26 November 2009

Climate change: a plague a’ both your houses (still)

The climate change antics on both sides of politics over the last few days have transported me beyond the point of looking for stray cats to kick to the point where convening a wrist-slashing party seems more appropriate.

This has been pure, bloody-minded politics, nothing more, nothing less. The science and the economically efficient way to respond were children overboard a long, long time ago.

The Government demonstrated its real form on evidence based public policy the day Senator Wong declared that Professor Garnaut’s yet to be completed report would be “just one input into the Government’s thinking”. Garnaut delivered the Government a silk purse, one of the best public policy frameworks we have seen in many a year, and since that time Senator Wong has worked tirelessly to convert it into a sow’s ear, a public policy tragedy. No noisemaker or rent-seeker is to be left unappeased, and we are left with a dog’s breakfast which will tie us all up in red tape, create significant opportunities for corruption, and do almost nothing to abate our emissions. Through the course of this year, the Government’s objectives have been limited to

- Wedging the Opposition. They have certainly accomplished that.

- Having a piece of legislation that they can call an emissions trading scheme; it doesn’t matter what it does, as long as people are trading emissions. And don’t fall for all of that stuff about needing it in place before Copenhagen. The normal procedure in multilateral agreement making is to negotiate the deal and then put the legislation in place, not the other way around.

- To offend as few vested interests as possible.

The Coalition has been driven by denialists, a small number of whom have at least been honest enough to say that is what they are, covert denialists who hide behind the fiction that we are rushing unilaterally into abatement, and people who seem to have a tribal political attitude that they just don’t like the sort of people who want to do something about climate change. There is fury in the Liberal Party, a price it is paying for John Howard giving the likes of Cardinal Pell, Janet Albrechtsen and Alan Jones far too much oxygen on this subject.  John Howard loved doing it because it infuriated all the sorts of people he didn’t like, but now there is a price to be paid. There are many Liberal voters who have lapped all that nonsense up in good faith and genuinely believe that climate change is a massive conspiracy by scientific boffins to scare us all to death and get more research funding for themselves in the process. Tonight, it looks as though the Liberal Party has become a prisoner of that belief, because there are just too many of its core supporters phoning and emailing in to be ignored.

The Liberal Party is in such turmoil that the legislation may well fail to pass the Senate. It is to be hoped so; the package is so bad that it would be better to rip it up and start again. As an old boss of mine used to say back in the 1960s, there are times when half a loaf is worse than no bread. Back to the Garnaut Report, I say.

For an earlier post on this subject, see Climate change: a plague on both their houses.

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