Katherine Murphy explaining climate change policy:
To plot the path of the first major failure of the political year, we need to walk back a distance to the repeal of the carbon tax (that was never a carbon tax) when Tony Abbott won power, and Labor’s response to that setback.
It’s a bit hard for voters to understand what happened because Shorten and the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, have been utterly unable to explain their own policy this week, flailing around like a couple of brain dead numpties, in a week where explaining the policy and the thought behind it actually did matter.
Perhaps Shorten and Bowen don’t know what their own policy is, perhaps they are clueless, or dangerously complacent. But if you read the documents, the policy and the intention behind it, is reasonably clear.
After the defeat of the clean energy policy, Labor licked its wounds, and lowered the ambition of the Rudd/Gillard period, coming up with a policy that would have some prospect of gaining bipartisan support in the event Turnbull could walk the Coalition back, slightly, in the direction of where he was in 2009.
Labor proposed a thing that was real, albeit lacking in critical detail: an emissions intensity scheme for electricity – and some political feelgood, an “aim” to have 50% of Australia’s electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030 – which Labor dresses up periodically as a “target”, which it isn’t, and never has been, except in the loosest sense of the word.
Rather than a manifestation of some wild and reckless green leftism, as Turnbull currently likes to characterise it, Labor’s stake in the ground was actually a bunch of signposts, which to mix a metaphor (sorry about that), had more holes in them than Swiss cheese.
The ambiguity and omissions were deliberate – partly to avoid having to answer questions it would be politically inconvenient to answer, like what does all this cost – and partly to give themselves room to move.
It was a bit of signalling to the Coalition, look guys, when you are ready, we are over here. It was an attempt to press reset on the rancid partisan conflict and anticipate the next cycle of the debate – a time when pressure from industry would begin to build on the government to fix up the mess that was clearly beginning to manifest in Australia’s energy sector.
I think as an explanation that works very well. One small problem: the electorate are somewhere else. It seems to me that the electorate do not want a tax, a price, a scheme, a what-ever-you-want-to-call-it that increases electricity prices. People want cheap and reliable electricity.
This brings to mind that great line from The Gladiator.