The most telling part of the Rudd Government’s “deferral” of efforts to reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions is that it won’t even look at the issue again until 2012. In other words, it is unlikely Labor will actually do anything in its next term, even though it leaves open the suggestion it might do something in 2013.
The obvious purpose of this strategy is to reassure voters they don’t have to worry about Labor imposing a great big new tax. The fact that the deferral will save $2.5 billion dollars from the imminent budget confirms that Tony Abbott’s mantra has more than a grain of truth. How odd that a major new revenue source (the auction of pollution permits) was going to cost us so much.
Blaming the Greens, along with the Coalition, for preventing any action is also transparently revealing. If Labor had any interest in a scheme that would actually reduce emissions it could long since have negotiated with the Greens. True, they would still have needed Nick Xenophon and one other to support them in the Senate, but there was a plausible prospect of attracting the vote of one or more Liberals, as the Greens pointed out.
More pertinently, there is a good prospect that Labor plus the Greens will command a majority in the Senate after the coming election. Labor could have awaited the election outcome before deciding whether to or not proceed. It didn’t have to decide now to defer action for most of its next term.
Labor has also scrupulously ignored the Greens’ proposal for an interim carbon tax, to apply until an emissions trading scheme can be set up. This would send the right signals, both symbolic and economic, and raise revenue that could be used to fund energy efficiencies and renewable energy sources. Of course a carbon tax would be a Great Big New Tax, so it’s no mystery why Rudd won’t go near it, never mind that it could actually be quite effective.
Oh and energy efficiency would include home insulation, wouldn’t it? Oh dear no, Labor wouldn’t be going near anything like that, not after such a disastrous run of bad headlines. The media and the Opposition are far more interested in peripheral scandals than in actual accomplishments, and Labor isn’t about to challenge them on that ground. Another example of incompetence turning good policy into a poisoned chalice.
Then there is the substance of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme itself, or rather the lack of substance. It would not have achieved any reductions in pollution until about 2030, and then only if the coal industry’s mirage of Carbon Capture and Storageturned out to be real. Until then the scheme relied on purchasing offsets from overseas. So-called offsets like investing in tree planting are highly susceptible to rorting, and there is accumulating evidence that they are as worthless as many warned they would be.
If we care about Australia’s economic future we should be investing in actual reductions of greenhouse emissions anyway. This is because it is not very expensive and it will keep us abreast of countries that see it, correctly, as the future for efficient, competitive, prosperous economies.
One can only conclude from all of this that Kevin Rudd has never wanted to reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions. It’s true he did call global warming the great moral challenge of our times, but those are words, you understand. Words from a politician, hot air, carbon dioxide emissions. Actions are what count, and money.
Here we come to reality, as seen by Labor. If we did reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we would burn less oil and coal. That would reduce the profits of fossil fuel companies. They would not be pleased. They are accustomed to inviting themselves into thecorridors of government and drafting policy for Ministers. They would quietly mount a PR campaign, casting Labor as baby-eating lepers. That’s not quite the image preferred to grace the flat screens of the McMansions of Aspirationville.
A government that had an actual desire to reduce greenhouse emissions could readily find alternative allies in the many other industries that could benefit from a modernising economy. However that would involve risk, because it hasn’t been tried before. If all you want is to gain or retain power, never do anything for the first time.
So Prime Minister Rudd comfirms himself and his Party not only as gutless, but as visionless as well. He will return to putting innocents into concentration camps in the desert. He will do whatever it takes to avoid bad headlines. He will stand proud and clear as Howard Lite. And he and his henchmen will have no idea at all how it could be otherwise.