When a friend said that she had met Tony Abbott at a small social function for Christian conservatives here in Perth, she was left with the impression, combined with his pronouncements on world affairs, that he might just be angling to be PM once again. That is within the realms of possibility, though he would be handicapped by his past. How is he going to convince people that he really means it this time if, at some stage, he says he will repeal Section 18C upon becoming leader? Or on any other subject?
At some point our current PM might falter, as he did in 2009, and lose the leadership. And it might even be for the same reason – his infatuation with global warming. Direct Action was dreamed up as an alternative to Labor’s carbon tax, and the government is proud that it only costs $600 million-odd, rather than the $2.5 billion of the Labor scheme. There is one big difference, though, in that Direct Action is paying money to people who promise not to do things, such as burning grass, whereas the carbon tax would have had money going the other way, into general revenue. In terms of rort-to-real-benefit ratio, Direct Action scores well beyond pink batts, student housing and all the rest of them. Basically, it is paying all that money to main-chancers for nothing.
Mr Turnbull wants to up the rate of waste by signing on to whatever is agreed to at the climate conference in Paris. He has already said that carbon indulgences can be bought from overseas, rather than the money staying in Australia and given to homegrown parasites. The money leaving the country will be a further drag on a slowing economy, helping to send unemployment higher. Our government, allegedly a conservative one, cares not a wit.
Australia’s problem with global warming began with John Howard, who did not believe in it himself and could have killed it at any time by having an inquiry into the science. Instead he attempted to be a second-rate Machievelli and tried to use it for other ends. Those ends were to force Australia towards nuclear power by making coal-based power generation more expensive than nuclear. Hence, he convened an inquiry into nuclear power instead of one into global warming. Howard’s last dark deed as PM was an act called the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act of October, 2007. That act, the NGER for short,was the auditing basis for the carbon tax and its successors. Howard wanted to get the auditing bedded down and then start taxing. Instead he created a Frankenstein that helped kill off its progenitor. Thousands of accountants are employed around the country simply to produce the paperwork required by the NGER.
The NGER is the litmus test for pretenders to the throne from this point. Labor has made itself unelectable by all but promising to open wide the boat-people floodgates once again. That means that the next Liberal leader, and even the current one, has enormous latitude in policy because the alternative as far as the electorate is concerned is quite icky.
If a pretender to the throne wants to keep the NGER, then he or she must understand nothing, know nothing and will be a continual dissapointment, a la the Abbott regime. If he wants to tear down the whole rotten global warming edifice, including grubbing out the roots in the form of the NGER, then there is a good chance he will be sound on many things.
Could a second coming of Abbott see such a thing? That must remain in the realm of conjecture, but I pray for such a leader — be it a newcomer or a re-tread.
David Archibald’s latest book is Australia’s Defence (Connor Court 2015).