The Greens’ climate policies, from our proposed CPRS amendments to our Safe Climate Bill, have been widely lauded as being the most economically sensible and scientifically literate of all the parties’. But Mungo MacCallum wouldn’t let that reality get in the way of a good pro-ALP story.

Perhaps the most egregious error in Monday’s diatribe was Mungo’s claim that the compromise proposal from the Greens was a long way behind the original CPRS because it would only lead to 2% cuts when the CPRS would lead to 5%. Nevermind that those cuts are over completely different timeframes, Mungo, so cannot be compared.

Last week’s Greens proposal would turn around Australia’s emissions trajectory in its two years of operation, and it is designed to be strengthened along the way. That puts it in stark contrast to the CPRS, which is designed to be almost impossible to strengthen for 15 years once it has been passed – the only way the target can be lifted beyond 25% is by paying even more tens of billions of dollars in compensation to the big polluters. Mungo’s claim is the kind of misinformation that can only be peddled by someone who is wilfully ignorant of the issue at hand.

Speaking of being wilfully ignorant, Mungo’s tired old line that the Greens don’t know how to compromise is only believable by those who have never bothered to follow the reality of how the Greens operate. (If you want to see refusal to compromise, try talking to Penny Wong, who rejects every Greens proposal with an off-hand “that’s not government policy”. We know that, Minister, that’s why we want to negotiate around it!)

After two decades of experience in balance of power politics, the Greens are the experts at strategic compromise to achieve worthwhile incremental gain, with gun law reform, gay law reform, IR changes and so much more to show for it. Simply supporting Rudd’s CPRS without any changes at all would have been neither strategic compromise nor incremental gain. It would have been a collapse of integrity which would have taken Australia backwards.

Contrary to Mungo’s ALP talking points, the CPRS is not “a start”, nor is it an attempt to “ease” Australia into anything except complacency. As many analyses have shown, the legislation would lock Australia in to our current polluting economy for the foreseeable future, even encouraging investment in new coal plants, while hiding the inaction at home with potentially dodgy international offsets. It’s no more than a smoke and mirrors show, holding a mirror up to a small chunk of protected PNG forest to hide the smoke from our power plants, cars and logging burns.

Mungo bells the cat by praising Rudd’s scheme for being just like the one John Howard took to the 2007 election. But, hang on, Mungo. Weren’t you one of those crowing that Australian voters had booted Howard out in no small part because of his recalcitrant climate change stance? Looking back, John Howard’s honesty about climate change is in some ways preferable to the hypocrisy of Rudd and Wong. At least with Howard you knew where you stood.

Of course Australians would accept stronger action, but it takes leadership to convince them to accept it, something Rudd could never achieve.

All this aside, however, what is perhaps most revealing about Mungo MacCallum’s ill-informed bluster is that it shows again the lengths to which Rudd’s Labor will go to avoid taking on the Greens head on. Every once in a while, Penny Wong or Greg Combet will take a swipe, but almost all the dirty work is reserved for proxies such as Mungo, state Labor MPs or friendly industry types like Heather Ridout. They may think taking us on will distract from their key anti-Coalition messaging, or the may be concerned that attacking the Greens would expose how anti-environmental they actually are. Either way, it is clearly a weak spot.

Tim Hollo is the Media and Communications Adviser to Greens Senator Christine Milne

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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