Emissions Tirading

Malcolm Turnbull’s Column

Here’s something in the SMH from deposed Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull.

At their core, these bills are as much the work of John Howard as of Kevin Rudd. We, as Liberals, believed in the superior efficiency of the free market to set a price on carbon. The Rudd government’s approach has broadly embodied the same principles, although there were problems with its initial design. But extensive modifications made in May and November made it a scheme that appropriately balances environmental effectiveness and economic responsibility.

Alternatives such as direct regulation or subsidies will be far more costly. Under a market-based mechanism, like an ETS, there is a clear, transparent and immediate incentive encouraging investment in lower emission technology.

Industries and businesses, attended by an army of lobbyists, are particularly persuasive and all too effective at getting their sticky fingers into the taxpayer’s pocket. Having the government pick projects for subsidy is a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale. Having the government pay for emissions abatement, as opposed to the polluting industries themselves, is a slippery slope to higher taxes and more costly and less effective abatement of emissions.

Most large emitters have committed to substantial reductions over the next decade. Many have already acted. The EU has had an ETS since 2005. China has committed to a 45 per cent reduction in emissions per unit of output by 2020. Japan has pursued lower emissions and higher energy efficiency for three decades. Our commitment is equivalent to a 21 per cent reduction.

The notion that this ETS would put Australia in front of the world is, sadly, completely wrong. We start way behind because our per capita emissions are so large, because our sources of energy are so overwhelmingly dependent on burning coal. This legislation is the only policy on offer which can credibly enable us to meet our commitment and the flexibility to move to higher cuts when warranted.

The ETS is far more in the great traditions of modern liberalism than any other available policy response.

I’m not a big fan of the ETS as proposed by the Howard Government or taken up by the Rudd Government.It doesn’t aim high enough, it doesn’t do enough, it hands out too many freebies to polluters and so on.

Thus, it is high time the government did set up a framework for setting the dollar value for carbon emissions. Even if flawed, the ETS that got negotiated between Labor and the Liberals under Malcolm urnbull represents the best compromise possible given the divergence of views.

It is stunning to note that the Greens would not negotiate to pass the ETS on the grounds it would be ineffective; which is the same kind of logic as killing the mongoloid baby because it’s not perfect. I understand the ETS is flawed, but not having anything is even worse, and this is exactly where the Greens have delivered the discourse.

In the mean time, the ignorant heartland of the Nationals and the highly misguided yet motivated idiots of the Liberal Right have scuttled the deal from the far right side, you would think the Greens would at least re-consider the position rather than continue to grandstand by not negotiating, and thus let nothing happen. It begs the point of what exactly they are in the Senate to do. One would have thought the point of the Greens would have been to be in the thick of designing a good policy for the environment.

We know the point of the Tony Abbott leadership is to scuttle the ETS once again and go to the polls with the Climate Change denial as platform. Therefore it is ethically incumbent upon the Greens to show a bit of gumption and maturity and negotiate the passage of the ETS through the Senate. It’s time to live up to their name instead of their ideals. Politics after all, is about the possible. This may be the issue that kills the Greens, much as passing the GST killed the Democrats.

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