It seems Queensland’s Deputy Premier Jeff Sweeney can do what King Canute could not – hold back the tide. His is forcing Moreton Bay Regional Council to “…amend its draft planning scheme to remove any assumption about a theoretical projected sea level rise from all and any provision of the scheme.”

Unfortunately, there’s nothing theoretical about the rising sea level. It’s happening already, and at the upper end of projections. So while Sweeney might be acting “to ensure residents’ rights to build and develop their properties ….not restricted by their local council”, he is sowing the seeds for bigger losses in the future. And it isn’t just coastal property owners who will get hurt.  He is setting up a potential liability for the council and tax payers.

Commanding the rising tide not to wet his royal feet didn’t work for King Canute, but he was smart enough to know that it wouldn’t. Sweeney seems to know otherwise. He clearly knows more than the IPCC and the overwhelming majority of climate scientist. Even Victoria’s newly-minted opposition leader and former Planning Minister Matthew Guy didn’t go so far. He did away with the same 80cm by 2100 rule that upsets Mr Sweeney, but still allowed coastal councils to plan for 20cm of sea level rise by 2040.

About the only good that can come out of Sweeney’s decree is that the rising seas may wash away the sand that he has stuck his head in. Somebody get him a Gandalf outfit. With the next big storm surge he can pop down to a disappearing beach, plant his staff into the soggy sand and command of the waves: “You shall not pass!”

Maybe that’ll work.