Doomed Planet

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Comedy from Crikey

Climate committee is better without the Coalition 

by Bernard Keane 

Since climate change kicked its way out of the policy morgue to which both major parties had consigned it, there’s been more progress toward effective action on climate change from Parliament than at any time since the end of 2009 and, really, since 2008 when the Rudd Government started pre-emptively caving in to the demands of industry to neuter its CPRS.

Until the election delivered a minority government, we were on course for complete inaction on climate change for this term, a policy silence broken only by the insistence of the major parties that risible policies like a citizens’ assembly, or soil carbon (more correctly titled “soil magic” by Lenore Taylor) amounted to effective action on commencing the restructuring of our carbon-addicted economy.

Now, courtesy of Labor being reluctantly dragged back to the idea of being serious about climate change rather than treating it as a political wedge, there is a process that conceivably leads to a carbon price mechanism with support from at least one independent — Tony Windsor, who is on the committee — and the Greens, and one developed with input from business via an advisory group, that could be legislated after the Greens take the balance of power in the Senate on 1 July.

The process may fail to produce a consensus; business representatives, for example, may continue to argue that we need a carbon price, but not one that might actually do anything or affect their costs. It’s fair to say there’s quite a bit of scepticism on the part of some Cabinet ministers about the utility of the committee. Nonetheless, it provides a path to a carbon price where, until 21 August, none existed for the foreseeable future.

The only recalcitrants are the Coalition, and as more high-profile businesses join the calls for a carbon price, that recalcitrance means the Coalition will lock itself out of a role in shaping what should be the most significant economic reform of this decade. The committee is being attacked as some sort of infernal innovation, a “repugnant”, “secret” thing that breaches, in the words of Greg Hunt yesterday, “110 years of parliamentary practice” and a breach of Julia Gillard’s pre-election commitment that there will be no carbon price in this Parliamentary term.


The Coalition are also putting on some confected outrage that the committee is only open to members who believe in man-made climate change and support a carbon price. Reduced to basics, that means you have to be rational and economically-literate to participate, and if Tony Abbott wants to declare his MPs are neither, that’s his lookout.

In truth, though, there’s no point in involving the Coalition. It’s not really about the fact that Tony Abbott believes in global cooling. We saw last year the extent to which the Opposition can be trusted on climate change action, and we’ve had continual demonstrations that Tony Abbott will walk away from any agreement, verbal or written, that becomes inconvenient for him. Even if an Abbott-led Coalition somehow agreed to a carbon price mechanism, there’s no evidence that such an agreement would be adhered to and the Government would be foolish indeed to take Abbott’s oft-broken word on such an issue.

Given the untrustworthiness of an Abbott-led Coalition, and the fact that it has wandered into a policy dead-end of fanciful solutions and endlessly-repeated rhetoric, its non-participation in the work of moving toward a carbon price isn’t really a problem. Everyone else — the independents, the Greens, Labor, the business community, NGOs, welfare groups and economists — have serious work to do on the issue.

Source: Crikey

Related post: Carbon greenmail

Also: Climate Royal Commission

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