The Institute of Public Affairs paid to push targeted Facebook claims based on “flawed analysis” claiming that a net zero would cause massive job losses in key Liberal and National seats during last month’s coalition internal battle.
Last month, as the Coalition discussed a net zero 2050 policy, the IPA paid for a series of Facebook and Instagram ads targeting the electorates of nationals Barnaby Joyce, David Littleproud, Mark Coulton, Ken O’Dowd and Anne Webster, as well as the Liberal Trade Minister, Dan Tehan.
The advertisements warned that the policy would “destroy” huge jobs in every constituency. In Flynn, O’Dowd’s electorate, the ads warned “net zero emissions will destroy one in four jobs”. Other constituencies would lose one in five, one in six or one in seven jobs, the claims claimed.
The claims relied on and linked to an IPA analysis described by experts as “beyond cynical” and almost “comical if the interest were not so high”.
The IPA research identified 10 industries with higher than average emissions – the agriculture and air transport sectors, for example – and calculated the total number of jobs in each sector, describing them as “at risk” from the policy.
However the claims went one step further, using figures based on the assumption that all work in that sector would be eliminated if a net zero policy were adopted.
The underlying report, for example, assumes that all 306,200 agricultural jobs identified in Australia by the Australian Bureau of Statistics would be at risk of a net zero policy because the “emissions per job of the sector are above the economy-covering average”.
Dr Rebecca Colvin, a keynote speaker at the Australian National University with expertise in energy transition and development, described the IPA’s analysis as “flawed” and “an exercise in computation without context, far from rigorous analysis”.
“So they just counted the number of jobs in those sectors and thought they were‘ at risk ’. There is no nuance, no explanation for what ‘at risk’ means, ”she said.
“Then using the report as a basis for a targeted campaign on social media that states that these jobs will be ‘destroyed’ with a net zero goal is beyond cynical. It would be comical if the stakes were not so high.”
Facebook estimates suggest that the ads would not have cost a huge amount. The expense would have been about a few thousand dollars.
But Facebook data also shows that most of the ads could have a maximum audience of 500,000 people.
IPA director of research Daniel Wild said the think tank “led the debate on the economic and humanitarian consequences of net zero emissions by 2050”.
“It says all about media, big business, universities and the political class that they have failed to acknowledge the impact that net zero emissions will have on Australians living in the regions and non-metropolitan parts of the major cities,” he said.
“Regardless of how a goal of net zero emissions will be achieved, high-emission jobs in industries such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing are the most likely to be destroyed.”
He said the research had been disseminated to the public and policy makers to “communicate the impact a target of net zero emissions will have on Australians”.
When asked to respond to Colvin’s criticisms of the research “funny if the stakes weren’t so high”, Wild said: “The stakes are very high for the more than 650,000 Australians who will lose their job from network zero, many of them. who will never work again. ”
Colvin said farmers knew Australia would clearly still need food in a decarbonised economy, and the need to travel and mining for many minerals would not evaporate.
“To suggest otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of the workers in these industries.”
The Coalition has since adopted a policy of net zero by 2050.
Colvin said the adoption of the policy was a major milestone. But she said there is more work to be done, including implementing credible temporary goals to help workers in exposed industries.
“Fear based on flawed analysis is not helping Australia achieve a fair transition to a clean zero future,” she said.
Colvin is a member of the Blueprint Institute, which has conducted a recent election in coal mining and power generation regions.
The poll showed strong support for the network’s zero target, she said. Colvin also noted Meat and Livestock Australia, the top body for the red meat and livestock industry, had maintained net zero emissions in the sector by 2030.