n the first day of the new Abbott government, Australia’s climate scientists got a pretty clear message. It was September 18, 2013, and within 24 hours of the swearing-in ceremony at Government House in Yarralumla, the new environment minister, Greg Hunt, had called the head of the Climate Commission and sacked him.
“It was a short and courteous conversation,” Dr Tim Flannery recalls. “I’m pretty sure that cabinet hadn’t been convened when they did it. My very strong recollection is that it was their very first act in government.”
Flannery’s colleague on the commission, Professor Will Steffen from the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, was also sacked, along with all the other commission members. “I think we were the first definitive action of the Abbott government,” Steffen recalls. “They got rid of us and you could probably measure it in hours rather than days.”