A couple of weeks ago Labor environment spokesman Anthony Albanese indulged in one of our favourite pastimes – baiting Dollar Sweetie. Talking about climate change he said:

What we actually we need to do is harness the power of the market so that you get the whole economy moving forward in a carbon constrained way… [T]hat is why the government released papers supporting emissions trading way back in the last century, in 1999. That is why Peter Costello took a plan for emissions trading to the Cabinet in 2003 supported by Treasury, the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Industry, and yet nothing happened…

On Insiders on Sunday, however, Cossie offered this: “If the world starts moving towards a carbon trading system, we can’t be left out of that”.

Clive Hamilton from the Australia Institute has interesting observations on Cossie’s conversion – given all the water running being made by a certain M Turnbull.

“I think the politics of this are very interesting in the sense that Costello now sees Turnbull as a significant threat on the horizon and they’re both jockeying for some climate change leadership,” he told Crikey. “If you’re going to differentiate yourself from Howard, apart from reconciliation, there’s no better issue to do it on. Wentworth is marginal, and it’s green. You have to be seen to be green.”

He might have also talked about the role being played by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt – a former adviser to a man who dreams of comebacks and who also seems to have recently discovered the environment, Alexander Downer.

But neither Albo nor Hamilton have taken their comments to the logical point – that on this issue, as on virtually all issues, Peter Costello looks like a policy wimp. As always, he’s late to the party.

Peter Fray

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