It’s a balmy Saturday morning on the Esperanza and the sea is as calm as a lake. We are sliding past rugged southern Queensland islands and every so often a pod of whales breaches within a hundred metres of the ship. There’s a momentary illusion that all is well in the world.

However, as we near Mackay we are once again beginning to see coal ships dotting the horizon. They come from many parts of the world to queue for the twin coal ports at Hay Point. With Anna Bligh’s recent announcement of a massive expansion of the export coal infrastructure, Queenlanders can expect more queues of coal ships in the future, lining up to export climate change to far corners of the globe.

The problem, as former Liberal Party backbencher Guy Pearse suggests, is that the self-named ‘greenhouse mafia’ of major greenhouse polluters still appear to have a stranglehold on Australian climate policy. Despite increasing calls for a shift to renewables, including Al Gore yesterday urging America to move to 100% carbon-free electricity in ten years, our own political leaders refuse to hear the message that renewables can do the job and that clinging to coal spells environmental catastrophe.

Australians expected something different when they voted for Kevin Rudd, believing he would reverse the damage done during the Howard era and put long-term national interest above the profits of the greenhouse mafia. He still has a chance to do this when he announces his climate policy at the end of the year, but the way things are tracking there is serious cause for concern.