In the lead up to 24 November, greenhouse was a useful point of differentiation for the ALP. Now it’s something they have to do something about.

Ross Garnaut’s warning in his interim report on climate change that Australia may have to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by up 90% by the middle of century merely underlines an inconvenient truth. Governments don’t just have to make hard decisions. If they want to survive, they have to carry voters with them.

The Yes, Minister maxim “never set up an inquiry unless you know in advance what its findings will be” became an instant cliché, but clichés exist because they are a quick and universally understood way of illustrating something we accept as true.

Kevin Rudd and the rest of his Cabinet have simply been given a reminder of this other inconvenient truth.

But Garnaut has only offered an interim report. There’s another Yes, Minister quote that says “Railway trains are impartial too. But if you lay down the lines for them, that’s the way they go.”

The Rudd Government hasn’t weighted Garnaut’s terms of reference, but they now have a very clear idea of the direction he’s heading in.

The ride will be bumpy. Only last weekend, the Government was making much of the appointment of its petrol prices watchdog, but there will be higher petrol prices – and higher energy costs – involved in tackling greenhouse.

But that’s politics. The Government knows Garnaut’s direction. It’s up to them to organise the reception committee.

Peter Fray

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