I’ve found the reaction of Malcolm Turnbull to the South Australia blackout too depressing to discuss, but I suppose it’s time to talk about it. Turnbull was depressing for three reasons.
First, there was the absurdity of failing to distinguish between transmission failures (pylons destroyed by storms) and intermittency. Reading the comments of Turnbull and others, it seemed as if the reasoning process was something like “wind bad for electricity system, so must cut back on wind power”. I gave up on expecting any substantive difference between Turnbull and Tony Abbott quite a while ago, but this silliness coming from the alleged “smartest guy in the room” was depressing.
Then there’s the substantive political content. Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg have already any ruled out kind of carbon price, even the emissions intensity mechanism proposed by the Climate Change Authority (of which I’m a member) as an evolution of Direct Action. When doing this, Frydenberg justified his position by saying that an energy transition, presumably to renewables, meant that the government’s targets were achievable. Now even this fig leaf has been stripped away.
Finally, and worst of all, it’s one more step in the capitulation of right-wing neoliberalism to the rising tide of tribalism. In the Liberal-National-One Nation coalition I described a month or so ago, it’s now clear that One Nation with its associated faction within the government (Cory Bernardi, George Christensen, Abbott and others) has the upper hand. ONP Senator Malcolm Roberts tweeted to Turnbull that it was “Good to see you coming around to One Nation’s position“, and he was spot on. Doubtless he’ll have many more occasions for similar tweets in the future.
The polls suggest that the public reaction to all this is unfavorable, but unfortunately it’s a few months too late. We’re stuck with this for another three years.
*This article was originally published at John Quiggin’s blog