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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Rudd's retreat « Previous | |Next »
April 28, 2010

So it has come to this. Rudd Labor has postponed dealing with climate change until the end 2012. Once an emissions trading scheme was vital and urgent for dealing with ''the great moral challenge of our age''. Now Rudd Labor has distanced itself as far as it can from the dodgy scheme that was progressively watered down in concessions to the polluters--including the coal-fired power sector.

An ETS is buried, even though Rudd + Co know that Australia has to have a carbon price to make a significant difference to Australian greenhouse emissions. Yet Rudd Labor offers nothing in its place. Climate change is not an issue for this political class. When do we expect more subsidies for King Coal? A coal-drive future is our destiny according to some Labor ministers. To hell with all this talk about shifting a low carbon economy.Sustainability is for the idealists. Coal rules, okay. Get real.

Isn't this burial of the ETS an example of what Rudd once accused the Coalition of---"political cowardice . . . an absolute failure of leadership an absolute failure of logic." Isn't this yet another example of political expediency ("clearing the decks") by Rudd Labor?

It cannot even bring itself to defend its own policies on climate change in an election, nor is it willing to see things through. They will go ahead with the internet filter though. The progressive side of Rudd Labor continues to weaken whilst the authoritarian side strengthens.

My only hope is for a surge in the Green vote. What will ensure that Australia's largest carbon dioxide emitters do pay for their pollution is for the balance of power in the Senate to shift to the Greens, and, even more hopefully, for a handful of House of Representative seats to fall to the Greens (eg., Lindsay Tanner in Melbourne, Tanya Plibersek in Sydney and Anthony Albanese in Grayndler). The possibility is the Greens overtaking the Liberals on the primary vote and chasing down Labor with their preferences.

The political system is crook and it needs reform.

Surprise surprise. Janet Albrechtson is trying to argue in The Australian that the anti-democratic Left are launching a new attack on democracy with proportional representation. She's spotted them though and exposed them for the totalitarians they really are.

She says that it is a:

myth that proportional representation is good for democracy. Truth is it's rotten for democracy. Proportional representation will bestow disproportionate influence on minor party leaders to become kingmakers. Forget democratic principles of voters knowing what they voted for and politicians being accountable for their promises. Post-election horse-trading between minor parties and minority governments will mean election promises count for nought.

Just look at Tasmania and the disproportionate influence to the Greens (special interests) who attracted votes from only one in five Tasmanians.

So what is good for democracy? Why, it is strong, decisive leadership taking the tough economic decisions to further a market economy:

when minority governments become the rule, forget about strong, stable governments making tough economic decisions. The sort of gutsy reforms that transformed the British economy under Margaret Thatcher won't happen again if Clegg gets his way with proportional representation. Of course, this is precisely what the Left has in mind, hence their catch-cry about voters embracing a progressive moment

Yep, executive dominance is good because it is democratic (majority rule). So you have to be wary of the canny Left pushing anti-democratic agendas using slogans about improving democracy. But never fear, you can trust Janet to let you know about the latest tricks of the anti-democratic Left are.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:46 AM | | Comments (19)


Crook or crooked?

Rudd is a prime minister who does not have the political courage to champion the policy that defined Labor's reformist agenda.

I feel sick. It is no longer a case of voting Labor whilst holding your nose. It's now more having to put a hand over your mouth to prevent throwing up.

both--since the policy reversal has been the result of lobby by the big emitters exposed to international trade markets and the coal-fired power sector. Their interest overrides the national interest. As the detailed analysis by think-tank the Grattan Institute found the assumptions on which the compensation packages were based were misguided to an extent that $22 billion would be wasted on handouts to trade-exposed industries over the next decade.

The power of the major parties needs to be broken though proportional representation so that it is no longer a meaningless choice between Rudd and Abbott.

Rudd + Co don't even have an energy efficiency program. How do they expect to address their international pledge of between a 5 and 25 per cent cut in emissions below 2000 levels by 2020.

Quietly forget about the pledge?

We've come to this? The term "political leader" is a contradiction. Tossers... all of them... only the intensity varies.

As someone once said, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

If banging your head against the wall hurts stop doing it.

Its going to be a funny old election this time round. Its almost a choice between which one Rudd or Abbott tells the most lies already.
Gillard would be a walk up against Abbott. Rudd is 50/50. I wonder what the numbers are inside the party between Rudd and Gillard.

I see one parallel between us and the Americans...

The sleazy zealots, who held the top job previously, make the current mob seem quite sensible. And that can't be good.

Eh mars you remember 'Animal Farm' ... the main reason to keep supporting the pigs is that you don't want the men to come back, even as the pigs morph into men.

Clever bloke, that Orwell.

I think Rudd's enthusiasm to tackle global warming was washed away with the breaking of the drought. And at least he's been honest about the reason - nobody else is doing much either. Which is actually quite a sound argument, but doesn't sit well with all the moralising posturing of 2007-9.

Well, at least now we'll get to find out if there is any substance to the claims of scientists re drastic environmental issues.
One rare time am glad am getting older; you shudder to think what it could be like in a generation or two.

if Rudd cannot introduce an effective emissions trading scheme until the Senate changes then we need another policy, fast. Why not support Ross Garnaut’s proposal for an interim levy on carbon emissions for two years?

The Greens are addressing the impasse over an ETS with a hefty carbon tax.

Some say that Rudd dumping the ETS is a clever tactical move---it neutralizes or defuses Abbott's "great big tax" scare campaign. It's good politics (clear the decks in an election year) but bad policy.

So what does Rudd stand for on climate change? Wasn't this meant to be a core part of what Rudd stands for? Ooh I see. According to Labor it is the grandstanding Greens problem because they failed to help Labor get its (awful) Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme through the Senate. And the extreme Greens greater focus on renewable energy threatens tens of thousands of mining jobs.

Isn't Rudd now promising the greatest renewable program ever---lots of solar energy, wind power, geothermal, wave and wind power across the country? Why doesn't Rudd + Co come clean--"we just love coal." Coal is clean. We cannot remove the subsidies to the aluminum industry because they, the coal miners and the coal fired power stations are our friends.

there is still the renewable energy target left. This seeks to ensure 20 per cent of Australia's energy consumption by 2020 is derived from renewable sources.

The big electricity users (eg., the aluminium industry and the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network) claim this will push up power prices and threaten jobs.They may even have to go offshore etc etc.

Another backflip coming?

Gary I don't know about other places but up here in Northern NSW there's a growing outcry in the local rags about increases in electricity prices. Local newspapers, I suspect, have not shared in the declining fortunes of the majors and still play an important role in informing people.

The rises are mainly caused by the neglect of spending on essential infrastructure for years, caused by state governments insisting there be no price rises (or even price reductions). Playing King Canute to the market is now reaping its inevitable reward but it will naturally be turned into proof of how much it costs to do anything about climate change.

The government can carry the electorate with it on unpalatable climate change measures in one of two ways: by (somewhat dishonestly) pointing to extreme weather events like the drought, or by arguing that the rest of the world is doing it and we have no choice. As of now neither condition applies.

The denialists' campaigns have been effective. I hear lots of people now muttering about how the climate's always changing and there's nothing we can do about it, and it was hotter in the Middle Ages, and anyway the scientists aren't always right because weren't they saying it would get cooler just a few years ago? People have powerful subconscious urges to find reasons not to believe bad news, and the denialists have provided them in spades.

In short, I expect Rudd now to revert to the Howard position, which is wait until there is some international agreement which includes the USA. The only difference is that Labor might hot argue so hard for Australia to be given special treatment but I doubt even that.

The Lowy Institute Poll 2009 says that 76% of Australians said climate change ‘is a problem’, while 23% said it ‘is not a problem’.They then tested the views of the 76%:

Asked ‘over the past 12 months do you think obtaining a solution to the problem of climate change has become more urgent, less urgent, or there has been no change’, 60% of Australians who saw it as a problem said a solution had become ‘more urgent’, while a third (34%) said ‘there has been no change’.

They then asked the same 76% of people who saw climate change as a problem whether:
‘over the past 12 months do you think a solution to the problem of climate change has become more likely to be successfully resolved, less likely to be successfully resolved or there has been no change’, the majority (57%) said ‘there has been no change’, while 23% said a solution was ‘more likely’ and 19% ‘less likely’.

It would appear that action is supported by over half the population. So why is it a political liability for the Rudd Government? Surely it is the climate change scepticism of the Coalition that is a political liability?

It may be that climate change is a negative in some marginal seats?

Gary I'm not surprised that people will give those answers in a poll. However the question does not ask about the nature of 'the problem of climate change' that respondents have in mind when they answer, or what kind of solution they favour. I suspect they might be thinking of a whole grab bag of different issues and the generic questions mask deep differences of opinion.

Polls like this really don't tell us much about people's attitudes towards specific government measures. It's quite plausible that someone will be all in favour of doing something about climate change in an abstract sense but vote against that bastard in Canberra who's making his electricity bill go up so high.

And now they are talking about $2 a litre petrol ... well it's all the gummint's fault, innit? All this Kyoto nonsense when they oughtta be [insert your preferred cost-free solution to climate change here].

Realistically I believe no government will move on this issue while ever its opposition is opposing it as vigorously as this one is. To give Rudd his due, he was entitled to believe that the Libs supported action in principle and that the arguments would be about the detail. Tony 'it's a load of crap' Abbott's triumph along with the rise and rise of Barnaby Joyce have changed the politically feasible options pretty fundamentally.

I don't think the denialist media has been as effective as they'd like to believe, but 'great big new tax' is one of those easily digestible lines people will happily swallow, especially when it's paired with messages about increased prices for everything.

End of the day, it was crap policy unsupported by coherent explanation. They'd have been better off spending money on domestic solar and roof insulation, which they could have sold as helping people prepare, and then introduced an ETS.

On the polls, public opposition to the policy came from a combination of people who wouldn't support any ETS, and people who couldn't support the dog Rudd ended up with. As Ken pointed out on the problem of climate change generally, polls are too clutzy to capture the thinking behind the answers people give. It's like asking me whether I approve of the job Tony Abbott's doing. Of course I do. I thoroughly approve of him being a basket case.

In The Great Moral Backflip Of Our Time in New Matilda Ben Eltham has an interesting view of what if.

The standard Labor view is that the Government was negotiating with the Coalition because they were the only single grouping whose support could deliver a Senate majority. When that attempt failed with an ETS it was because the Coalition reneged on a deal made in good faith etc etc

I often wondered if Rudd Labor was ever serious about an ETS? They rarely bothered to sell the CPRS and made little attempt to explain to ordinary voters that they would be better off, not worse off, under the scheme. They primarily used it as a means to wedge and fracture the Coalition. They succeeded---it finished off Turnbull’s leadership and the Abbott Coalition is run by denialists and sceptics.

Eltham says that Rudd + Wong had the option of the alternative strategy to negotiate with the Coalition. This was:

a policy that embraced reasonably strong emissions reductions targets, Labor could have won Green support, isolated the Opposition and applied the screws to the cross-benches. Xenophon could have been bribed with more money for the lower Murray. As it was, history records that three Liberals voted for the ETS anyway: Malcolm Turnbull in the House plus two Liberal Senators, Sue Boyce and Judith Troeth. Those two Liberal votes, plus the Greens, would have equaled victory. It’s the great "what if" of this term of government.

My judgement is that Rudd+ Co just weren't interested. They defined the Greens as dangerous extremists who would send the country to ruin by destroying jobs.

In abandoning climate as an election issue Rudd Labor has left the Greens as the only party serious about climate change, whilst Labor's credibility is tattered. On my Howard -lite interpretation that doesn't matter, as they are not really interested in moving climate change policy forward in a substantial way.

If the Greens control the Senate in the next Parliament, then a returned Labor will have no choice but to negotiate with them on each bill it needs to pass. Will Rudd introduce an emissions trading bill in the next parliament that will then be toughened up? Or will Rudd Labor remain in bed with Big Carbon and spin green furiously?

Some argue that Rudd fights this election on safer ground like health so that the climate change issue can be revisited in the next term. Judging from their track record I doubt that it will be revisited in the second term.

I lost interest in Jason Wilson't torturous reasoning long before the end of his article. It epitomises everything that stinks about politics in Australia (and the USA).

Rudd's mob had the opportunity to develop a simple program to tackle emissions and sell it with wholehearted, single-minded fervour. Proselytise for what they regarded as the right thing to do, put it to the test in parliament, and then take it to a double dissolution election if it was defeated in the Senate.

They didn't, either because they were incapable or because they lacked the courage. Instead of leadership we get this nonsense: 'The question that needs to be asked of Kevin Rudd’s critics is this: Which climate change policy would they have had him stake his political future on?'

THE ONE HE BELIEVES IS CORRECT FOR AUSTRALIA, DOOFUS. The one he can sell to working families with the zeal and commitment that befits the greatest moral challenge of his prime ministership.

But no, instead of that we get prolix blather from pundits about how many marginal seats can dance on the head a pin. Truly pathetic.

At the next election we have a choice between the bloke who stands for the wrong things and the bloke who stands for nothing. Obviously the latter is the preferred choice but what a sorry state of affairs.

"They didn't, either because they were incapable or because they lacked the courage."

Or because they didn't comprehend the scale of opportunity they had earlier on. If they had, they could have used the public support and goodwill they had to negotiate with the senate, get the first version through and still wedge the opposition. As it turned out, they exhausted their 'political capital' and gave us Tony Abbott instead.

Whether they were ever serious about it or not, they had the opportunity to do something memorable. It could have taken the wind out of the Greens sails for a long time. As is, they stand to lose Lindsay Tanner. That's about as tragic as marginal seat losses get.