If there was ever any doubt the parliamentary Liberal Party is populated with, as Tony Abbott described them, suicidal “lemmings”, Malcolm Turnbull’s success in winning support for his NEG madness has dispelled it once and for all. Forget about that quaint notion of “principle”, which hasn’t been in evidence for quite some time, and notice instead a party so brain dead its elected members can’t even recognise self-interest as a mainspring of rational action.
What they have done, to put it in the most simple terms, is back a policy that will now be filtered and modified by the demands of state premiers to whom Turnbull will be obliged to defer if he hopes ever to go before the cameras and claim with that patented supercilious grin that his NEG has carried the day. It won’t be his NEG by that stage. What sort of a “conservative” leader places his destiny in the hands of Laborites?
One of the green left’s faithful auxilliaries, the Climate Council and the renewables rent-seekers that body represents, has already charted Turnbull’s course for him.
“The National Energy Guarantee has been trimmed, pulled, poked and prodded to the point that we are now left with a weak and inadequate policy that fails across the board, especially when it comes to effectively tackling climate change,” says the Climate Council’s Greg Bourne.
“We will now have to double-down on cutting greenhouse gas pollution in sectors like transport and agriculture in order to protect Australians from worsening extreme weather events,” he said (emphasis added).
Now consider what this means in Victoria, to cite but one example, where the Labor government of Premier Dan Andrews is beside itself with fear the Greens will snatch its inner-city seats. This was one of the factors behind its decision to shutter the Hazelwood coal-fired plant and remove at a stroke 25% of the state’s generating capacity, a decision made even to the detriment of its Trades Hall allies and union members. It also inspired the billion-dollar cost of scrapping the East-West tunnel. Apparently Greens believe their kids do best when inhaling the exhaust fumes of cars crawling bumper-to-bumper through traffic-stalled streets. You don’t need many brains to be green; they take any ninny who applies.
Malcom Turnbull, master negotiator? In a pig’s eye.
The NEG comprises one piece of Federal legislation (to lock in a CO2 emissions reduction target of 26% for the electricity sector, as the Climate Council so quickly noted) and eight notional pieces of state/territory legislation. The latter, presumably, will have to be exact images of each other. Good luck maintaining that over time, particularly if Greens gain the balance of power situation in any of those legislatures.
What will Labor do? It might decide to block the legislation at the federal level and rely on Tony Abbott and a few others crossing the floor in order to inflict maximum embarrassment on Turnbull. This would accord with its first, go-for-the-throat instincts, but the more realistic expectation has to be that minds possessed of more political nous than the prime minister, who has demonstrated he has none whatsoever, will play a longer game. Such a move would inevitably mean the demise of Turnbull as leader. Why would Labor wish to see the ouster of its greatest electoral asset, the empty suit (empty leather jacket when appearing on Q&A) who is at 38 negative Newspolls and counting?
What Labor would prefer is that the emissions reduction target be subject to regulation rather than legislation, meaning they can easily ramp it up to 50% after they win the next election. But the really hard work would have already been done for them by the states. If Abbott and others do cross the floor, Turnbull will have to negotiate with Shorten, which will inevitably result in legislation much more amenable to Labor and its demands.
Will those conservative Liberals who “have reserved their position” really cross the floor? I’m confident Abbott will do so if push comes to shove, and I’d like to think Abetz and Andrews will join him. What have they got to lose? Hastie is the interesting one. On Tuesday’s Bolt Report he was unequivocal: he could not, and would not, support what he termed the “loss of sovereignty” involved in legislating what was supposed to be a voluntary target.
Let’s examine the two most likely scenarios:
1/ Labor decides to oppose the NEG. Abbott & Co. cross the floor and kill the NEG, taking down Turnbull at the same time. The Coalition would need a new leader. They might not choose Abbott (although, in my view, they’d be crazy not to) and quite probably wouldn’t. How would, say, Corangamite’s Sarah Henderson square the part she played in the Turnbull coup with backing Lord Treachery’s resurrected victim?
The Coalition would also need a new approach to climate change in general, the electricity sector in particular. That approach must necessarily include withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and general repudiation of the CAGW myth. Whether that move would foil the impending Labor victory is moot, but it would mean the Coalition fighting the election on a platform they can live with in the longer term — a position that would not be Labor Lite.
2/ Labor decides to accept Turnbull’s generous offer to shape the NEG’s terms as the price of getting it through. There is no spill, Abbott & Co., remain on the outer — and with them whatever chance the Liberals had of shifting the political centre back to where the traditional base feels comfortable. By the way, Labor still wins the next election.
Meanwhile, I wonder when the commentariat will look beyond the NEG to see what lies ahead. Do they really understand what is going on? Here in today’s Australian, the editorial describes the NEG as (emphasis added)
…a scheme to mandate and manage reductions in carbon emissions in our electricity sector to meet the nation’s Paris target.
That’s just not true, as the Climate Council has already confirmed. Our Paris commitments don’t stop at the electricity sector; indeed, that is only where they begin. Electricity accounts for just 30% of Australian emissions. So even after the NEG has destroyed our competitiveness and condemned us to ever costlier and more unreliable power, there will still be plenty more for the green ideologues to wreck.
Cull the national herd to eliminate farting cows and bring agriculture into line with Gaia’s alleged needs? Count on it. Punitive taxes and fees on trucking and private vehicles to dissuade their use? We should all be eating locally grown food anyway, say the greenists. Absurd as they may seem, they are no more ridiculous than a nation blessed with the natural advantage of immense reserves of coal and gas having so stupidly saddled itself with some of the world’s very highest energy prices.
I’d bet most Australians don’t recognise the electricity sector is but the low-hanging fruit, the first grab in what will be an ongoing and escalating assault on Australia’s potential, prospects and prosperity. And here is where I scratch my head: polls consistently show a significant number of voters in favour of higher prices if it allows us to meet our Paris target. It’s a puzzlement, alright — until, that is, you remember that mainstream media consistently demonstrates it is a good deal more dim, and far more ideologically committed to the green cause, than the voters it consistently misinforms by omission and commission.
If we must legislate, according to Turnbullian logic, 26% reductions in our energy sector to make the Paris climateers happy, then there will be no stopping there. This is why the NEG must be defeated at all costs. The suggestion that it’s the best option going forward ignores that it’s just the thin edge of a very large wedge.
As to those Liberals who voted for it and maintain their fealty to Turnbull, good luck finding party volunteers to hand out your how-to-votes.