The implosion of the Liberals and the collapse of the CPRS provides a chance to push for real solution to climate change
Watching the parliamentary Liberal Party tear itself apart has been more exciting than a 20-20 cricket match.
No one will be sorry to see the end of the arrogant born-to-rule Turnbull. In the end he was too arrogant even for the Liberals. With the Mad Monk at the helm (who knows for how long), the Liberals have probably confined themselves to another term, or three, in the political wilderness. That can only be a good thing.
No one should think that this charade has actually been about a resurgence of climate denial. The real argument in the Liberals has been over control of the Liberal Party. Tony Abbott opportunistically shifted his support to the climate deniers when it suited his tilt for the leadership.
The Liberal Party’s corporate masters are not climate deniers. Heather Ridout, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group pushed for the Rudd/Turnbull CPRS to go through parliament, warning, “A major danger if legislation is not passed this year, is that there may be a lurch away from CPRS market mechanisms approach towards intrusive…direct regulation of…emissions.” Let’s hope so!
The circus has been an enjoyable spectacle but it poses a far more serious question for climate politics—what was Kevin Rudd doing compromising with the Liberals in the first place? It was his orientation on the Liberals that has pushed the debate to the right.
The farce has allowed Rudd and the parliamentary Labor Party to pose as the party that stands for action on climate change. That’s a joke. As the Greens have put it, the Rudd/Turnbull compromise would have “locked in climate failure.”
Rudd has been more concerned to play in the parliamentary sand pit than do something that would actually help to bring down greenhouse emissions. The Liberals were never serious about climate. They were more concerned with pushing billions worth of subsidies to their corporate mates—but then so was Kevin Rudd.
If Rudd had been serious about climate, he could have set the agenda by co-operating with the Greens.
Sections of the climate movement—in particular the “Southern Cross Alliance” of ACTU, WWF, ACOSS, and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF)—went all out to back Rudd, rather than expose him. They campaigned against the dinosaurs who didn’t believe in climate change. It turns out that the dinosaurs were running the show.
GetUp too organised lobbying efforts to get Senators to vote for Rudd’s carbon trading scheme.
This must now be seen as an extraordinary folly. It led to confusion in the climate movement as the pro-CPRS forces set the climate agenda. Does anyone remember that one of the aims of the Climate Summit was to “prevent the CPRS becoming legislation”? It played into the hands of the Liberals and ensured the corporate polluters got even more massive handouts—while doing nothing to bring down emissions.
In the end, the Rudd’s shoddy deal was too much even for the ACF, who broke from the Southern Cross Alliance to call for the Rudd/Turnbull compromise to be defeated.
The idea that any CPRS is better than no CPRS is badly mistaken.
A strong stand by the climate movement against the CPRS could have forced Rudd to look to negotiate with the Greens for something much better than a carbon trading scheme.
The CPRS has been voted down in the Senate. That is no bad thing. The climate movement now has some time to regroup and rethink before any scheme goes back to parliament next year.
Will Rudd now negotiate with the Greens? Don’t hold your breath. Rudd is looking for the support of big business, not the climate campaign.
The ANU students in the parliamentary gallery have “blown the whistle” on Rudd’s parliamentary posturing. Rudd’s flirtation with Turnbull has also exposed Rudd’s motivations. Real action on climate change was never going to come through parliament.
Some sections of the movement will be tempted to think that the task now is to bring the Liberals back into negotiations and try to convince an Abbott-led Liberal Party to pass a CPRS after Copenhagen.
Such a strategy would compound the mistakes that have already been made. Any deal that puts the Liberals first will inevitably mean that the climate will come last.
Let the CPRS die with the Liberals
The climate campaign now needs to come out fighting—no more cover for Rudd’s posturing. Kevin Rudd did nothing when Solar Systems closed down for lack of investment. Another 150 wind turbine jobs are at risk in Victoria.
We need a campaign in the unions to get the ACTU to break from the failed strategy of the Southern Cross Alliance. The hundreds of unionists organised in the ACTU’s Climate Connectors could become the beginning of unions organising the rank-and-file to back a real fight for green jobs and renewable power.
The Walk Against Warming rallies should be angry demonstrations targeting Rudd for embracing the Liberals and demanding direct government investment in renewable energy. The next power stations built in Australia should be based on renewable power. The money being wasted on clean coal research could build solar power stations and fund public transport.
If we learn the lessons of the past few weeks, the Climate Summit in March 2010 can be the start of a climate campaign that seeks to build a mass movement around such demands and takes the fight to Rudd and the carbon criminals.