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A persistent myth about the role of the Greens in carbon pricing legislation has emerged in recent years. It’s argued even by some of the best journalists in the press gallery, such as Phil Coorey and Laurie Oakes, that the Greens, in their ideological purity, doomed Australia to years of wrangling over a carbon price by not voting for Kevin Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009.
If they had, the myth goes, Australia would have had an emissions trading scheme up and running that could never be removed.
The CPRS was bad policy that would have done nothing to curb greenhouse emissions. In its final form, there would have been no carbon price of any kind. So generous were the handouts to industry that the CPRS would have actually cost the government money for over a decade. Indeed, free permits to trade-exposed industries grew over time under the CPRS, with households paying the bill.
Moreover, the Rudd government had no interest — until Malcolm Turnbull was replaced by Tony Abbott in the climate denialist putsch of November 2009 — in getting Greens support for the scheme. Labor was primarily interested in securing bipartisan political cover and using the CPRS as a tool to wedge the Liberals, until Abbott boldly and cleverly turned the tables. That’s why the then-government refused to even discuss the CPRS with Bob Brown.
When it comes to the debacle that is Australia’s current position on climate action, there are plenty of villains — and they’re mainly in the Liberal and Labor parties, in business and trade unions, not among the Greens.