TONY Abbott was proud of his strong interest in rural Australia during his time as Prime Minister and it can be said it was more than mere rhetoric with his record of visiting and engaging with rural and regional areas arguably superior than anybody in recent history.
With this in mind, his recent claims in London regarding climate change can only be viewed as a betrayal of the bush by someone who has always seen themselves as a champion of our farming communities.
To stand up before an audience and suggest climate change was probably not real, and flippantly then say even if it was, it would probably be a good thing because the cold is more deadly than the heat is an insult to farmers across Australia’s cropping belt.
It’s a difficult thing to debunk the myriad myths presented in the speech, but let’s make a start.
Climate change is real, and we, through inland Australia are placed to cop some of the worst effects of this change.
Much of our cropping belt lies in areas defined internationally as semi-arid (less than 500mm annual rainfall).
Even small changes in weather patterns are felt keenly – yet what we have experienced since the late 1990s has been a seismic shift towards warmer conditions.
Forget the manipulation of data from those who either have a vested interest in convoluting the facts or are in abject denial. The records on the global scale are clear - of completed years, 2016 is the hottest on record from 2015 from 2014.
If that overwhelmingly obvious factoid was not enough look at the serious science into the matter. Bodies like NASA, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and Britain’s Met Office are all unequivocal that climate change is real.
But sometimes, understandably, people need to see things happening in their own backyard, maybe there has been an exception to this pattern locally?
Quite to the contrary, the BOM has just issued a release stating Australia has just recorded its hottest September day on record, while last summer, with its 50 plus consecutive days of maximum temperatures above 35 in Moree will linger long in the memories of people in that region.
Over the past decade farmers have largely bitten the bullet faced with the unpalatable truth and started to alter their businesses to manage climate risk.
Even those who cling to hope that climate change is not a man-made phenomenon have voted with their wallets and started sowing crops earlier to adapt to a changing growing season environment.
Which brings us to the next point. How could anyone argue against this you may ask.
The answer lies in the current fad of picking an ideological team and sticking with it - the current phenomenon of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative news’ makes it easier than ever for people to stick to their guns and find something, no matter how obscure.
Don’t want to believe in man-made climate change? Surf the web for a little-known paper on sun spots that cherry picks data to suit its case and then decry every other piece of information as a liberal conspiracy.
Barring islands nations such as Kiribati or the Seychelles, Australia is probably poised to feel the wrath of even a one degree rise in temperatures worse than anywhere.
Yes, there will be cycles within this and we will have wet and cold periods, but the trendline is moving inexorably in one direction, and its not good news for Aussie farmers.
This is where Mr Abbott’s actions are so disappointing. Instead of climate change becoming the bilateral issue it so needs to be, with the point of difference among the parties the methods to best deal with it, while still maintaining a vibrant economy, instead we are dragged backwards.
Here we are, some 15 years after the first wave of the Millenium Drought knocked farmers for six, and we are still in a situation where the very existence of climate change is being debated, hijacked by a conservative faction looking for a rallying cry.
There’s no harm in debating Australia’s actions to combat the problem, with a thorough canvassing of options ranging from a hardline cut in emissions to the stance that as a miniscule player on the world stage that any such moves would be largely tokenistic.
What there can’t be, however, is influential members of Parliament taking an issue so critical to our rural communities and using it as political point of difference.