carbon tax climate change emissions
A 2011 anti carbon tax protest. (Image: AAP/Julian Smith)

In case you were thinking that members of Australia’s governing class had in any way, or in the slightest detail, decided to amend their position on climate action from those they’ve adopted over the last decade, the last 24 hours should serve as a harsh reality check.

Let’s go through the positions the major players have tended to adopt since 2008.

Labor: Pick a collection of policies that are better than the Coalition in terms of actually accepting the need to do something about climate change, but look after heavily-unionised industries and rely on spending taxpayer money to paper over politically sensitive areas like energy: check.

Coalition: Blatantly lie about the apocalyptic impact of Labor’s policies while pretending climate change doesn’t exist and relying on figleaf policies like “soil magic”: check.

On Labor’s policy, Scott Morrison yesterday said, “It’s a massive tax on jobs.” Climate denialist energy minister Angus Taylor: “This is a massive revival of a carbon tax on everything.” Next, another Whyalla wipeout and $100 (plus six years of CPI) lamb roast.

Greens: Relentlessly bag Labor as being just as bad as the Liberals with an eye to inner-city seats: check. 

Adam Bandt: “This is a dog’s breakfast of Liberal party leftovers … This announcement shows why you need Greens in Parliament.”

Conservative media: Pay lip service to the need to address climate change but hysterically berate any serious proposition for action while blaming both sides for inaction and using bullshit modelling to demonise emissions abatement: check.

Today’s AFR: “Labor goes and spoils it all by committing to an over-ambitious target for cutting emissions … It’s the other bookend of the Coalition’s conservatives’ coal obsession. Both extremes need to be junked in order to get a durable climate change policy.” Today’s Australian: “Dr Fisher’s modelling showed Labor’s policy would push electricity prices higher, cost workers thousands of dollars a year in lower wages and wipe hundreds of billions of dollars from the economy across the next decade.”

Business: Pay lip service to the need for climate action: check.

The Business Council yesterday: “Australians want action on climate change.” Meanwhile, the AI Group “recognises that our national emissions targets will deepen over time to achieve the widely shared objectives of the major parties and business: a successful global effort to mitigate the risks of climate change…”

…But bag any actual proposal and say that someone else should bear the cost of addressing it and you deserve special treatment: check. 

The BCA (which has no land transport company members): “The Business Council supports a greater focus on abatement in the transport sector.” AI Group’s Innes Willox: “Moving to a 45% emissions reduction target for 2030 would be a tough ask for many industries … These targets should be pursued through policies that maintain our trade competitiveness.” From the AFR: “Industry groups representing manufacturers also welcomed Labor’s acknowledgement of the need to consider special treatment of industries such as steel and aluminium … One senior executive from another heavy industry said their sector couldn’t shoulder any additional carbon costs because they couldn’t be passed on to customers.” 

Blame both sides for climate inaction despite never saying a word in support of the Gillard government’s carbon price: check.

Willox again: “Labor and the Coalition have both disclaimed the use of carbon pricing to reduce Australia’s emissions… If all sides of politics could get over their near blanket rejection of prices and market mechanisms, we could have a much more productive debate about the designs for market [policies]…”

You didn’t really think that just because the impacts of climate change are becoming ever more apparent and ever more damaging that the people who govern us would actually change their ways, did you? 

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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