Carbon Tax: Greens Stooge Bill Shorten Sells Middle Australia Out

“ELECTRICITY BILL,” as Prime Minister Tony Abbott has started calling him, today sold most of the Australian public down the river, offering — well, nothing — on abolishing the carbon tax. The “new” ALP stance sees Shorten take the Greens’ bait, and shows Labor has learnt nothing from its defeat.

Earlier this week, we covered the unspectacular rant that Communist Party Greens leader Christine Milne aimed at new Labor leader Bill Shorten; I honestly thought that just this once the ALP might have had enough brains and smarts, in short, to tell her to get stuffed.

It seems I gave Labor more credit than it deserved.

Showbag Bill today nailed his colours to the mast for all to see as a stooge and a patsy for the Greens; far from arriving at any sensible or principled response to an unmistakable message from Australian voters on 7 September, Labor has repackaged the same half-baked “policy” it took to the election under Kevin Rudd, and called it an “offer.”

Interested readers can see the Murdoch report here and the Fairfax take on it here.

As the first key policy announcement since assuming the role of opposition leader, and especially on an issue that has been so politically fraught over the past decade, this very much carries Shorten’s imprimatur.

In the face of taunts and emotive blackmail from the Greens, it is a pathetic surrender; as a political statement, it is an abject failure; and in relation to most of the two-thirds of voters who gave their primary votes to non-Labor candidates last month, it’s a sellout.

Labor’s “offer” to “terminate” the carbon tax on the condition that Tony Abbott introduces an emissions trading scheme is absolutely nothing, and stinks of the sleight of hand with which Rudd attempted to hoodwink voters in his desperate bid to neutralise the carbon tax as a negative.

Under that fork-tongued utterance, the fixed carbon price was indeed to be abandoned: in favour of the floating European price as part of an emissions trading scheme.

The European price, in turn, is today a fraction of the $24.15 per tonne at which the carbon tax is presently fixed, but is projected to rise within a few years to a level in the vicinity of $40 per tonne.

In other words, the Greens’ strategy of being prepared to give a little ground in order to slug businesses and consumers a whole hell of a lot more in a few years’ time is — and remains — official ALP policy.

Shorten is at least honest enough to acknowledge that today’s announcement and the Rudd policy are effectively one and the same.

But the statement reveals an utter contempt for the wishes of the people as expressed through the ballot box, and is a hamfisted attempt indeed to present a credible stance on a difficult issue.

It fails to reconcile those elements within the ALP who support allowing the Abbott government’s bills to pass to clear the air with those calling for the party to stand firm behind its “principles.”

It leaves the Labor Party open in perpetuity to a continuation of the attack from the Coalition that the Greens really control the ALP — a contention which, based on today’s developments, appears very near the mark.

At the very least, it renders the ALP unable to ever again cast the “WorkChoices” stone at the Coalition with any authority — not that it had any authority and credibility in the first place to do so.

There goes the 2016 ALP election strategy — at a stroke.

The irony is that having purchased a whole lot of additional grief today, Shorten’s announcement of Labor’s “new” climate change policy is likely to change very little indeed, with the Coalition seeming able to command the numbers in the Senate from July next year to enact its intended repeal of the carbon tax.

But the real damage to be inflicted — and inflicted upon Labor, no less — will come if the peculiarities and petulance of Clive Palmer see the Abbott legislation voted down in the upper house after the new Senate is constituted.

Should that occur — and a double dissolution eventuate — far from venting their fury on Abbott for taking them back to the polls so quickly, Labor is likely to face voters’ wrath for putting the government in the position to have to do so in the first place.

It is then that Labor — under the alleged leadership of its frontman, Electricity Bill — will face the full consequences of yet another pathetic surrender to the Greens in defiance of the popular verdict articulated at an election not two months ago.

It seems Showbag Bill will need to find new tricks with which to wow and dupe the Australian public; the present repertoire is one that’s not only a dud, but which everyone in Australia can see right through the punchline of.

Everyone, that is, except Shorten and his masters over at the Greens.

Too Clever: Cutting Environmental Programs To Pay For An ETS

KEVIN RUDD’S RUSE has been exposed; to fund a switch from a carbon tax to an ETS — the supposed flagship of Labor’s environmental platform — his government will junk annual spending of $1.4 billion on other environmental programs. And lob a grenade at car makers. It stinks of policy on the run.

A lot of mileage has been made today (and not least by Kevin Rudd and his new Treasurer, Chris Bowen) out of modest promised savings for households arising from his decision to “terminate” the carbon tax.

This decision — made to distance Labor from Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership, and to try to wrongfoot the Liberals — was never going to be as harmless as it was made to sound, and in finally being forced to spell out concrete details the Kevin Rudd who was Prime Minister until 2010 has made a dramatic reappearance.

Measures to cut $1.8 billion out of fringe benefits tax concessions for those who drive company vehicles — on the spurious pretext personal use of such vehicles is higher than historical estimates have projected — will throw an incendiary device into the remaining automotive manufacturing industry in Australia: a sector already facing abandonment.

With a third of all new vehicles in Australia purchased by fleet management companies, but 80% of all Australian-built cars finding their way into commercial fleets, it’s obvious that this measure to effectively increase the expenses of fleet managers will have knock-on effects to the manufacturers, and could be the final straw for the struggling Holden.

But the most audacious aspect of Rudd’s pledge to fund his ETS stunt from budget savings is where the rest of the money is coming from: axing a raft of environmental programs.

These savings include

  • Cutting the Energy Security Fund — aimed at assisting electricity generators in adapting to carbon pricing — by $770 million over four years;
  • Cutting “clean technology” programs by $586 million over four years;
  • Cutting aid to the coal sector — to assist with its adjustment to a “clean energy future” — by $186 million;
  • Cutting the Biodiversity Fund by $213 million;
  • Cutting carbon farming measures by $144 million.

Apparently, a nominal amount will be saved by cutting the size of the upper echelons of the Commonwealth Public Service and is earmarked to be added to savings made for the ETS, but at the end of the day — given Labor’s addiction to stacking bureaucracies with stooges, then crying foul when Liberal governments sack them — “nominal” is the key word.

It should be emphasised that all of this “saved” money isn’t being ploughed back into environmental spending, as Rudd and Bowen might hope to give the impression of; it’s being cut — the programs eliminated — to pay for Rudd’s populist gesture in “terminating” the carbon tax, to ensure the mismanaged budget Labor has presided over doesn’t blow out even further into deficit.

In other words, $1.4 billion per year, over four years, slashed from the environment budget.

There goes Labor’s credibility on environment policy at a stroke.

Tellingly, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation — a $10 billion “investment” fund that is in reality little more than a pork barrel — is untouched.

But for the most part, the worst aspect of these machinations lies in their deception.

Rudd has at least been honest enough to say — loudly — that he is pulling forward by one year a change that would have occurred under Gillard’s so-called Clean Energy regime anyway.

But far from shovelling cash at voters, he’s simply throwing a crumb: by linking a floating carbon price in Australia to that traded on European carbon markets, this fraud will only save households money for as long as the European price remains at $6 per tonne, as opposed to the $25 per tonne that the change temporarily abandons.

There are forces in Europe — governments, lobbyists, interest groups et al — not only committed to driving that price up, but determined to do so, and to levels far higher than the $25 per tonne that has already begun to impact consumers in Australia.

When that happens, the handful of dollars Rudd is trying to bribe people with here, in a cynical and grubby charade, will quickly be replaced with hip pocket pain far worse than anyone has had cause to grumble about to date.

And all that money sliced out of spending on the environment? Well, that will still be gone, which should give pause for thought to anyone silly enough to consider voting for Labor on the basis of its environmental policies.

Tony Abbott is right: Rudd isn’t “the terminator” in his claim to have banished the carbon tax, he is the exaggerator; and far from being a “terminator,” he is simply a fabricator.

And speaking of fabrication, this policy was cooked up overnight, with no consultation, no consideration of its impact and, in fact, no tangible evidence of consideration of anything other than its capacity to generate votes in the very short term.

It brings back all the worst aspects of Rudd’s first stint as Prime Minister: the shambolic approach to government, the last-minute policy and the half-baked decision, all conspiring to produce shocking policy outcomes that address an immediate political imperative, yes, but leave a trail of chaos in their wake and a host of other problems for someone else to fix.

This time — in the pursuit of votes — Rudd has jeopardised an entire manufacturing industry, trashed his party’s credibility in a key area of policy, and offered voters a short-term honey pot to sip from with one hell of a sting waiting when they reach the bottom.

I actually think it’s rather sad. This is the man whom polls show the public has clamoured to see restored to the Prime Ministership, and in his first major announcement all he has to offer is a sellout.

Clearly, nothing has changed in three years.

And once again, Kevin has been just a bit too clever by half.