Thursday, January 28, 2010

The ETS is the 1999 Republic Referendum All Over Again

What is it with the Left and absolutely imploding?

In 1999, there was enough sentiment in the country for even John Howard to realise he needed to do something about the republic. And what happened? The Left were completely outplayed by Howard and the sycophantic inbred loving fools of the Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy. How did this happen? Well for starters those in favour of a republic gave a damn about trivialities – they thought people wanted to have a big debate about what type of republic there should be. r206454_786958

The people didn’t. The people wanted to be given a model to vote on and for everyone who wanted a republic to come out in favour of it. Instead John Howard was allowed to organise a Constitutional Convention which (get this!) included people who didn’t want a republic at all! Yep those debating what type of Republic we should have included people whose only goal in life was to ensure there would never ever be a republic. They quickly saw the way forward was to ensure the pro-Republic side would splinter. Which they did (and admittedly they needed very little help).

You had fools like Phil Cleary banging on about an elected president, and saying people should vote no to any other model. You get that? Here’s a guy massively in favour of a republic saying the people should vote no on the question of Australia becoming a republic. Gee why does that sound familiar?

In 2008, there was a strong sentiment in the country for something to be done on climate change. As with the republic, it was quite bi-partisan: there were people from both the ALP and Liberal parties in favour, and again as with the republic, the National Party was pretty much dead against it (oh and Malcolm Turnbull was playing a leading role). This time the Government came up with an ETS, they did some deals with the Liberal Party, but in the final analysis, what happened? The Greens, playing the role of Phil Cleary, despite their whole point in life being to do something about climate change voted against the Emission Trading Scheme because it was not the type of scheme they wanted and it didn’t go far enough.

So what was the result? Well as with the republic, the ETS was defeated (and never ever forget if the Greens had voted YES in the Senate it would have passed), and now it is looking even less likely that we’ll get any ETS  - exactly the same as with the republic.

The only good thing is now Phil Cleary can be joined by Bob Brown and his cohort as those who kept their principles and lost the war. (Golf clap everyone).

There are differences with the Republic: the madness of the constitutional convention was done in public. Yep each night we’d have people from the pro-Republic side go on TV and argue with each other! The ETS was mostly done behind doors. But other than that it is the same. And as the days go on it is becoming even more similar.

Look at the idiotic arguments coming from the climate change deniers. Lord Monkton gets wheeled out saying any old bullshit, and the media laps it up, just like the media never has nailed the constitutional monarchist. Think their arguments aren’t of the same calibre? Throughout the Republican debate we had to put up with the monarchists saying we needed the monarchy even though the Queen didn’t do anything, and we already have an Australian head of state because the Governor General has that role because the Queen doesn’t do anything, but we could not get rid of the Queen and have the PM appoint a President because the Queen performs a necessary role and besides that would not be democratic. Yes we had monarchists arguing that their system was more democratic. We had them arguing we already had an Australian Head of State. It was madness and it was eaten up by the media, and the pro-republicans were never able to counter it effectively because they were too busy fighting themselves.

 r420358_1996997Now listen to Barnaby Joyce – his contribution to the ETS debate with about one inch this side of insanity. He made stuff up, he pretty much fabricated every statement to such an extent that you wondered whether the National Party was employing CGI to create the effect – it was completely unbelievable. And yet he didn’t care. If lying and saying a roast leg of lamb will cost $400 is what he needs to say to defeat the ETS, then he’ll say it – and the media ate it up.

With the ETS we have the two parties who want an ETS – the ALP and Greens not working together at all – the ALP because the Senate maths being what it is, they figured it was better for them to get the Liberal Party vote; and the Greens, because God help them if they should ever settle for something imperfect now that can be improved later rather than voting for nothing now and perfection sometimes in the fairy-dust future.

Think back the the GST: do you recall any of the Right – whether it be the Liberal Party, National, or employer groups - saying that because food wasn’t going to be included in the tax it was better not to do it at all? Do you recall with Work Choices anyone of the employer groups quibbling with the laws, and suggesting the Liberal Party should vote against it because it didn’t go far enough?

The Right never vote no just because their plans aren't perfect (and yeah there is a joke there). The Left? Well hell, unless every little bloody group is looked after, unless every ambition of climate change policy is taken care of, unless every worker, pensioner, unemployed, child, and dead person is considered, well hell let’s vote no. Let’s argue among ourselves. Let’s splinter, and so the debate ends up being about minutiae of legislation.

The ETS debate should have been about one thing and one thing only – climate change. The Greens, the ALP, the sane people in the Liberal Party should have been all of one voice – this needs to be done for Australia to begin combating climate change. No it’s not perfect, but it is a necessary start and it must be done.

But where are we now? Tony Abbott – a bloke who (let’s put our cards on the table and say agrees with the science of climate change to the same level that John Howard believed we should become a Republic) is talking about combating climate change through a “green army”, through volunteer effort, through idiotic measures that have little logic, and less intelligence.

And guess what, the ALP has to counter them and explain why the ETS will do things better and blah blah blah, boring boring boring. And all the while the other side can throw out utter lies about whether or not we need to do anything anyway. Remember the Republic debate – the monarchists would say that the whole thing was all about “symbolism”, it was “too costly”, “there are more important things to worry about”. Heck you can damn near print off the arguments from 1999, change a couple phrases and voila there you go – you have your anti-ETS talking points. 

Will an ETS get passed? I don’t know. At this point I don’t hold out much hope. The ALP needs to get focussed on the big picture; the Greens need to get real and understand their best bet is to get something in place and to improve it later – that will be kid’s stuff compared to getting it there in the first place; and the media needs to stop giving fools with no qualifications oxygen on the TV or radio, and if they must, at least go into the interview with some knowledge so that unsubstantiated and outlandish statements don’t go unquestioned (ie, be an actual news organisation, rather than just a ratings-chasing-controversy machine – if you can’t wipe the floor with Monkton, then what the hell are you doing calling yourself a journalist?).

But most of all the Left needs to realise that noble defeats are defeats, and those on the Right don’t give a damn how they win, so long as they win.


radical royalist said...

... a Constitutional Convention which (get this!) included people who didn’t want a republic at all!

Isn't that called democracy? Everybody should be able to put his/her point of view forward.

Remember the 2020 summit? The republicans were among themselves, found each other fabulous - and could not come out of the session with a republic model.

Grog said...

No radical royalist, a democracy is the proposal going to a referendum - that is when the royalist could put forward their case.

They had no place being in the room when the republic model was being decided - they were only there to destroy the process.

By your version of democracy the Liberal Party should get a vote in ALP party room.

Matthew said...

Phew, wow. This is a great post but Grog, i'm very disappointed you replied to this comment without seeking approval from the blog reply committee. I understand and respect that you're the traditional custodian of this blog but we have these rules and procedures for a reason.

I mean, did you even consult with anyone? Sure our opponents have no problem with that kind of unilateral action with their focus on individualism, but we're meant to be about collective activism. WHERE WAS THE SOLIDARITY!!!


I'll be sending this to the proper authority, believe me.

Tim said...

Grog, there is a very great danger in mistaking any action for the necessary action. In my opinion this is the core failure of the Rudd government. They identify problems, come up with proposal that too often will not solve the problem, and then attack anyone who opposes their solution as denying that the problem exists.

That might be good short-term politics for a government, but it is terrible policy and creates the potential for disaster.

We can see this in the CPRS, in the internet filter, in MySchools and so much more.

If a doctor prescribes the wrong treatment to a seriously ill patient, it can actually hasten that patient's deterioration. It can make the situation worse.

Let's step back for a minute and think about what we are actually trying to do. Do we want to achieve something or just look like we're achieving something?

The CPRS is almost universally deplored as bad policy. The only possible argument for passing it is that it is the government's policy and they are refusing to consider anything else.

The problem is, if you actually look at the legislation, it is not possible to simply pass this bill now and improve it later. As soon as the bill passes, it will send very powerful investment signals to existing polluting industry that they will have no need to change in the foreseeable future - a good 15 years. If a future government comes along and changes all that, the compensation payable to all those who invested on the basis of previous government policy will be astounding. Tens of billions. It's a form of sovereign risk.

There is no argument that this legislation should be passed as a start because Minister Wong herself effectively admitted the other day that it won't reduce Australia's emissions at all. It will simply lead to huge numbers of potentially dodgy offsets being bought in from overseas while Australia's polluters keep investing in the status quo.

So it'll achieve nothing and be impossibly expensive to fix.

That's the technical argument. But there's also the political argument.

Can you imagine if Australia voted in 1998 to go for Howard's minimalist model of republicanism and then somebody stood up a year or six later and said, actually, this hasn't achieved what we want and we need to fix it? It'd go down like a lead balloon. We'd have been stuck with Howard's model of a republic.

If the CPRS passes, there will be essentially no political possibility of fixing it. Nobody will want to hear about it. We'll be stuck with it - technically, legislatively and politically.

Bad idea. Won't happen.

[Disclosure - I work for the Greens]

Grog said...

You make some good points. I certainly don't believe any policy should be passed just so something can be passed.

You certainly have a point on the technical side of the Bill - though I would argue Govts often make changes to laws which affect business investment, and that dopes not mean compensation is always paid (though I can't say with any authority on whether there would need to be with the CPRS).

However, that aside, the Greens are betting they can block something 'bad' now, in the hope of something better being done later. We shall see what happens after the election when they will almost certainly have the balance of power.

The Greens will need to step up and make some deals, in order to come up with a policy that is palatable to the ALP electorally (and yes, the ALP will need to come up with a policy that is environmentally palatable as well). And BOTH will need to work together to sell it.

In this go round, my argument is that the Greens were pretty much out of the picture. Now you can blame Kevin Rudd for that, and I'd say you have a point; but look at who was sitting on the same side as the Greens in the CPRS Bill - Nick Minchon, Steve Fielding, Eric Abetz, Barnaby Joyce. That's some good company to keep. And remember they didn't give a stuff why the Greens were voting with them, all they cared is that the Greens helped to defeat the Bill. For them Mission Accomplished.

With regards comparing this to the republic, the difference is that of course there is no way the republic could be changed once put in place - because it would have to go through a referendum - whereas the CPRS is legislation which can be amended (and will have regulations which can be also amended).

But my point remains - you say imagine if Austrlaia voted for Howard's minimalist republic model. My response is how bloody pathetic was the pro-republic side in allowing it to get to a situation where Howard was the one puting up a model. The in-fighting at the Constituional Convention allwed Howard to run with the line that the minimal verison was the one accepted.

The pro-repbulican side should have had this fight long beforehand - they should have organised debates in the public arena. They should have paid for polls on the issue. They should have taken a good 2 years to get to the point of a united front, so that Howard and Co would have had no choice but to go with a model that the pro-Republicans supported almost to a person.

If this had been the case, I'm betting Howard wouldn't have even bothered with the whole referendum route at all, for fear that it might actually pass. He went to a referendum because I think he knew the pro side would destroy itself, and he'd then be able to put up something guarranteed to fail.

Divide and conquer. It's as old a strategy as ever there was, and the left falls for it time and time again.

But the thing is even Howard's minimalist republic would have been better than what we have now - but the left instead said, no let's vote no, and hope that later we'll get perfection.

We're still waiting.

The Gut Response said...

Hey Grog,

You say that if the Greens had voted for the ETS it would have passed, how do you reach this conclusion?? The Greens are only 5, and the ALP would have needed both Senators X & F, one of whom was never going to vote for the legislation, to pass it. Are you suggesting that Fielding would have caved, or that the Libs would come on board??


Grog said...


Two Liberal Senators, Judith Troeth and Susan Boyce, crossed the floor and voted for the ETS. Add the 5 Greens senators and the Bill would have passed.

Now you can argue that they only crossed becasue they knew it wouldn't pass (because they knew the Greens would vote no), but the fact is the Bill lost by 5 votes... and the Greens have 5 votes.

The Gut Response said...

I think it very reasonable to conclude that if Troeth and Boyce were presented with a senario that meant it was their votes that PASSED the ETS, their actions might well be very deferent. Is it not more credible to suggest that it was Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin who killed the ETS, they ended up controlling far more that 5 vote when the bill was put to the senate?

Grog said...


Oh yes Abbott and Minchin killed it as well - this defeat has many fathers - I would include Turnbull and Hockey.

Troeth and Boyce, may have changed their minds, but in her speech, Troeth (I think) referred to the fact that the Liberal Party had done a deal and she thought that deal should be honored.

The thing also to remember is the the ETS in reality lost by 1 vote - the 1 vote that put Abbott in to the leadership. If the moderates (especially Turnbull and Hockey) had shown some political will and intelligence they would have held off Abbott. Instead Turnbull and Hockey split the vote, and yet Turnbull still only lost by 1 vote - think if Hockey had have remained firm with Turnbull instead of waffling about on twitter wanting to know what to do about the ETS.

Instead (as is the thesis of my arguement) the moderates (or Left of the Lib Party) imploded.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

Grog, on your republic analogy in comments there, I'd suggest allocating a significant portion of the blame for the CPRS debacle at the feet of the environment movement and the union movement for their appallingly pissweak campaigning. The complete lack of any serious pressure from NGOs made it almost impossible for the Greens.

I'd just note another parallel between the republic referendum and the CPRS: both are major policies being put forward by government's who really don't want to do it! Howard, we all know, didn't want a republic. And I think it's becoming increasingly clear that the Rudd government doesn't have the stomach for real climate action.