Friday, July 23, 2010

Election 2010: Day 7 (or the campaign reaches its policy nadir)

And so the first week of the election campaign ends in keeping with the vibe of the previous 6 days with disappointing policy all round

We had Tony Abbott over in Western Australia saying something about border protection – apparently he’s all into biosecurity. This is good I guess, given the sterling work done by the Howard Government keeping the equine flu virus out of the country… But really, who cares? Abbott is almost irrelevant in this election – both sides are just going through the motions. No one seriously thinks the Libs will win, and both sides know this – so Libs are just saying any old thing knowing they’ll never have to implement it, and all the ALP is doing is making sure they don’t do anything that will somehow frighten people into voting for a guy they don’t want to vote for.

Which brings us to Brisbane where Julia Gillard was doing all she could to shore up her climate change credentials. Which it seems was not much.

Her speech started off well:

Climate change is a pivotal issue for Australia.  It is fundamental to the question I have put to our people.  The question about whether our country moves forward or back.  A lot of people have been anticipating this day.  I thank them for their patience.

Yep we have been waiting. Will it be worth it?

As our economy has grown over the last century, much of that growth has relied on the use of high-polluting energy sources. 

We know now that if we continue to rely only on those sources, the problems they cause will grow.  The consequences of inaction are ultimately threatening for our planet.  We also know that we can do something about it. 

Oh yes we can! I’m with you Julia. Take me, I’m yours!Fig.A3.lrg

And so I adopt this perspective.

That we must show leadership and chart the way forward.

That the price of inaction is too high a price for our country to pay. The price of inaction is a price ultimately that our country will not be able to afford.
Because the price of inaction is price rises, job losses and innovations lost.

You’re right, it is too high a price to pay! And yes there are many jobs from renewable energy! Let’s go get ‘em Julia!

Conversely, step by step action, deliberate and considered steps, bring opportunities that could make our country even greater. A confident Australia can meet this challenge and emerge even stronger.

Oh dammit Julia, you had me at conversely! “A confident Australia”! “Meeting challenges”. “Stronger”!! Yes, yes yes!!

Now, for those who dispute the science I respect your views and your participation in the debate. I also respectfully disagree. Global temperatures are rising.

2009 has been ranked the fifth warmest year on record globally and finished off the hottest decade in recorded history.

The temperatures are largely driven by pollution created by carbon emissions. Climate change has a particular environmental and economic impact on Australia. 2009 was the second hottest year in Australia and ended our hottest decade.  Each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the last.

Take that Nick Minchin, you climate denials you!. Take that Andrew Bolt – take your stupid graphs and stick them were the solar flares truly do not shine

I am in heaven right now. I especially liked this part: “we must show leadership and chart the way forward”. Ok, take us there Julia, take us all!

Reducing this pollution is part of the wider challenge of making Australia’s economy sustainable.

Australia has faced big challenges before.  And we can do it again.

Again, yes we can! Can I get a chant going??

20100720_Figure2 And it is not an Australian thing to do just to leave a problem like this to our kids to deal with. So what is required to meet this challenge?

The science tells us that we need to limit the growth of carbon pollution in our atmosphere to 450 ppm if we are going to have a chance of limiting global temperature growth to two degrees or less.

That in turn helps to explain the commitment that the Australian Government has made, to cut our pollution levels by at least five per cent by 2020 compared to our pollution levels in 2000.

That is a big step, and further steps will be needed in time.  In taking those steps, we must work towards a new model of economic growth.

Meeting the challenge means no less than a transition, over time, to a cleaner economy in which we are not dependent on polluting sources of energy for our economic growth.

This will require massive investment and hard work.

OK, there will be a bit of dispute over the 450ppm bit, but otherwise all good. “Big steps”, “new model of economic growth”, “a cleaner economy”. This is all what we want to hear. It has been worth the wait!

We need community consensus and above all else this requires a reasonable explanation...not a strategy that relies only on political consensus, the very type of consensus Tony Abbott destroyed to support his own narrow political ambition.

And so we must start with this: we must acknowledge that Australians have real concerns about making changes that are this big and they need more information. 

Umm, yeah ok… but you do realise that in your speech you’ve just given us some damn good information and reason for making change?Antarctica_Ice_Mass

They are concerned about the impact on jobs and the impact on the prices of goods and services that they rely on, especially electricity. It is not wrong to be concerned. 

Uh oh, I don’t like where this is going…

In the wake of that decision, and of the Copenhagen Conference in December, I accept that we should have made our position clearer to the Australian community.

We have not abandoned our commitment to take action on climate change. But if we learn the lessons I have outlined then we need a different approach. We need national consensus on this vital, long term issue of national interest. We need consensus among political parties.

But we need consensus in the community even more. And it is vital to be clear what I mean by that community consensus.

I do not mean that government can take no action until every member of the community is fully convinced.

Pivotal reforms like this are often controversial when they are first introduced.  Medicare, or Medibank as it was then known, was controversial and initially opposed by the parliamentary opposition.

But the policy was responding to a deeply felt recognition in the community that a new way was needed to meet the health needs of Australians. 

That support grew stronger as people saw the policy and its implementation.  As it grew, the opposition parties came to the conclusion that bipartisan support was the only reasonable position. 

Umm. Julia… what are you doing? You’re losing me here. You say you need consensus to take action, but then you give the example of Medicare which you actually point out did not have consensus when it was introduced, but only gained it after it had been put in place. So if Medicare is your example you shouldn’t be waiting for consensus at all…

I will prosecute, as Prime Minister, the case for action to reduce pollution and build a more sustainable Australia for future generations.

I will make the case in public and in parliament.  I will lead the debate and lead the advocacy for our approach in the community.

My Government will create an independent, properly credentialed source of information and expert advice – a Climate Change Commission – to explain the science of climate change and to report on progress in international action.

A climate change commission? So tell me again what is the Department of Climate Change doing?

Total-Heat-Content I will honour my commitment to building a consensus that is informed by the facts, tested by robust debate and concluded through common sense and open-mindedness.

And my Government will support a rigorous process to work through the issues and test the level of consensus. There will be ongoing national debate and vigorous parliamentary debate.

This should not just be a debate between experts.

An ongoing parliamentary debate ? Well certainly no need to worry about it being between experts there. Luckily it won’t get any worse than this… Oh dear:

And so today I announce that if we are re-elected, I will develop a dedicated process – a Citizens’ Assembly – to examine over 12 months the evidence on climate change, the case for action and the possible consequences of introducing a market-based approach to limiting and reducing carbon emissions.

These methods have been used in a number of countries, and in some Australian communities, to work through complex long term issues. 

I envisage that those involved would be genuinely representative of the wider Australian public.  They would be voluntary participants, but selected through the census/electoral roll by an independent authority.

Their work would be supported with evidence, analysis and access to the views and positions of a wide range of advocates. At the same time the Citizens’ Assembly is at work, I will work with State and Local Governments, business and community groups to maximise information and discussion in the community overall.

The role of this Citizens’ Assembly will not be to become the final arbiter or judge of consensus, but to provide an indicator to the nation of the progress of community consensus and the issues that will need to be addressed in making the transition I have described today to a successful, lower pollution economy.

Put simply, I believe in the skills, capacity, decency and plain common sense of Australians.  I therefore believe that through dedicated discussion a representative group of Australians drawn from all age groups, parts of the country and walks of life, will help us move forward.

So we have a group of citizens whose role is to be a big focus group and they “will not be to become the final arbiter or judge of consensus”, but then you gives us this kick in the teeth:

And if I am wrong, and that group of Australians is not persuaded of the case for change then that should be a clear warning bell that our community has not been persuaded as deeply as required about the need for transformational change.

So they actually will be the final arbiter or judge of consensus?!

And then you went on to announce some new rules for power stations, some $1b to be invested over the next 10 years to connect renewable energy to the electrician grid. All very good, and all nice and wonderful… but what the hell????

Oh Julia. This is pathetic. You make John Howard look like a dope-smoking, hemp-shirt wearing, dreadlock-haired hippy.

Here’s some more explanation of the Citizen’s Assembly:

A 150-strong Citizens’ Assembly will be appointed to examine the evidence on climate change, the case for action and a market based approach to reducing pollution.

Sorry Julia, but the entire population wants to examine this evidence – you need to persuade all of us, not a 150 person focus group.

A Gillard Labor Government will build community support for action on climate change through a 12 month process that directly involves this representative group of ordinary Australians.

Bugger the group Julia! You want to build consensus? Build it with the whole damn population!

Their role will be to provide an indicator to the nation of the progress of community consensus.

poll_scientistsYou know Julia, there are polling companies that can give you a good indication of the progress of community consensus.

Oh geez, this is a terrible policy. And there is only one reason why she would have proposed it – the ALP is pretty sure that there are absolutely no seats to be lost from not taking serious action on climate change. (And I suspect they’re right).

I have no problems with the need for consensus thing – to an extent. The graph on the left shows the answers in America in 2009 to the question: Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?". Clearly the more you know about the issue the more sure you are – and the general public does need more information and needs to have the issue “sold” to them. But this is not the way to do it.

And if we’re going to wait for America, I say we’ll be waiting until we’re all under water, because the Gallup poll below shows how Americans view the claims about climate changes.

So yes, the public has been lost – and we can blame the media, the scientists, the political parties ,the green lobby groups. We can blame them all (and I’ll write later on this failure). It’s just a pity public opinion doesn’t stop the warming from happening…

6l-41wjw3e6sh-0apy0a5gTo say I’m disappointed in an understatement. I don’t particularly care that her new rules on power stations will let in a whole stack of ones already being proposed (gutless though it is). But this big focus group thing is just stupid. There is absolutely no way voters will stand for a group of 150 people being the arbiter of whether of what the electorate thinks. And how much pressure will these 150 people be under? The media will be all over them. How will she decide if they have reached a consensus? A vote? Does it have to be a two-thirds majority?

If you want to build consensus (which I think does need to happen) then this is the wrong way to do it.

Just dumb Julia. I don’t care that it won’t matter. I don’t care that you will win the election easily. The Libs are are led by a fool most people wouldn’t trust to be able to buy all the things on their weekly shopping list if they gave it to him. The opposition are so un-electable even Kevin Rudd would have beaten them! The ALP are paying $1.28 to win. To put that in perspective Australia are only $1.60 to win the Ashes this summer.

I do care that you think this is the way to go about things. I do care that you can say the great things you did in the first half of your speech, and yet still come up with the content of the second half.

When I first heard a snippet about this policy last night, I assumed you were going to do a Bob Hawke and have a Climate Change summit much like his Economic Summit – you know the top business leaders where you would say, right we’re going to put a price on carbon, how should we do it. Where you would say, “Listen – this is going to happen, you either get in the room and help or we move forward without you”.

But no (Ok I never thought you were going to say that, but it was a nice dream). Instead you have come up with an official focus group.

Do you know how bad this policy is Julia? It is so bad that Nick Minchin is criticising you for delaying action. Nick fucking Minchin. Nick Minchin: a person whose imbecility on this subject is almost without compare. A guy who seriously thinks climate change is a left wing conspiracy! Just think how bat-shit dumb you have to be to think that! And yet he is attacking you for delaying! He is saying the Liberal Party are the ones who will be doing direct action now!

I mean, bloody hell.

You’re just lucky that your speech was interrupted by some idiot protestors, because that ensured that any coverage of the speech in the 6pm news would focus on the idiot protestors and not your policy. And those “swinging voters” in western Sydney you seem so concerned about would see that you’re being abused by left wing hippy idiots, and they’ll feel safe  in thinking that you’re doing the right thing by Mr and Mrs Middle Australia.

But for mine Julia, this was your worst day, and you’ll get my vote because the Libs are putrid and Abbott as PM would be a national embarrassment.

But geez. Lift your game. Stop worrying about wining the election and go out and win the people.


Darryl Snow said...

Trying very hard not to replace my disappointment with JG with lauding your take on her leadership.

Knowing your admiration (shared) for JG your blog is excruciating in it's honesty. It is in my opinion quite bang on.

So I sit here shaking my head, until I see Peter Martin does too.

These are heady times. Well done.

Speak loud

Jamesonthesea said...

The most horrible alternative is Tony fucking Abbott who rumbled Malcolm Turnbull to block the ETS legislation. She's got my vote too but I'm seriously unimpressed with todays' effort. Embarrassed really.

Anonymous said...

I was dismayed and disheartened that the PM's campaign is already making egregious mistakes like this one. It is mystifying why the PM didn't resurrect Labor's deal with Malcom Turnbull and declare that if the electorate wants to see this implemented, then they will need to vote for a Senate in which there is a majority in favour of the ETS as previously negotiated with Mr. Turnbull. If they don't elect a pro-ETS Senate, then a price on Carbon can't become reality. Australia is facing the same legislative roadblock as the USA, whose Senate has just knocked back the Democratic Party's energy bill.

Anonymous said...

While all and sundry are belting the PM around the head re the climate change policy ask yourselves this;

Can this country afford another debate such as the first one? Vested interests , deniers, flat earthers all making sure that the science was buried in the noise? The Greens demanding what the economy has no chance of providing. The politics of sheer bastardry by the Opposition?

Can we go through this again and still end up nowhere? Can we afford to?

I think that this policy is sensible in that it basically saying;….let’s slow down, take a breathe and have a rational discussion. Who is going to be the first politician to claim that the concerns of average Australians are of no import.

The change to our way of life, the way we produce and manufacture is going to be immense and it can’t be done overnight. We have to be prudent. There is no other way.

Think about it.

Greg Jericho said...

Anon - I have no problems with what you say, I just think Julia has come up with a terrible way of doing it.

Jaeger said...

I dunno, it seems like the least worst option for Julia.

If Labor lose the election, there will no action on climate change, period.

Attempting to produce a new policy for the election runs a high risk of mistakes being made - cue the "incompentent, unfit to govern" sound bites.

Deferring the policy angers voters who want action now, but they will probably vote Green anyway and the preference deal/BOP will come into play. Labor cooperates with the Greens to produce the climate change policy we need in exchange for their support on other issues, and without the political risk at election time. Worth a try.

Greg Jericho said...

Jaeger, you're absolutely right - this option is the safe one for Julia.

I'm not that angry aboutthe "delay" I am just angry about this 150 people focus group. It just strikes me as dumb and almost set up to fail.

As I wrote, Julia's policy on this suggests to me that it is not an election issue at all - mostly becasue Abbott is such a flat-earther on this that the ALP has no need to do anything.

I think the ALP will only get truly serious about a carbvon price if the Libs elect a leader who also in favour of that policy.

Yaz said...

I'm afraid the idea of slowing down and thinking about it is flawed, if you actually know there is an emergency.
Many people died on September 11 because they assumed that because no-one else on their floor was taking it seriously, then they didn't need to either. One whole floor survived because ONE person did, and got everyone moving.
Nobody WANTS to do anything about this (we're alright, Jack) but we actually HAVE to. People are already dying from climate change around the world, and this is only going to get more obvious as the years go on.
I'm sorry, but we needed action on this in 1990, not in 2020.