With the Government’s hated carbon tax now less than three weeks from taking effect, the ALP has promised to do everything it can in opposition — after the next election — to prevent the repeal of the tax. Such a stand is breathtaking in its arrogance, and sets a very dangerous precedent.
An article by Greg Sheridan in yesterday’s edition of The Australian — quoting Climate Change minister Greg Combet from ABC Radio — nails Combet firmly to the mast in highlighting what can only be described as a worryingly belligerent philosophy on Combet’s part that, if implemented, would amount to a flagrant disregard for democracy by the Labor Party as a whole.
Before we rip into it — and, for the record, into Combet — I should point out that there have been hints of this approach to the carbon tax from Labor and from for some months. The fact Combet now appears to be doing interviews, presenting this proposed course cogently and from an apparent position of organisational readiness, heralds a new phase in the ALP’s planning for opposition.
Which, if this is any indication, is exactly where Labor is headed.
Combet’s grand plan on the carbon tax in opposition — which he has as good as formally committed the Labor to, given the breadth of the strategy he has been outlining and the wide public means by which he has done so — is that if the ALP loses the next election, it will combine with the
Communist Party Greens in the Senate to ensure the carbon tax is never repealed.
In other words, to hell with an election result.
To hell with the mandate of a new, popularly elected government.
And to hell with the legitimate wishes of the Australian voting public.
Shanahan reports that it wouldn’t matter what mandate a Coalition government might have to repeal the tax; Combet has committed Labor to whatever obstruction it can provide in the Senate, up to and including forcing a double-dissolution election on the issue.
Claiming that an election loss would not alter Labor’s “principled position on a carbon price,” Combet is quoted from his interview on ABC Radio, saying “In politics you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in. And this has been Labor policy for years now. Having a price on carbon, through an emissions trading scheme arrangement. That’s what we’re implementing.”
Just as readers should not be surprised — after all, the most dishonest government in Australia’s history may as well continue on to become its most disreputable opposition for good measure — nor should people feel threatened, bullied, or disempowered.
We all know the story; 89% of Australians cast their votes in 2010 for parties (including Labor) that were not offering “carbon pricing” as a policy; indeed, the ALP and its contemptible leader explicitly promised that no such tax would be implemented.
And having prostituted her government to a few Commies to hold onto office, Gillard reneged: not only would there be a carbon tax, but the Australian public — having voted against such a measure once — would be given no further say by Labor on the issue.
The Liberal Party has promised to give people a say, and to abolish the tax if elected. And should the Liberals under Abbott win — and win in the landslide that seems to be coming — no political figure in the country could credibly make the claim that a mandate to remove the tax did not exist.
(Never mind about any alleged difficulties in doing so; that is a matter for another discussion on policy in the future).
Now, the ALP seeks to nullify that too, and to say to people, in effect, that they can vote for whoever or whatever they like, but they — the MPs from the Labor Party, in conjunction with those fruit cakes over at the
Communist Party Greens — would decide what they were given in return, irrespective of who formed the government to public had voted for.
This is dangerous ground, on so many levels.
Firstly — and most obviously — for the ALP to make this sort of stand over an issue it lied about so flagrantly, after losing an election over it as seems certain, betrays a complete contempt for democratic process.
Secondly, it sets a dangerous precedent: whilst the numbers in the Senate may be exercised in any way those who hold them see fit, even governments that have faced hostile Senate majorities in recent years — Howard from 1996 to 2004, Hawke and Keating for 13 years, Fraser in his last term, even Whitlam — have been permitted to pass the bulk of their legislative agendas, and certainly those aspects of them that were key to the platforms upon which they were elected.
What happens if a Labor opposition decides to block every bill introduced into the Senate by an Abbott government? Who is the legitimate arbiter of what is acceptable if the judgement of the people is unilaterally discarded, as Combet proposes to do?
But thirdly — and most importantly — what Combet has committed the ALP to bears no semblance whatsoever to the way government in this country runs; it is also, perversely, a twist of the knife in the backs of the unionists and battlers Labor claims to represent, trashing as it does such basic tenets of representative government for which the ALP fought as hard as anyone to establish in the first place.
Some of us in the blue corner of Australian politics half-wish the ALP implements such half-baked strategies when it makes its deserved return to opposition next year, as the self-inflicted damage on the Labor Party would be diabolical; by the same token, we also half-wish they don’t, because the potential for chaos and instability such moves would unleash in Australian society is unacceptable, and not something that should be inflicted on Australians in any circumstances.
Especially not by an aggrieved, humiliated band of democracy-smashing thugs masquerading as a parliamentary opposition, which is the status to which Labor apparently now aspires.
There is a relatively straightforward solution: if Queensland and Western Australia return the Coalition four of the six available Senate spots next year as seems increasingly possible, and if the Coalition retrieves the third Senator it dropped in each of SA and Tasmania in 2007, then it will hold 38 of the 76 Senate positions heading into government — 39, and a majority, if the DLP Senator opts to support the Coalition in government.
It remains to be seen whether Labor in opposition would carry out Combet’s threat.
But I certainly wouldn’t put it past them and, frankly, I wouldn’t expect them to try anything less.
Whether they do or not, the point remains that Combet’s remarks and his endorsement of them as Labor policy signal an ominous shift in the ALP’s political outlook, and it should alarm any interested person, be they to the Left or the Right, that a philosophy of political doctrine that would sit well under the leadership of Brezhnev and Andropov in the USSR is now being adopted by the Australian Labor Party.
The fact it sits well, and always has, with the Greens needs no further comment.
If the end result of Combet’s posturing on behalf of the ALP over the carbon tax is a double-dissolution election, the consequences for his party will be dire to the point of devastating.
But I think the real question this entire issue raises concerns the Senate, the way it is elected and is constituted, and the manner in which it discharges its constitutional brief.
And it’s an issue we will revisit in the next few days.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for that “principled policy” of the ALP, as articulated by Greg Combet; the Labor Party of 2012 and principles of anything other than the self-serving variety, uttered in the same sentence, are an oxymoron indeed.
Then again, the sun may rise in the west tomorrow…who’s to know?