Jun 26, 2014

The politics: Palmer delivers a big win for climate denialists

Ignore the theatrics: Clive Palmer has handed the government a big win in its efforts to dump effective climate action.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

We can talk endlessly about Clive Palmer's stunts, his penchant for theatrics, his seemingly effortless ability to command media attention. To do so is, to a degree, to co-operate in the way he relentlessly trivialises politics. Or more, correctly, the way that he pushes the trivialisation that has occurred in recent years to new, lower depths, for Clive is merely the hypertrophied form of contemporary politics, pushing the spectrum of stupidity ever wider. This is the man who announced he would challenge the carbon price in the High Court and never bothered to do it. The man who declared he was closing mines in the Pilbara in response to the mining tax and then admitted he'd "exaggerated". The man who set up an alternative soccer governing body in Australia to replace the Football Federation Australia that was never heard from again. The man who claimed the CIA was working with the Greens and then admitted he'd just made it up. Clive "Wendi Deng is a Chinese spy" Palmer. Now he declares he's a convert on climate science, but in fact will vote to dump the current carbon pricing regime, provided the government legislates a fig leaf to guarantee power prices will fall. There's some ironic justice in this, given the Coalition has been inventing nonsense about the impact of the carbon price on consumers for years. Now Palmer has insisted they live up to their own rhetoric in statutory form. The rest is irrelevant detail. Palmer's emissions trading scheme -- to, erm, replace the emissions trading scheme that will commence on July 1 next year under the legislation he will vote to repeal, and apparently using text of the current legislation in his own bill -- will never commence, remaining zero-rated forever, given one of the conditions for it operating is the United States embrace an emissions trading scheme. As Palmer well knows, much of the Republican Party that currently holds the House in the US don't even believe in climate change, let alone an ETS to address it. So pointless is Palmer's proposed ETS, it's possible the Coalition might even back it as a replacement figleaf for Direct Inaction. And despite what some journalists and editors seem to still think, an ETS Mark Clive isn't a condition for repealing the carbon price. The only condition on that is on cost pass-through. Palmer will kill a working carbon price, which will shift to an ETS next year in favour of a fairytale. Yesterday's event was, in effect, another in the long list of examples of how Palmer is all headline and no story. Quite what Al Gore was doing standing next to Clive is one of those mysteries of the ages; no wonder he was happy to follow Palmer out to that "urgent dinner" rather than take questions about why he's backing someone intent on wrecking a functioning carbon pricing scheme. Gore, eventually, will learn the extent to which Palmer is the sizzle without the sausage or, possibly, the Peking duck. The remaining detail, at least, isn't as bad: the government won't be able to kill the Renewable Energy Target until at least after the next election, something that must have made Environment Minister Greg Hunt's day, given he's about the only person in cabinet who wants it. And the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will remain intact, although the benefit of that depends on whether you view it as a valuable stimulus to commercial investment in renewables, or mere government crowding out of the private sector. And Direct Inaction as a workable scheme looks dead, an outcome that will unite the most ardent climate denialists and climate action advocates. One of the dumbest policies to grace the public stage in years, Direct Inaction can stay on the back of the postage stamp Hunt developed it on, unmourned. But in the end the government has had a significant win in its determination to destroy an effective, low-impact carbon pricing scheme. It was fitting that Hunt was quick out of the blocks last night to welcome Palmer's announcement, despite the theatrics. Hunt and Palmer are complements: one is larger than life and disruptive and the other vanishingly irrelevant to the point of being a joke, but both are shallow, soulless politicians colluding to undermine effective action on a major problem they purport to want to address.

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22 thoughts on “The politics: Palmer delivers a big win for climate denialists

  1. philro

    Its all very confusing after reading all the differing articles.

  2. klewso

    Palmer trivialises politics for fun – like op-ed hacks, masquerading as journalists, are paid to do.

  3. wilful

    BK really needs to read Cathy Alexander’s explainer since it’s clear that he hasn’t really got his head around this issue. Methinks Cliev is becoming another of those annoying blind spots that the otherwise excellent Mr Keane has a few of.

  4. zut alors

    Announce a major policy… then run for it! Superficially, Clive didn’t appear to be in urgent need of a meal but perhaps I do him an injustice.

    Surely a policy touted as potentially ‘saving the world’ would warrant at least five minutes of questions.

  5. Pedantic, Balwyn

    Bernard may have lost the plot yesterday on FT indexation, but he’s right back in form today.

    One of the most powerful articles I have read calling out Palmer on his hypocrisy in supporting the destructive policies of the Coalition in repealing Carbon Pricing. But to be fair maybe Palmer doesn’t know it morphs into his preferred ETS next year anyway?

    Also a timely reminder that the Coalition is riven with denialists and most will be happy to scrap both the “toxic” Carbon Tax and Direct Action, cause there isn’t a problem, is there!

  6. Iskandar

    Al Gore followed in behind Clive looking like a stunned mullett. Probably he was badly jet-lagged and had only just perused a PUP briefing paper on what this Clive fellow was all about. Consequently he was cooked like a goose. Hopefully after a good nights sleep Gore will realise how he was duped and make some sort of retraction.

  7. JohnB

    Well written, Bernard.

    Especially the “all headline and no story” comment. How true!

  8. klewso

    There’s got to be a mourning after….
    (or was that The Poseidon Adventure?)

  9. Hunt Ian

    Bernard’s sentiments about the player’s in the Palmer stunt seem to just not quite appreciate how funny it is to see Clive upstage everybody on climate change. While Bernard’s dismissal of Clive’s antics has a lot to it he fails to see how annoyed the climate deniers will be and supposes that the whole thing is a triumph for the climate deniers.
    Well, it is not. The one bit of direct action worth keeping, the RET, will be kept till after the next election. An ETS will be kept with an amendment to give carbon a zero price for the time being and other bits of machinery around the ETS will be there till after the next election.
    Not much will indeed be achieved if Bernard is right in supposing that the Republicans will control The US Congress forever and that Abbott will get reelected in 2015. Though MSM in both the US and Australia will be pushing for this result, it is not clear that Australians will accept the influence of MSM as much in future as they have in the past. Chin up, Bernard.

  10. Graeski

    I’m not sure which is the scarier thought: that behind the bumbling facade there’s actually a razor-sharp intellect manipulating the media and public like a master puppeteer pulling on the strings; or that the public face is fundamentally true to the inner man and reflects a genuinely uninformed mind and lack of considered political philosophy or intellectual framework.

    I guess time will tell, but neither bode well for the country.

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