In a national campaign devoid of much colour or movement, there was at least some comedic value last night in watching Penny Wong and Greg Hunt debate action on climate change on the 7.30 Report.
In the red corner: Wong, the Climate Change Minister who with Kevin Rudd worked assiduously and effectively to entirely wreck Labor’s political advantage on the issue by remorseless partisanship, refusal to negotiate and a communication style for which the terms ‘tedious’ and ‘hectoring’ just get you warmed up.
In the blue corner: Hunt, who abandoned decades of personal commitment to addressing climate change in order to save his political skin, and who now has to spruik soil carbon — a technology that makes CCS look commercial-ready — and taxpayer handouts to polluters as the magic solution to the diabolical policy problem.
Both are mooted to be dumped from their roles after the election. There are frequent suggestions Hunt will be dumped for Malcolm Turnbull in an Abbott government. The rumours are less clear about Wong, and perhaps just reflect the fact the media has grown tired of her.
And the venue? The ABC, which has proven a reliable and effective facilitator of climate denialism of the most extreme form with its obsession with he-said-she-said journalism.
The debate was accordingly like heading down to the local kindy to ask some four-year-olds about the chances of a double-dip recession. Kerry O’Brien cannily sensed this and spent the entire debate telling his interlocutors they didn’t have much time and had to hurry up.
Both sides have made rods for their own backs even in selling their own wholly useless policies. Having run hard on the impact of the CPRS on electricity prices, as part of a broader Coalition strategy of blaming the federal government for electricity prices rises at the state level, Hunt is stuck with the implacable logic that his ‘direct action’ policy will, electricity generators say, drive electricity prices up.
Wong, like Julia Gillard, can have thrown back in her face every single one of her statements about why climate action shouldn’t be delayed, when Labor’s entire policy is now based on delay.
The obvious question is, given they will hold the balance of power in the Senate from July next year and are the only party with a credible climate change policy, why the ABC did not have the Greens in the debate. As we get so often from the national broadcaster, balance without judgement.