Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The ETS Strategy

Yesterday Kevin Rudd came out and announced that the Government was watering down and delaying the introduction of its Emissions Trading System by one year - it would now start in 2011 instead of 2010.

This was a big back flip, as the Opposition had been arguing all along that this should be the starting date. So I guess Malcolm Turnbull wins and will now look like the sensible person balancing the environment and the economy. No doubt he will now be able to go to the next election looking like the real author of the ETS?

Err no.

That's because within about an hour of Rudd announcing he was doing what the Liberals had been arguing he should be doing, Turnbull came out and said this:
"On this basis what we've seen today we wouldn't support it."

Well done Malcolm, nothing like keeping up the nice trait of opposing everything the Government does. Mr Anti is at it again. Why not come out and say - "We're glad the Government has followed our suggestions, and I know look forward to working with the Government to ensure the best possible trading system comes into place in 2011"?

Such a move would render the Greens and Independents irrelevant, and give the Liberals a seat at the table, and make them look almost worthy of being called the alternative Government.

But no. He opposes. Even though the scheme has been watered down, is still a bit of a dog of a system, and given that no international agreement is likely, still doesn't really involve any increase in the target.


Well Bernard Keane of Crikey may have an idea:

The watering-down of the scheme leaves Turnbull with the choice of supporting the Government and publicly displaying the splits within his own Coalition, or maintaining his opposition on other grounds and playing to the Government’s portrayal of him as ideologically extreme and contrarian. The pre-emptive nature of the announcement also continues the peculiar Government obsession of not negotiating with the Coalition in the Senate, enabling it to persist with its strategy of claiming the Opposition is remorselessly negative. The Coalition is now in a very difficult position on the issue.

He may have a point. Here's Bronwyn Bishop today:

LIBERAL veteran Bronwyn Bishop has launched an attack on party leader Malcolm Turnbull for going "soft".
Bronwyn Bishop told The Manly Daily that “Malcolm seems to have been strong at the beginning but now he has gone soft.”
Ms Bishop said the key to bolstering support standing up for Liberal principles on issues such as asylum seekers and carbon trading.

Standing up for Liberal principles on carbon trading is Bishop-code for opposing anything to do with it. (Bronnie is a bit of a skeptic on the whole climate change thingo).

And today as well, we have Penny Wong coming out on the front foot (she's got balls you gotta say, yesterday she suffered a huge rebuke of her policy, today she comes out fighting):

The Rudd Government says it's prepared to discuss its new emissions trading scheme with Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, but only when his party comes up with a unified position.
"We are willing to have a discussion with Mr Turnbull," she told reporters today.

"But I would say this: if Mr Turnbull is going to walk into a room seeking to negotiate with the Government ... he's going to have to walk in with a position."

Senator Wong said the Opposition Leader had pushed for a deferred start date, further assistance to trade-exposed industries and higher targets.

"The Government delivered on all those three things yesterday, but we still have [some Coalition members] out there saying they don't want to pass it."

Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt wants to negotiate in good faith, but emissions trading spokesman Andrew Robb says the Coalition will block the legislation.

Senator Wong said the Liberal party room remained "hopelessly divided" and Mr Turnbull needed to stand up to the sceptics in his own ranks.

Let it be known - this ETS is all about politics, it's about forcing the climate change skeptics in the Liberal and National Party to the surface, and also to isolate the Liberal Party's position. Lenore Taylor explains how it was crafted:
About six weeks ago, the Prime Minister and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong agreed it was time to implement Plan B and began secret negotiations with the BCA, the AI Group and a coalition of union, welfare and green groups that included the Australian Conservation Foundation and The Climate Institute think tank.

ACF chief executive Don Henry sounded out individual chief executives about the proposal to put 25 per cent targets back on the table - a decision accepted by the business groups only under a long and detailed set of conditions negotiated with Wong at some length.

The business peak bodies are making the long-term judgment that a scheme negotiated in a time of economic crisis is likely to be as lenient as they will ever get, although individual companies and sectors facing the immediate cost impost still see things very differently.

This time the Government got the pincer movement right.

The press releases endorsing its new scheme started flowing before the Prime Minister even started to speak.

Absolutely right. Here's the Chair of the ACF:
DON HENRY: We absolutely acknowledge this is a soft start to this legislation and as ACF we'd love to see a stronger start. But I think at end of the day it's absolutely essential that Australia positions in credible role to tackle climate change and stronger 25 per cent target is essential if we're going to play our role in the global community so we can all tackle climate change.

Here's Heather Ridout, chair of Australian Industry Group:
HEATHER RIDOUT: We're hopeful of getting some bipartisanship around this issue because it's a big Australian issue; it's a big global issue. And we do support the passage of CPRS legislation this year and we hope it includes the elements of the package announced today.

The World Wildlife Fund:
GREG BOURNE: Twenty-five per cent target allows Australians to have their head held up high as they head into Copenhagen. We are trying to do our work for the planet; we are trying to turn things around here in Australia. We want to create new jobs; we want to lay down new infrastructure as we pull ourselves out of the global financial crisis. Our supporters will be there 100 per cent of the way. The slight delay - everyone sees the global financial crisis, it's a pragmatic response - but we know which way we're going now.

So Turnbull is now faced with opposing a scheme that has broad sector support. It's a bizarre stance to take for a former Minister for the Environment. But it shows that on this issue, he has bugger all strength in the Liberal Party caucus. (I'll get back to you when I find any issue that he has strength on in the caucus.)

He will do their bidding, and it will be his undoing.

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