01 December 2009

Abbott promises policy confusion

A few minutes ago I heard newly elected Liberal (sic.) Party (sic.) leader Tony Abbott say that the Liberal Party stands for a free, flexible and fair economy.

I also heard him say that the party he now leads would go forward with a strong policy on climate change (in response to a question from a journalist he said that his comment some time back that climate change was “crap” was “a bit of hyperbole” – very reassuring).

Having ruled out emissions trading, and presumably a carbon tax as well (we have heard much from Abbott supporter Bronwyn Bishop in recent days about how the Liberal Party stands for low taxation and small government, and he himself said in this morning’s press conference, “what the Rudd Government ETS looks like is a great big tax to create a great big slush fund to provide politicised handouts run by a giant bureaucracy”), Tony Abbott presumably intends to build a strong position on climate change that depends entirely on regulation. Businesses, households and individuals will be told what they are and are not permitted to do under the new dispensation. In order to establish control over the total amount of emissions Australia produces, a Coalition Government will have to introduce some kind of rationing system – rather than responding to price signals, people will be forbidden to do certain things, and will have to apply for a permit to do others.

And the parties which I recall as being pathologically opposed to “picking winners” will be in the technology choice business, deciding that certain ways of producing and consuming energy are good, others are bad and hence verboten.

And where there is regulation and high stakes, there are abundant opportunities for corruption.

Tony’s free, flexible and fair economy sounds more to me like the licence raj of Nehru’s India - we all get to vote, but you need a licence to do everything, and backhanders are rampant.

Somehow I don’t think Tony has quite thought this one through.

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