Joe Hockey’s In A Fight With The New York Times Because We Can’t Leave Him Alone For One Second

Can't take this guy anywhere.

joe hockey

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Since unceremoniously getting the boot as Treasurer and picking up Australian politics’ greatest consolation prize, the US Ambassadorship, Joe Hockey’s more or less kept his head down, confining his activities to tweeting about his new surroundings and hanging out with other stunningly successful political figures like Jeb! Bush.

But just four months into his tenure and Hockey’s already finding himself in something of a war of words with the New York Times, compelled to respond to the paper’s increasingly strident criticism of Australian government policiesLast week the Times published a scathing editorial attacking Australia’s dismal record on climate change, pointing to the CSIRO’s recent decision to cut 350 research jobs from its climate change research arm as evidence the government is “demonstrat[ing] a deplorable misunderstanding of the importance of basic research into what is arguably the greatest challenge facing the planet”.

Noting that “more than 3,000 climate scientists” around the world have openly expressed their horror at the cuts, the Times excoriated CSIRO chief Larry Marshall’s reasoning that research into climate change was no longer as sorely needed now that the science of global warming has been well established. “Long-term research on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and on changing ocean and weather processes, is essential to learn what lies ahead and how to prepare for it,” the Times argued.

But the paper reserved some of its strongest criticism for the government itself for cutting the CSIRO’s budget in the first place. “Australia’s national climate policy has been in political flux for more than a decade, and in May 2014, CSIRO’s budget was severely cut and almost 1,000 positions were eliminated,” the Times wrote. “At the very least, the government should suspend the changes at CSIRO and allow an independent review of whether they are in the best interests of Australia, the Southern Hemisphere or the earth.”

All of which is a little inconvenient for Hockey, given he was a senior member of the government that did all that cutting. In a letter to the editor today, Hockey — writing in his official capacity as Australia’s ambassador — claimed that “Australia remains committed to climate science research and to increased global action to address climate change,” which might come as a surprise to anyone who’s lived in Australia for the last three years.

“CSIRO will continue to lead the way [in climate change research], spending about 83 million Australian dollars a year ($62 million U.S.) on research into climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Hockey wrote. Considering the CSIRO budget cuts of 2014 totalled around $110 million, though, and given that the planned same-sex marriage plebiscite is estimated to cost up to $525 million, $83 million set aside to research what impact climate change will have on the world’s hottest, driest and flattest inhabited continent is pretty small potatoes.

While Hockey’s spat with the Times must be frustrating, he can take comfort in the fact that he got out of Canberra at just the right time; last week a major new wind farm was announced near the city, which would’ve been hell for him to drive by.