The party of greenhouse denialism is back in town.
For most of its time in government, the Coalition outright denied the existence of global warming. We joined the Bush Administration in living in a fantasy world of dud science, biased research and straight-out pigheadedness. At the last moment, desperate to figure out why they were so out of touch with voters, Australian conservatives professed to have changed their minds.
Bollocks they did. Yesterday’s effort in Question Time has revealed the Coalition is hell-bent on undermining an emissions trading scheme — the critical element of any serious effort to reduce our carbon emissions.
This has been coming for some time. Appearing on Insiders a month ago, Andrew Bolt flagged that there’d be a right-wing push against an emissions trading scheme. We got the first glimpse of it yesterday. The Prime Minister called it “day one of their orchestrated campaign against an emissions trading regime”, and he was dead right.
It was led by Greg Hunt, who has previously boasted of doing a thesis on carbon pricing and converting Alexander Downer to accepting climate change. As the basis for his question, Hunt clearly and deliberately misrepresented a new report by the Climate Institute about the impact of a trading scheme, demanding that the Prime Minister “rule out a new petrol tax of 10c, 20c or 30c a litre as a result of his emissions trading scheme.”
If Hunt learnt anything from his thesis, it would have been that the broader a carbon tax or trading scheme, the more effective and less burdensome it will be. Even the greenhouse mafia’s accountant, ABARE, conceded last year that excluding energy-intensive industries like transport from an emissions trading scheme would double the price needed to be paid by other sectors and, therefore, households.
So when Hunt stands up in Parliament and demands that petrol be ruled out, he’s either arguing that we should pay the double carbon cost on everything else, like groceries and household goods, or he’s trying to undermine the emissions trading scheme full stop.
Have a guess as to which is more likely.
Nationals leader Warren Truss followed Hunt. The party of pork-barrelling, the mob behind the Regional Partnerships rorts, a pack of hicks who are less a party than an elected conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth, probably can’t understand the notion of a scheme that isn’t designed to deliver cash to their mates.
“Is the government prepared to export jobs from our energy intensive communities?” demanded Truss, with one eye on making sure voters in Gippsland understood that an emissions trading scheme would put them all out of work.
It’s probably no coincidence that yesterday’s attack on Labor in Gippsland by Hunt’s good mate Glenn Milne savaged Darren McCubbin (strangely undamaged by Milne’s allegations of being a “platform for pervs”) for his climate change views.
If you think the Coalition is just playing politics, bear in mind that the bloke pulling Brendan Nelson’s strings, Senator Nick Minchin, was trotting out pseudo-science to argue global warming was nothing to do with humans as recently as March this year.
At least Minchin is open about his scepticism. There’s no hypocrisy about him. Most of his colleagues are a different story. They talk of the need to do something about climate change, but seem to think it can be fixed without people being made to change their consumption. They evidently weren’t listening when — of all people — John Howard correctly said last year that addressing climate change would cost us. It has to, otherwise we won’t change the way we behave.
After the election it had looked, briefly, like the Coalition was going to go some of the way toward making up for its inertia and indolence under Howard by backing an effective emissions trading scheme. Brendan Nelson even spoke about “living off environmental interest, not capital”.
But political desperation and sheer flat-earther pigheadedness has won out. It underlines how difficult an effective response to climate change will be for the Government to craft, and will embolden Labor Party recalcitrants like Martin Ferguson, who continues to push bullsh-t magic bullet solutions like geosequestration. The design of the emissions trading scheme will be the biggest test of the Rudd Government’s first term.