Anybody needing confirmation that the PM is Australia’s peerless politician for the generation need only look at his deft handling of the global warming debate. Six months ago, there was no such thing as global warming, no need for carbon trading and nuclear power was anathema to the Australian psyche.

The PM’s political radar might have been a bit rusty of late, but his performance on global warming in recent weeks proves that the ultimate pragmatist is alive and well. Yesterday’s release of Ziggy Switkowski’s nuclear energy taskforce report is a case in point. In one headline, the report notes that pound for pound, nuclear energy is more expensive and less efficient than coal energy – unless the environmental cost of coal emissions is taken into account.

As he often does, Paul Kelly at the Oz has it spot on this morning. “This is John Howard’s revenge on the greenies. It will drive the left mad. It compels Labor to another anti-Howard scare campaign to save Australia. And it guarantees a passionate anti-nuclear power crusade in Australia.” Exactly. This is a wedge move guaranteed to give the ALP and the Greens a serious headache in the leadup to the next election. It’s the “be careful what you wish for” debate and the PM has stolen the front running by seamlessly fine-tuning his message and approach.

Two Morgan Polls released earlier in the year found that, although a small majority of Australians oppose the eradication of the three-mines policy, more Australians approve (49%) than disapprove (37%) of the introduction of nuclear power plants to replace coal, oil and gas power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Bomber yesterday reaffirmed the ALP’s commitment as a no-nukes party while the PM has shifted his vernacular to talking about “dirty coal”. Subtext – the Libs are for new ideas, new solutions and the way forward, the ALP is sticking to the past with its head in the sand. The only way this can change is with a new leader, which would probably guarantee another term in opposition for the ALP.

As Kelly says, the whole thing hinges on carbon pricing. Henry reckons that Australia’s non-participation in the Kyoto treaty could be the political masterstroke nobody expected, as it leaves JWH with as much room to move around the climate change issue as he needs, and hands him a lot of flexibility in the debate.

The debate also has hallmarks of one of the PM’s favourite political manoeuvres – the bait and switch. Who would be an opposition leader (or PM aspirant), with this bloke running the show?

Read more at Henry Thornton.