Posted by Davina Jackson on 30 Nov 2013

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott. (Daily Telegraph)

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott. (Daily Telegraph)

Australia’s new Liberal-National Government has disbanded the Climate Commission and major cities agency, rolled back the carbon tax and National Broadband Network, blocked additional funds to public schools (as recommended in the pre-election Gonski Report), has not named a specific Minister for Science and did not formally attend the United Nations’ 2013 climate change conference.

These moves appear to undermine key potentials of the Virtual Australia vision – which is likely to also delay some moves towards  the associated Virtual New Zealand project.

Implications include:

• Closing the former Infrastructure Australia major cities unit may end production of its annual State of Australian Cities reports: substantial compilations of statistics and data that would be needed to underpin comparisons between major cities in the mooted Virtual Australia simulations. (Perhaps these reports could transfer to the Bureau of Statistics.)

• Winding back the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout of fibre optic telecoms infrastructure from government-funded delivery of fibre to the home to fibre to the node (street access points) will reduce high-speed broadband access for people on low incomes, especially those in non-urban areas. This may thwart some types of ‘volunteered geographic information’ (VGI) from people in regional and remote communities.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a sceptic about scary announcements from climate scientists, announced that the government would support ‘direct action’ (unclarified) to help solve environmental challenges, rather than implement the former Labor Government’s carbon emissions trading schemes.

Australia’s newly unco-operative behaviour caused ripples of disapproval and confusion among delegates from other countries attending this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP). hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC), in Warsaw during November 2013.

Many COP attendees also were sceptical about political blockages generally among nations participating in the annual negotiations towards international agreements on mitigating and adapting to new climate and environmental behaviours. One report released via the UN’s official climate change agencies’ reporting service began by quoting the Talking Heads (1985) song lyric: ‘We’re on the road to nowhere’.

The Warsaw COP followed a tearful media announcement by the UN FCCC’s leader, Ms Christiana Figueres, expressing concern about political setbacks to the UN FCCC’s proposed advances on agreed reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Similar concerns were expressed earlier by Paris-based leaders of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the Belmont Forum, a consortium of international science research funding agencies.