THE OPEN THREAT by eccentric mining billionaire and federal MP Clive Palmer to act to block the Abbott government’s Direct Action policy on climate change — up to and including forcing a double dissolution election over the issue — can hardly be ignored. The fraught subject of “carbon politics” is one on which Australia is a fool to seek to lead the world, not a hero, and in blocking Direct Action, Palmer may be doing Abbott a favour.
The decade-long political shitfight over “climate change” — whether it exists, whether it is natural or man-made, and what (if anything) can or should be done to stop it — has wreaked a trail of political destruction in this country that to date has claimed two Liberal leaders, two Labor Prime Ministers, and ruined a swathe of careers and professional reputations in academia, business, the media and the public service.
This poisonous issue has seen anyone not marching completely in lockstep with those amalgamated in the unanimity of prosecuting the climate change case branded as “deniers” and other insulting terms to suggest they are frauds and charlatans, with disgustingly reminiscent echoes of the language of the Holocaust used to harden the assault; a more recent development has seen the climate change lobby attempt to reclaim control of the debate by suggesting the “deniers” had shanghaied the issue to such an extent that they — purveyors of “the science” — now face the risk of being “burnt at the stake” and similarly quasi-emotive gobbledygook.
That “science” — robustly proclaimed as “settled” by its proponents — looks at least a little shaky, with average global temperatures having failed to rise now for some 15 years, and with some of the wild predictions designed by warriors of the heavily Left-leaning climate change industry (such as Al Gore’s prediction that the polar ice caps will have melted by next year) shown up for the blatant fearmongering and blunt battering instruments they always were.
Of course, to utter a syllable questioning “the science” is to elicit howls of moral outrage from the climate industry and the political Left that make responses to historical moral outrages experienced by Australia and the world look mild; indeed, a couple of weeks ago — in one of the ABC’s routinely offensive QandA expositions of Leftist social thought — there were open suggestions that anyone who did so should be denied airtime on TV or space in print.
Such people were a menace to society and to themselves, the outrage peddlers puffed: some of them, unsurprisingly, senior Fairfax and ABC journalists. It is ironic the episode considered questions of freedom of speech, with the exquisite oxymoron that the very people chiding those who disagreed with them and suggesting they should be denied the opportunity to air their views were those claiming to be the strongest defenders of the right to speak. With the qualification that nothing they disagreed with themselves was ever said, of course.
I don’t propose to get into a long diatribe on the rights and wrongs of climate change science; that has been more than adequately covered in other forums, and this column — and contributing commenters — has conducted a robust debate on this, intermittently, over the past few years.
What is clear, however, is that whether you are (and excuse me using these ridiculous labels — I do so merely for simplicity) a “believer” or a “denier,” the vast majority of the Australian electorate is in no way supportive of a carbon tax, and it is here I want to make what will be — having laid the background to them out — a fairly straightforward series of remarks.
It is beyond dispute that last year’s federal election provided the Coalition with the clearest possible mandate to rescind the carbon tax inflicted on this country by the ALP and its puppet masters at the
Communist Party Greens. After all, Tony Abbott spent at least two years campaigning on very little else.
I have long held, and have said here repeatedly, that the carbon tax is not a market mechanism aimed at reducing carbon emissions, but rather a taxation mechanism: the figures from the first year of the tax’s operation, during which emissions fell by less than a percentage point, bear this out.
I have also said (as have many, many others from politics, the media, academia and business) that Australia (to put it bluntly and succinctly) is barking mad to saddle itself with such ridiculous, economy-destroying measures when the real global polluters sit on their hands, idle, and do nothing.
Whenever you point this out to the “believers,” the standard riposte is that the US, China, Japan et al are “talking about” introducing economy-wide measures to cut global emissions. “Talk” and “action” are mutually exclusive concepts in this context, and whilst the comeback from the “believers” might be correct in its most literal sense, it is — at the very least — disingenuous, and intellectually dishonest in the extreme.
And those who point to the emissions trading scheme in Europe would do well to note that it applies to mostly basket case economies that have been raped and pillaged by European socialism, and the state of those countries is argument enough to leave well alone when it comes to the question of whether their policy settings should be emulated.
One point I would make is that no matter the merits or otherwise of the science relied on by “believers,” climate change has become a political issue in its application, not an environmental one. The proof lies in the fact that the Left’s prosecution of it is identical to the methods and tactics it applies to other pet causes, gay marriage being the other one currently occupying its focus.
And I should simply point out that on climate change at least, those methods and tactics now pose the risk to the “believers” that they will lose the fight altogether: fair-minded and reasonable people are not convinced of anything by defaming, abusing or seeking to vilify them; nor are they likely to be swayed by being compared unflatteringly to the wholesale slaughter of millions of Jews by Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and 1940s.
Here in Australia, there is now indisputable evidence (hard, rock-solid evidence in the form of votes cast at general elections) that whatever Australians think of climate change and its science, they refuse to support the prescriptive measures of the Left in dealing with it.
Certainly, a Labor government found the political will to legislate the carbon tax when instructed to, bent over and with its trousers lowered, by a Greens party happy to threaten to withdraw the existential lifeblood of critical preference flows to ALP candidates if it refused to do so. But this type of “will” is the worst kind: it isn’t courageous, it isn’t daring, and its self-interested vagaries do not equate to the provision of leadership.
Now, Clive Palmer has described Abbott’s alternative to the carbon tax (and the emissions trading regime supposed to follow it) as “hopeless;” he says it is “gone” — which, in Palmer-speak, means he will direct his Senators to refuse to pass the measure through the Senate.
Not to be outdone, there are reports that Abbott and his Environment minister Greg Hunt are readying to call Palmer’s bluff by embedding the enabling legislation for Direct Action in the appropriation bills for the Budget: effectively daring Palmer to block the budget, potentially setting up a double dissolution over the issue toward the end of the year.
Direct Action, primarily, is concerned with achieving “the same reductions in emissions as a carbon tax, without the carbon tax” at a cost of $3.2 billion over four years, with the payment of incentives to polluting industries to quite literally clean up their act.
Whether it would work or not, the politics of climate change are now so toxic as to render even that consideration moot, in my view: even if it proved effective, the next fight will be over whether the same result could be achieved more efficiently and at less cost to the federal budget by a reimposition of the carbon tax, and then away we go again.
I think Abbott would do well to concentrate on fighting the fights worth fighting; there is nothing in climate change or emissions trading for the government to gain from, and this may be a time when unforeseen circumstance — the intervention of Palmer — opens the door to quietly dropping a silly policy that wouldn’t have otherwise opened.
The easiest thing for Abbott and Hunt to do — knowing they will please relatively few people by legislating their package, and that the glowy-eyed warriors of the Left will continue to hunt* them over the issue no matter what they do — is to announce that the composition of the Senate makes it impossible to introduce the Direct Action package, and for that reason the promise to do so will not be kept because, in the most literal sense, it can’t be.
Any such announcement, of course, ought to be contingent on some sort of binding and non-negotiable undertaking by Palmer to repeal the carbon tax, and one without his self-interested demands of retrospectivity attached to it: meeting such ambit claims will sit even more uneasily with the electorate than retaining the tax would.
Abbott could then redirect some of the money to what used to be simply called an “environmental package” — something on the lines of the Howard government’s Natural Heritage Trust, with some of the aspects of Direct Action factored in to provide incentives for polluters to reform — with the rest of the money, say $1 billion of it, going straight to the budget bottom line to help close the deficit gap Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey urgently need to address in the coming budget.
A promise to revisit some form of emissions trading at a time the US and China do so — perhaps with the objective of everybody acting simultaneously — could then shut the door on the destructive daily politics of climate change in Australia, and the government could move on to other issues.
The “believers,” whether their cherished science is right or wrong, must confront the reality that their desired political action is so politically explosive in Australia that further pursuit of it is impossible without the large emitting countries on board; and rather than forcibly advocate a regime that will destroy huge chunks of Australian industry while the world sits back and laughs at us, their efforts should perhaps be redirected across the Pacific and the South China Sea.
They won’t do that, of course: Uncle Sam would laugh at them. In China, their views would — very simply — be unwelcome, to say the least.
They could, however, retain the pious and smug sanctimony of “knowing” they are right — something they will do irrespective of the fate of the carbon tax or anything that might follow.
Palmer — for once — may be doing Abbott a favour by refusing to vote Direct Action through the Senate, even if his actions in doing so are unintentional.
It may be that Abbott and Hunt rethink their approach, and quietly let Direct Action be euthanased. It would save an awful lot of grief for next to no result: after all, even the carbon tax — that preferred vessel of the Left — has already been shown to be as good as useless.
*with no pun intended.