So much for the Liberal party scare campaign that ran like a silken thread through last year’s election. Remember? The whisper that began after Steve Price, Richard Wilkins and Peter Garrett met — somewhat weirdly — in a Qantas Lounge and ended with the broadly promoted sense that in office the carapace of respectability and  and centrist restraint would drop away from Kevin Rudd and his henchpeople.

A Rudd government, the Liberals warned us, would instantly transform into some ghastly hard-left hybrid of Greenpeace and the Wilderness Society, quite possibly wearing those daggy koala suits. Hardline environmentalism would sprout like mungbeans.

Well, that all looks pretty silly in retrospect. Half a week after the launch of what should be the most significant policy process in his term, Kevin Rudd is looking less like an organic Che Guevara and more like an anaemic John Howard. The ETS Green Paper, he repeats ad nauseam, focuses on issues of “economic reform”.

Environment isn’t getting a look in. Negotiations for the passage of the legislation that will result in the eventual establishment of Rudd’s “Licence to pollute” ETS will be negotiated with Labor’s fellow travellers the Liberals. The Greens would have none of it: confirmation, if any were needed, that labor’s policy is focused on economy, not environment. It is a politically palatable pastiche rather than a piece of difficult but environmentally defensible policy.

Rudd’s target is votes, not carbon. John Howard could hardly have done it better.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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