Kevin Rudd has further delayed the start of the emissions trading scheme to 2011 (after the next election), reduced the initial price of carbon to be charged from $20 per tonne to $10 per tonne (that is now about equivalent to a massive 2.4 cent per litre charge on unleaded petrol) and increased assistance to heavy industry (steel and aluminium previously would get 90% of their permits free – now they will get 95% of their permits free for the first 5 years – or really 1+5 years – of the scheme). The only a bonus is agreement to cut emissions by 25% by 2020 if all other nations agree to do the same in Copenhagen this year.
It is a major backflip for a man who said, last December, in the face of the full obvious force of the financial crisis, that there was no case for delay. But it is by no means an astonishing backflip. I think Rudd’s mouth runs ahead of his brain most of the time but, on climate change, he simply cannot be trusted at all.
Rudd has caved into business who were faced with the prospects of tiny cost increases and their immediate response was not gratitude but – ‘not enough we want even more concessions’. They will use the extra time not to adjust to the new scheme but to prepare a campaign to thwart any scheme (AFR, Tuesday, p.2). Rudd has also tried to play some really low level politics with Malcolm Turnbull. The stupid issue here is that Turnbull can now push for further delays in adopting any scheme to ‘fine tune’ the details.
Kevin Rudd went into the election mee-tooing John Howard on all issues other than climate change and the prized Labor scheme to increase unemployment by abolishing WorkChoices. He has reneged on the first distinctive policy but not on his second which should help to drive unemployment towards 9%. His profligate fiscal policies will be largely ineffective in offsetting impacts of an external terms of trade shock that we can do little about but will leave us with mountains of debt, huge tax bills and a devalued currency.
Rudd is using the financial crisis to enact policies that will reduce the gains we have achieved in labour markets and which which will help imperil our environmental future. Given the ambiguity of the Liberals on this issue – they should be pushing hard to achieve sensible climatic change policies – I will think seriously about voting for the idiot Greens (woeful economics, sound environmental policies) in the next election. It is one way I can indicate my total disgust with both major political parties in Australia because of their lack of principle on the climate change issue.
The Greens at least lack the hypocrisy of the Labor cheer squad who insist that the feeble conditional 25% increased cut more than compensates for the policy negatives. They are hypocrites who see climate change not as an urgent policy priority but as politics. Very unimpressed.