Are we ready for a dose of Prof Garnaut’s climate change medicine?

One wonders if the Rudd Government is, given the way they’ve been distancing themselves from the man they appointed last year. But a few people are. Business Council of Australia president Greg Gailey gave an eminently sensible speech yesterday about the need to get emissions trading right.

“Australia has a real opportunity to achieve better social, economic and environmental outcomes based on higher productivity – and carbon productivity in particular… the government can lead the way in the implementation of a credible and successful national ETS that provides an example of what can be achieved for other countries to follow.”

This is the head of the BCA talking, remember.

He also warned businesses against exaggerating the negative impacts of an ETS. One suspects that there’ll be plenty who won’t heed that call.

There’s already a long line of stakeholders either bidding for the right to be excused from all this climate change stuff or receive compensation. We’re calling it Rentseekers’r’Us and Crikey will be keeping track of who is trying to wriggle out of their ETS obligations and why.

And if you think the Coalition is running a scare campaign on an ETS, have a look at some of the rhetoric starting to come from the power industry. The Energy Supply Association was today warning of “arbitrary destruction of shareholder wealth through a dramatic change in government policy, which raises questions about sovereign risk.”

Sovereign risk? Hello? How long have you mob known about climate change? You used obfuscation and dodgy science to delay action on it for over a decade. Even the previous Government committed to an ETS. The only risk to shareholder wealth is from boards and management that pretended they could avoid climate change forever.

The Oz also quotes Transfield Services chairman Tony Shepherd warning of an “Enron-type collapse” and the loss of five years of economic growth. You forgot the plague of frogs and the deaths of the first-born, Tony.

National Generators Forum director John Boshier is quoted in the AFR as telling Garnaut to stick to climate change rather than discuss what compensation industry should — or in the case of the power industry — shouldn’t get. And individual electricity company executives have been pushing for exemption or compensation for a while. They’ve been backed by greenhouse denialist and NSW Treasurer Michael “Get F-cked” Costa, who is trying to sell some gamey coal-based power assets.

This is just the start. As with the GST, there’ll be constant procession of industries forecasting doom if they have to comply with the new taxation arrangements. Strangely, since the introduction of the GST, the economy appears to have done OK. Peter Costello, in one of his few significant achievements as Treasurer, understood the basic logic that the purer the new taxation arrangements, the better they would be — not the other way around. And if there are any people to be compensated, it is individuals — on low or fixed incomes — not companies.

Let’s see if Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan can match Costello and hold the line against special interests.