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Carbon repeal: condemning our children for cheap political points

The repeal of a functioning, low-impact carbon price is an economic attack on future generations, and they will damn us for it.

The carbon price is dead. Australia thus slips back into its pre-2007 role as an active opponent of serious action on climate change, having removed a functional, effective and low-impact carbon pricing scheme and replaced it with nothing except the promise of a witless policy of handouts to corporate mates.

In doing so, we undermine the chances of meaningful global action on climate change. We’re one of the world’s most emissions intensive economies — in fact, we’re a carbon junkie, hooked on cheap coal for power, and flogging coal to the world even as the price slides and the mines shut. And apart from the last six years, Australia has tried to sabotage global climate action. What we do matters, even if we only account for a small fraction of the world’s greenhouse emissions, because when we demonstrate our seriousness in tackling climate change, we increase the chances of countries that don’t enjoy our high standards of living also taking action.

Now we’re back to our Howard-era role as an international greenhouse vandal.

We’re also imposing higher costs on our children and their descendants; the longer we delay the process of decarbonising our economy — and one day, we will need to decarbonise it, like it or not — the higher the costs. Or at least, that’s the view of environazis like the Federal Treasury and the International Energy Agency. And to the extent that we undermine genuine international action on climate change, they’ll pay a far greater price in terms of the higher costs, poorer health and lower economic growth that will result from Australia’s exposure to climate change impacts. The cost to the economy of a carbon price between now and 2050 will be trivial compared to the cost inflicted on Australia by climate change.

Future citizens will thus look back on the actions of this government and the senators that supported it and see an intergenerational economic attack on them, in which we used the trivial costs of a carbon pricing scheme as an excuse to saddle future generations with much greater costs from climate change and decarbonisation — for all the Coalition’s incessant rhetoric about not saddling future generations with debt. It’s an attack, primarily, of old white men, men in complete denial about climate change, on the future and on the young.

Let us wish them all long and healthy lives, so that they can witness how much their poor judgement and opportunism will cost Australia.”

There is some hope: the inability or unwillingness of governments to rein in fossil-fuel energy producers and distributors — who have played a key role in urging the repeal of the carbon price — has meant that Australian households and business are paying far more for energy than they should. As a result, demand for coal-fired power has fallen while interest in renewable energy has surged. We thus have a de facto carbon price on the most critical greenhouse sector, one much higher than the actual carbon price repealed today. And the Renewable Energy Target remains in place for now — although who knows how long it will remain given the capriciousness of Clive Palmer. The unwillingness of governments to impose export restrictions on natural gas will also result in the cost of gas rising significantly in coming months and years.

The decarbonisation of the Australian economy may thus proceed despite the best efforts of Tony Abbott and climate denialists to freeze us in the late 20th century. But if that happens, it will be slow and inefficient compared to the policy repealed today.

This isn’t merely a failure by the Coalition, or the crossbench senators who backed its killing of the carbon price. Australia has gone from the 2007 election, where there was bipartisan support for an emissions trading scheme, to this moment, when a working carbon pricing mechanism — soon to shift to an emissions trading scheme — is being abolished. Kevin Rudd bears much responsibility for his appalling mishandling of emissions trading while prime minister and his view that climate change was simply an issue with which to wedge the Coalition. Julia Gillard also bears much responsibility, not so much for those words before the 2010 election, but for leading the charge against the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme within government in early 2010 and going to the election later that year with a climate action policy of manifest absurdity — cash for clunkers, anyone? A citizens’ assembly?

But ultimately, this is the result of the right-wing putsch in 2009 that replaced Malcolm Turnbull, a man genuinely committed to action on climate change, with Tony Abbott, a climate denialist and rank opportunist who, in a short period of time, had occupied every single possible position on climate change and what to do about it, except the one he ended up advocating as policy — the risible “Direct Action” policy mocked from the most froth-mouthed climate denialist all the way to the most fervent Trotskyite environmentalist.

Let us wish them all long and healthy lives, so that they can witness how much their poor judgement and opportunism will cost Australia.

  • 1
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    It’s dirty day for the country.
    So much vandalism for so little gain.
    A year or two (if that) of political grandstanding by the old white men of a broken carbon economy.
    Feeling deeply depressed and *very* angry.

  • 2
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Bernard, I fear you may be in the minority. Stand by for the MSM Abbott cheer squad to go the full monty.

    A very sad day for our country.

  • 3
    brendan king
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    it was fun watching barnaby joyce at a doorstop contradict himself several times per sentence.

  • 4
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure the “old white men” would have supported the tax if the cost could somehow be borne by the community, as opposed to big corporate. Oh well, another run on the board to big corporate who are winning hands down against the community in this transfer contest. The score card is looking pretty grim for the community. An embarrassing and painful state of affairs, indeed.

  • 5
    Andrew Coates
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Well put.

    Can we have a nice clear list of all the House of Reps & Senate members who voted for the repeal please? Maybe some Facebook/email links too…

  • 6
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Brilliantly said, Bernard. Thank you. Australia shifts ever closer to being a pariah state, morally bankrupt and utterly unequipped to deal with the coming century.

  • 7
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    What a sad day - when a policy that is so universally accepted as best policy by every environamentalist, economist and true liberal is jettisoned in order to “save” the average family $10 a week (more like less than $5 but I will go with Abbott’s best possible outcome).

    The fact that Abbott decried this as a useless tax despite the ANU finding it greatly reduced emmissions just goes to show how disinterested in facts he is.

  • 8
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    P’ss off! What blight from yonder alley breaks?
    Why it’s The Golden Age of Lost Opportunity”?

    Who would have thought when Hockey condemned the “Age of Entitlement”, he was including their expectations re the quality of their future too?

  • 9
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    And so Australia becomes the Cletus the slack jawed yokel of the world…

  • 10
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Environmental poli-pot.

  • 11
    sean a.
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Nice work Bernard, sad that quality journalism is such a rare thing in the Climate Change debate.

  • 12
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Sad day.

    It’s not just the environmental vandalism, the global pariah-state, it’s the lost opportunity for us to become world leaders, and very rich, in supplying the technology for the world.

    We are and have been world leaders in an array of renewable technologies. We could be the next OPEC of renewable energy.

    If we really had imagination, and courage, our kids could retire early on the back of their national wealth and hi-tech manufacturing industries.

    But no, we just want to dig coal out of the ground for the profits of multi-national companies.

    Truly visionary.

  • 13
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    As the climate disasters hit with increasing frequency, the current decision-makers will defend themselves by saying : “Nobody warned us, nobody told us this was going to happen!”

    It seems that it is time that they were told again, harder and louder. And as for you, you complacent youngsters, it is time you learnt how to protest. Whose future is at risk anyway?

  • 14
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Well said. What an embarrassing day for us all.

  • 15
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    And most of the media bear responsibility for the laziness of their tribal reportage. Everything has been reduced to partisan hacks playing audience at the gladiators ring.

  • 16
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Australian electricity produces on av. 850g of CO2/KWh.

    France’s is just 80g.

    Think about it.


    Which would you prefer?

  • 17
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    BK, indeed a sad day for this country on so many fronts. The world is changing but not downunder: it’s rip, rip, dig, dig and burn, burn.
    For those who will comment that renewables have no future, the SMH today: Investment in renewables at a stand still in Australia; in China $US19.3 billion into renewables in the June quarter, US investment $US10.6 billion up a third from the last quarter, Europe investment rose a quater to $US14 billion. The carbon tax would have funded our entry into this revolution, well done Abbott and his PUPpet supporters for nothing.

  • 18
    Ian Brewster
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Can I suggest the the superannuation of all the Members and Senators who voted to repeal the carbon tax be compulsorily invested in coal mines? Eventually we will then see justice done for our grandchildren.

    And better, some of our grandchildren get to vote in the next election!

  • 19
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I just caught five seconds of Abbott’s press conference, before I flicked the channel to something less offensive: I think it was to footage of more bloodshed in the Middle East. Anyway, in that brief amount of time, I heard Abbott say to Greg (rhymes with) Hunt, something like, “And you must also feel very proud, too, on this day”.
    In response to that suggestion, Hunt looked decidedly uncomfortable. Now it could be the modesty of someone who doesn’t go in for public praise? But since that someone is a career politician, I very much doubt it. It definitely seemed more like a surge of conflicted emotion, from someone who may still actually believe in the need to act on climate change, but couldn’t hide the deep seated guilt that they feel, for their part in the production of the steaming crock of a policy, that has just been foisted on the nation.
    Or to put it more figuratively, it was the embarrassment felt by the figleaf, when the genitalia decided to loudly announce, the presence of unsightly and expanding, venereal disease.

  • 20
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Ian, I like that suggestion.

  • 21
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    chrispydog, given nuclear power reportedly accounted for 76% of total electricity production in France in 2009 (with renewables at 14% and fossil fuels at 10%), I’m not sure I’d swap our system for theirs.

  • 22
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    So why are they doing it ? Why would anyone do it ?

    There are some who are mendacious: those who invent the cherry picked arguments or invent things and those who hire them. Presumably they do it because there’s a quid in it. You know who they are.

    There are others who are opportunistic: They join in because it benefits them in other ways. Abbott is an example of this. He doesn’t care about the underlying policy, just what political hay he can make. In other circumstances he has embraced an emissions trading scheme.

    But there are some who are doing it because the issue has been politicised and their side of politics supports a particular view. This is the saddest case and I think this is where Rupert is.

  • 23
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Marcfranc’s attitude is no better than that of the Old White Men.

    Nothing is more important than the future health of the planet.

  • 24
    zut alors
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Today Abbott has justly earned a place in history ie: as a bigger prime ministerial joke than Billy McMahon. No small achievement.

  • 25
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Mike Hilliard - The fiarfax press as been pretty scathing of the repeal, so to the guardian and even the AFR has bemoaned the lack of a climte change policy now - but the support from the M - urdoch press has been staunch and triumphal.

  • 26
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I guess it had to happen somewhere in the world. Just a shame it had to be here. This action will not be forgotten by the rest of the world so quickly. This marks us as a fundamentally bogan nation - and so we are, look at the support Abbot still has.

  • 27
    Honest Johnny
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Much was made of the $550. Lets look at the figures. We are told that the repeal of the carbon tax will save Australian families $550. What we are not told (by the politicians) is that it will cause a $6.931 billion hit to the budget after various cuts to services are taken into account!. At a population of 23 million people and an average family of 2.6, that’s a negative $783.50 per family. We’ll actually be $233.50 worse off while business is laughing! Australian voters have fallen for this “crap”, hook, line, and sinker. Why are we so stupid?

  • 28
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    @Markfrank and friends — anyone who is more afraid of nuclear electricity than climate change is horribly ignorant about the consequences of climate change.

  • 29
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    The Carbon Tax is done and dusted! What now? We can continue moaning about it, knowing full well Abbott. Hunt et al don’t give pinch of nanny goat shit about scientific advice, tomorrow, or any responsibility to our children, grandchildren or the Globe our Species inhabits. We also know, moaning is a poor alternative to action!
    Climate Change is the Peoples’ War . . and only when majority of Australian Public reject pap and Murdoch Media obfuscation as their source of awareness about Climate Change . . will our National leadership accept responsibility. TALK to neighbours, their neighbours, on Bus/Train, at work, Footy, Church, wherever an opportunity exists. It is all about US! Waiting for THEM . . has not, will not WORK!!

  • 30
    Geoff Thomas
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    It is not just today that is a dark day in our history. The other day of disgrace was the day that The Greens refused to support the scheme negotiated between the Rudd Government and the Malcolm Turnbull led opposition.
    Reform is often an incremental process. The Greens showed a combination of reckless obstructionism and crass immaturity to strike down that deal.
    How different the last five years could have been but for that act of political vandalism.

  • 31
    Terrence John Snedden
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    The tragedy is that while Abbott is primarily motivated to bolster the prosperity of his corporate mates in the short term and sells this as a benefit to ordinary Australians whose pockets he is pilfering allegedly for the prosperity of our children’s children’s children but really for his corporate mates again, he doesn’t seem to be able to intellectually grasp the magnitude of the climate problem for the nation, the planet or humanity. His stubborn ignorance and head-in-the-sand championing of death-wish, blind faith over science and factual evidence is simply frightening. How did someone that would normally be regarded as a fringe “nutter” become a national leader?

  • 32
    Stuart Johnson
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    The Greens told Labor what was wrong with it and Labor flat out refused to deal with the Greens, why is it the Greens who get accused of failing to negotiate? The ALP were more interested in wedging their opponents than action on climate change and would have locked in generous handouts to polluters with very little in return. Had the Greens acted differently, they would now be criticised for supporting bad legislation just for the sake of looking like doing something for the environment.

  • 33
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Yes KRudd bears a lot of responsibility for this mess - he lost his bottle when it came to a Double Dissolution which would have given him a clear mandate. And of course the Greens have played their part too - they sat on their high principles and caused the whole ETS to be lost so now they can sit on their principles and sail down the river of deep regret - fools all of them!

  • 34
    K.D. Afford
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I cannot sufficiently express my disgust at the lies, the arrogance, the misrepresentation of facts, the slur on scientists, and an ignorant disregard for the future other than profit by pollution.
    My guess this is his demise as people realise that they have been lied to by a puppet of the coal fuel companies.

    than a tfossil fuelsby this single policy megalomaniac.

  • 35
    K.D. Afford
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I cannot sufficiently express my disgust at the lies, the arrogance, the misrepresentation of facts, the slur on scientists, and an ignorant disregard for the future other than profit by pollution.
    My guess this is his demise as people realise that they have been lied to by a puppet of the fosdil fuel companies.

  • 36
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    All you politico journalists keep rubbishing Gillard’s carbon tax but it was a scheme that was working, doing the job it was supposed to do.

    Rudd was more interested in wedging the Libs as everyone has noted, but the carbon scheme he agreed with Turnbull would have been pretty ineffective which is why the Greens voted against it. Many of the undesirable aspects of it were removed from the Gillard scheme which was much better

  • 37
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Gina will be delighted ….

  • 38
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    All comments aside, the issue was that the Australian public did not want a carbon tax.
    And hence, Australian politics has delivered the will of the Australian people.
    For better or for worse, shouldn’t this outcome be held up as an example of quality democracy in action?
    You can call the decision misguided, or inappropriate, but for mine it’s a benchmark of how well our system of Government actually reflects the wishes of the Australian people time and time again.
    You wouldn’t see this in China or North Korea or even some countries in Europe (i.e Poland) which are tied to the EU climate policy. The will of the people doesn’t mean a thing there.
    Celebrate the fact that your vote actually means something in Australia.

  • 39
    zut alors
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Scott @ #38, I don’t believe Australians were anti carbon pricing but they were well & truly over Rudd/Gillard/Rudd. Abbott won the election because he wasn’t Rudd or Gillard.

  • 40
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Scott - “For better or for worse, shouldn’t this outcome be held up as an example of quality democracy in action?” No, govt’s often do things that are for the betterment of the country that the “public” don’t want - in this case the “public” did want a price on carbon, numerous polls had the public in favour of it (some poll had above 60% in favour) but a core group of influential denialists got hold of the debate and through fear, misinformation, three word slogans and a compliant newspaper organisation a quality, progresssive and necessary policy gets jettisoned in favour of nothing.

    And lets be honest about what “my vote means” in Australia somewhere around 80-90% of voters have aligned themselves ideologically, of the remainder you could argue 25% live in a seat that is never going to change hands no matter what they do, of the rest (those who actually determine the outcome of an election) how many actually in form themsleves about politics more than what they hear from Mr Blot and the Parrot?

  • 41
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Poland I hear you say! Well if they are having to ‘suffer’ the luxury of having the EU support their infrastructure and carbon reduction, the count me in! Have a look at what Germany is doing, mate!

    Problem with our ‘democracy’ is that there are a lot of Australians who don’t have enough grey matter to make an informed decision because they are being led by Murdoch’s attack dogs and his only agenda is to garner as much control of Australia’s precious media resource as possible.

  • 42
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    @ Scott That is an argument for a ‘follower’ not a LEADER as Prime Minister. Sometimes governments have to make unpopular decisions for the good of the country, and in this case, for the whole of humanity. Abbott and the LNP have utterly and totally failed the brief.
    And while you are all busy knocking Rudd, it seems it has escaped your notice that the Australian Labor Party has already stated it will be taking an ETS policy to the next election in 2016.
    Now, that’s what I call LEADERSHIP!!

  • 43
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    You touch on Malcolm Turnbull and Julia Gillard. While I agree with your assessment, at least JG was caught by the spotlight of minority government. Malcolm has no such excuses he chose to stay with this mob and is now part of a majority government. On this issue history won’t be kind to either, but Malcolm will have more ‘splainin’ to do.

    But he has form of course. Remember the Republic?

  • 44
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Keating’s unrepresentaive swill resonates well - mendacious Abbott gloats and the betrayal “judas vote” in return for 50 cents a day was cheap at the price. Judas did better with the 10 pieces of silver - but Abbott and the LNP and PUP may also suffer Judas’ ignominious place in history. To allow climate betrayal for future generations of Australian’s to solve is incomprehensible and unreasonable.
    They can of course follow Murdoch’s crazy advice and leave the coast and live in Alice Springs.

  • 45
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Bill Shorten …..where are you ???

  • 46
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I reckon it does reflect a sizeable lump of the electorate’s opinion - happy to have someone else to blame in the case of being wilfully misled up a wrong gully?
    The media’s role in selling it this pup can’t be understated. Ever prepared to sit in judgement on any issue, because their opinion is “so important” when it comes to explaining things to us rubes that wouldn’t know our arse from a hole in the ground.
    Murdoch’s Limited News, overtly pro-conservative bent (leading the pack), aside, a large lump of the rest of the media was happy making sport, belittling, and querulous of Labor (showing how smart they were, following Murdoch’s dominant lead) while-ever they made themselves available for exposure : while Abbott, hiding in voluntary exemption from the media spot-light was allowed to look better by default.

  • 47
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Let’s not forget, Murdoch - happy playing Propaganda Minister “Comical Ally” to the Coalition of the Shilling - gaily struck up the band to lead us into Iraq too.

  • 48
    Barney Backfore
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Turnbull, ah Turnbull, what genuine belief in Climate Change? If he really had any passion or cared about it he would have crossed the floor but no, he just weakly sold out. Didn’t have the ticker after all, just another rich man with a top hat.

  • 49
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Bernard for being neither too cagey nor too offensive about those “adults” in charge who have failed not just us, but future generations.

    You say “Future citizens will thus look back on the actions of this government and the senators that supported it and see an intergenerational economic attack on them”. In fact, this is what you might call a “triple bottom line” (remember when that slogan was in vogue?) attack on future citizens’ social, environmental and economic well-being.

    But hey, the “adults” are in charge, and latte-swill like me should just stfu because man date, right?

  • 50
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    zut #39
    “Abbott won the election because he wasn’t Rudd or Gillard.”

    But mostly because Rupert (and Gina and…) wanted it so.