carbon reduction scheme starting in 2010 should also be told by the Government that they could not demand pay cuts from their workforces.
"The AWU can’t accept companies accessing taxpayers’ money to get through the needed environmental change process, then turning around and campaigning for my members to take pay cuts," he said.
Asked about the comments of Mr Ludwig, the AWU’s Queensland secretary, Mr. Howes, said his union’s official position was to keep an open mind on climate change science.
"Personally, I believe that climate change is real and it’s happening," Mr. Howes said. "I think most delegates in the room do."