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When the new Senate assembles on July 7, it will have a relatively straightforward decision to make on carbon pricing.
Either it maintains a functioning, effective pricing scheme now two years old and embedded in the economy, a scheme that has helped reduce emissions from the critical electricity generation sector, or it abandons it.
Clive Palmer, via his neophyte PUP senators and Ricky Muir, has navigated his way to the balance of power through political cunning learnt at the feet of Joh Bjelke Petersen and the investment of massive amounts of his personal wealth. Because of its impacts on his business interests, Palmer has persistently opposed a carbon price, although the High Court challenge he promised in 2012 doesn’t appear to have eventuated. Palmer’s senators are likely to combine with conservatives like David Leyonhjelm — whose policy platform, amusingly, supports market-based solutions if climate change is proven to be real, and climate denialists like DLP senator John Madigan, to end carbon pricing.
While Labor, and particularly Kevin Rudd, bear much of the responsibility for the debacle that carbon pricing has become over the last six years, ultimately it seems it will be defeated by a combination of blatant self-interest, hypocrisy and stupidity.
And if it does, we will send a signal to the world that Australia wishes to be a free rider on carbon emissions, despite having one of the industrialised world’s most emissions intensive economies, and despite being a massive carbon exporter via the coal industry. For a country that, more than any other industrialised economy, is exposed to the negative consequences of climate change, that’s a position of profound historic irresponsibility.