Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rudd's ETS: a policy disaster is upon us

Photo by Michael Hall

Hard to believe the debacle unfolding in Canberra over recent days. Malcolm Turnbull has effectively destroyed his leadership and the Liberals are tearing themselves apart over an Emissions Trading Scheme scheme that will make no difference to the problem of climate change. The Rudd Government has essentially created the largest corporate welfare package ever provided to those Australian industries that emit the most.

Bernard Keane sums it up this way in Crikey today:

"The larger irony in all this is that Turnbull, a man genuinely committed to taking action on climate change, has massively damaged, and probably destroyed, his leadership over a scheme that will do absolutely nothing to address climate change. To have wrecked his political career and hopes of the prime ministership in the cause of preventing global warming would be commendable.

But to wreck them for Kevin Rudd's CPRS? Oh, Malcolm.

Instead, Turnbull and Rudd, and Penny Wong, will forever be associated with a new model of policy development in Australia.

The model is simple: if powerful interests are opposed to significant reform, they must be bought off at the expense of the taxpayer. The era of reform driven by political bravery, by the willingness to sacrifice political capital for the sake of achieving long-term improvements in the living standards of Australians, the Hawke-Keating-Howard era in which good policy could be good politics, is over.

All powerful interests now need to do is hire a prominent consulting firm to show that reform will lead to significant job losses, promote the bad news via friendly journalists or media outlets hostile to the government, hire a top lobbyist, make some generous donations, and wait for the politicians to cave in.

If major reform cannot be achieved by a Prime Minister at record levels of popularity faced with an opposition tearing itself apart and an opposition leader pathologically incapable of healing the divisions in his party, then hope for genuine reform is lost.

That's the real story today, regardless of who wins this afternoon, or at what point Malcolm Turnbull finally topples.

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