24 June 2008

Not warming to Malcolm

There are three reasons why the Liberals are wimping out on measures to deal with carbon emissions. First, they were never really convinced and they just can't fake it any more. Second, mining companies and other polluters might not turn away from them in their hour of financial need. Third, it's one in the eye for Malcolm Turnbull.

The Liberals were only pretending to entertain that greenie nonsense because DodgyCrapster were yelling at them to do something. To be fair, it wasn't their job to do anything - it was Howard's, and all the ideas he was ever going to have were baked into him by about 1986 at the latest. Costello wouldn't have done anything much either. Losing Turnbull's seat would have exceeded Howard's standards of mere neglect and been all-out reckless; they had to mouth the words, their hearts weren't in it and it came through in the lack of that political melody that comes from a machine that is on-song.

What will have to happen is that carbon trading will be introduced, with changes to the economy and the tax system following inevitably. The Liberals will cry that the economy will collapse and when it doesn't, they'll go quiet. As they're going quiet hairline fractures in the first-phase of the post-carbon economy will appear, the Liberals will exploit them and then they'll be on the front foot politically once again. This could all take about 10-20 years, but eventually they'll come up with something More Anti-Carbon Than Thou, Labor will be tired and the left will be caught in a dilemma where the Liberals have the better policy, where it abandons its government and then blames them for losing.

In the short term though, that narrative that Malcolm Turnbull is circling Nelson like a shark has to stop. You show me a journalist who uses that theme and I'll show you someone who can't read the Liberal Party. Greg Hunt's turn on the 7.30 Report where he looked like a schoolboy being berated by the headmaster - I half expected him to say "please sir!" to Kerry O'Brien - was all about repudiating Malcolm Turnbull on both environmental and economic grounds. There is a curious light that goes from Turnbull's eyes when he has to defend a policy that has been foisted on him, and that's what he's done over proposals to exclude fuel from greenhouse considerations and cut fuel tax. Turnbull has realised that he won't be doing his messiah act any time soon and is facing the next two years with dread. He is the last of the Liberals to crash to earth after the election loss, the last to realise that there are fewer options in opposition rather than more.

They don't get it, but that's why they're in opposition rather than in prison or dead: they'll come around, it just won't be soon. Wait for the Liberal who claims the mantle of environmental and climate concern for his (her?) party, it'll happen. Did you know that a rise in sea levels of 30cm or so would have a major impact on Iguana Joe's?

Until then, carbon policy will have to be developed in a near vacuum, like Medicare or the GST or telco reform. As with those areas of policy, the shortcomings in those systems arising from poor debate and the stifling of options to make it easier to write press releases will limit us going forward. Never mind the fact that it could be worse - I'm more concerned that it isn't better.

No comments:

Post a Comment