Australian news, and some related international items

Slick talk by Scott Morrison – but the government’s “climate policy” is still pro coal, not effective against global warming

If the Coalition has had a climate epiphany, I’m Beyoncé, Guardian Katharine Murphy 25 Feb 19, Call the emissions reduction fund a ‘climate solutions’ fund if you like, but it doesn’t mean it is.

Let’s start with the good news. Scott Morrison is talking constructively about climate change because he is intelligent enough to understand that failing to do that renders the Coalition unelectable in parts of the country, and with parts of its own base.

Compared with where we’ve been, a Liberal prime minister standing up at a podium, accepting the science of climate change and making the case for action, is progress.

We need to acknowledge it.

But this isn’t, ultimately, a test of talking points.

It has to be a test of substance, and a test of whether or not you are prepared to be a grown-up government facing up to a significant policy problem – and the truth is the Coalition has been here before.

Right on this spot.

John Howard had a very similar epiphany in 2007, delivering a speech in Melbourne within sight of an election in much the same way Morrison did on Monday. Like Morrison, Howard knew the Coalition needed to switch course on climate policy because Australians then, like now, were fretting about extreme weather and the droughts that never seemed to end.

Howard signed the Liberal party up to emissions trading during his 2007 pivot. But after he lost the election to Kevin Rudd, madness descended inside the Coalition, and raged in full public view for a decade, with that madness killing most of the optimal policy solutions for dealing with emissions reduction.

While Morrison would like us to think that was all a bit of a bad dream, and the Coalition has actually been tremendous on climate policy despite all the compelling evidence to the contrary, the truth is the madness still defines the parameters of the policy.

Monday’s climate policy pivot reflects Morrison’s limited options. He’s unveiled a reboot of Tony Abbott’s Direct Action policy, kicking in more cash to the emissions reduction fund (although the cash only pans out at $200m a year), and giving it a new business card.

This mechanism will deliver some abatement, a significant chunk according to the government’s own projections, but the persistent question over the ERF as a mechanism (apart from why taxpayers have to pay, as opposed to big polluters) has always been whether it delivers any abatement beyond what would have happened anyway………

Just one more problem. You also have to line up Monday’s “climate solutions” pivot with the climate problem the government will create for itself if it proceeds to lock in more coal-fired power to Australia’s energy grid, underwritten by taxpayers, which is what the energy minister, Angus Taylor, keeps hinting he wants to do.

In order to hit reset on climate policy in a way that has some prospect of cutting through with the cohort of voters inclined to desert the government over this issue, and this issue alone, Morrison needed to do two things on Monday.

He needed to say sorry for all of that insanity. He needed to say I don’t know what came over us, but we aren’t going to do that again.

Prime ministers can do that in two ways. The first is to just say it, but that’s very hard for risk-averse politicians who equate public acts of humility with public acts of weakness.

The second is do it by implication: put forward a serious policy program that is an implicit apology for past misdeeds, and in so doing, project that you are prepared to stare down any internal brinkmanship that ensues.

That didn’t happen on Monday, and it didn’t happen on Monday because we all know what happens when the Coalition hits these particular tipping points.

Just ask Malcolm Turnbull.


February 25, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics

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