Conservatives scramble for cover

Sunday, 29 November 2009 

He'll do.

He'll do.

Having been caught out in the open daylight, politically undead conservatives are now scrambling under the nearest rock they can find, and if that rock happens to be called Joe Hockey, so be it.

For the nation’s conservative commentators, it must be a very dispiriting time to watch all their conservative heroes backtrack on everything they are supposed to stand for.

Or maybe they’re not looking. Miranda Devine, thinks Cory Bernardi is “the most promising rising star in politics for years” and “a clear thinker, articulate, with conviction and courage”. This is despite having quoted him profusely from last week’s Lateline interview where she seems to have missed the bit when he said he believes in climate change action, which seems a funny view from someone who doesn’t even believe there is a climate change problem.

Where have all the sceptics gone? They were everywhere a week ago and now they have all disappeared. This blogger could have sworn hearing Nick Minchin saying that global warming was a left-wing conspiracy a week ago. But there he was on Friday’s The 7.30 Report reminding everyone of the billions he OK’d as Howard’s Finance Minister and that he approved Rudd’s 20% renewable energy target earlier this year, all with the intention of “mitigating CO2 emissions”.

Why is Minchin boasting about mitigating CO2 emissions, when he doesn’t think CO2 emissions are a problem? Because surely this is the same Nick Minchin who said only in August that Rudd’s Carbon Reduction Scheme was a “cruel hoax on the Australian people” because it didn’t reduce carbon but rather CO2 emissions, and according to Minchin:

Whatever the climatic role of human induced emissions of CO2, CO2 is not by any stretch of the imagination a pollutant. CO2 is, as we know, a clear, odourless, colourless gas vital to life on earth. Indeed, CO2 is essential to a healthy environment. One of the most cynical and deceptive manoeuvres of the climate change fanatics is to seek to convince people that CO2 emissions are pollution, to demonise CO2 per se. Anyone with any understanding of science knows this to be a complete falsehood.

Talk about a week being a long time in politics! Three months is forever!

In fact not only are there no sceptics anymore, there don’t even seem to be any opponents to the ETS in the Liberal party either. Now that Minchin seems to be a ‘climate change fanatic’ like everyone else, he has no real trouble with an ETS as such. It’s just that it’s so important that they need to get it right. It’s not that Nick wants to block this ‘abomination’ but just have it referred to Senate Committee for further consideration. Why all the rush for goodness sake? It’s only had 13 parliamentary inquiries and reports during this Parliament. As Minchin said, the government’s never explained why it needs to go to a global conference on climate change action with a plan of its own, why not wait until February? It’s only a couple of months. What’s a couple of months after ten years?

Is this fooling anyone? Unfortunately for Minchin, probably not. However they want to dress it up, after all the mouthing off over the last few months, reaching its climax on 4 Corners, everybody now believes that there is no way that Minchin, Abbott and all the others who resigned last week want to do anything on climate change. This may be unfair on some. Mirabella appears to want action on global warming but when she makes the widely held point that it is useless doing something before Copenhagen as Australia only emits less than 1.5% of the world’s carbon, it can just as easily be seen as an argument for not doing anything after Copenhagen either.

As for Abbott, well he’s more complicated. Until recently, he was insisting even to sympathetic audiences that it’s important to negotiate and to take precautionary measures against serious risks. His over-riding concern was the political dangers of making climate change an issue. In fact back in July, he made a very strong (and in hindsight, remarkable) argument for not doing precisely what he has now done (even before the Coalition won significant amendments):

Far from being an arrogant assertion of his own views, Turnbull’s assessment that the government’s emissions trading scheme should ultimately be allowed to pass is his attempt to save the Coalition from a fight it can’t win. He knows that voters are unlikely to be argued into changing their minds. It will be the cost and complexity of emissions trading and the absence of anything much out of the ordinary about climate that will slowly engender second thoughts.

But following 4 Corners he was more openly doubting the science and being more equivocal about accepting amendments. What had happened was that Abbott’s tactic of positioning himself close to Turnbull while ingratiating himself to the ‘conservatives’ started to fall apart as the old guard revved up as the deadline approached. At the same time, Turnbull, prompted by increasing pressure from the sceptics was finally being forced to polarise it the other way, breaking against the twin track strategy in last Tuesday’s meeting.

The problem for Abbott and the conservatives now is that having broken away, their electoral unacceptability is now being openly discussed and so undermining their credibility. The most devastating blow was the Newspoll analysis published in The Weekend Australian showing that their stance will be a catastrophe even in their core seats. The general softening towards Turnbull in The Australian this weekend is a sign that even it can see the danger that lies ahead for the conservatives.

That is why there is now a desperate run for cover and such a push to get Hockey to run. The problem is, however, that it would only work if Hockey compromised on the ETS, but now it will be seen as nothing more than a politically unpalatable sceptic line. Hockey will have all the same problems that Nelson and Turnbull had with the old guard on their backs, but from an even a worse starting position. He was reported to be off to see Howard this weekend for advice (wonder who called who?) Anyway, it’s not too hard to guess what Howard would be saying, “Run Joe, run!”

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Sunday, 29 November 2009.

Filed under Tactics

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7 responses to “Conservatives scramble for cover”

  1. Bilko on 29th November 2009 9:26 am

    an endorsement from the rodent is like the final nail in the coffin for Hockey’s aspirations. Not a good look an email or better still they could have skyped each other. The report of hockey circling howards pad before finally entering shows a lack of tickerand confirms he is just a pale shadow

  2. NM on 29th November 2009 11:57 am

    I think it’s starting to look likely that Turnbull will win and come out of this looking pretty good. He will have stared down the lunatics in his party and shown some real strength of character in standing up for what he believes. The fact that what he believes is the same as most of the population won’t hurt either. And ultimately, it’s in the Libs best interests to get this topic off the front page so the Libs can fight on something that’s a bit more their natural strength. An election on climate change would see the Libs massacred.

    Whether it’s enough to make him look like a contender I don’t know, but it might make the inevitable loss at the next election less catastrophic than it might be otherwise.

  3. nobby on 29th November 2009 1:17 pm

    nm,he will then have to turn from a catastrophy to deal with a disaster (or is it the other way around)ie.the gretch business.

  4. NM on 29th November 2009 3:37 pm

    robby said “gretch business”

    I agree with you robby that it’s not going to be a bed of roses for him, but I don’t think the Gretch affair would have too much sting after this. Amongst the Rightwingers who have resigned is Eric Abetz. Turnbull could portray the Gretch affair as being a massive political misjudgment by Abetz that, much to Turnbull’s regret, completely took him in.

    However, I have to update my assessment as to whether or not he will survive. The latest (4.06) is that Hockey and Dutton are going to run on a joint ticket. If Hockey runs he will win. I didn’t think he would be so foolish, but that’s the latest rumour I’ve seen.

  5. Cavitation on 29th November 2009 4:17 pm

    It used to be that members would leave parliament by resigning their seats. Now it seems that they do so by becoming leaders of the opposition.

    It looks like Hockey and Dutton will become the new liberal leaders, with Tony Abbott becoming shadow treasurer. Dutton is in a marginal seat anyway, so being deputy leader will look good on his CV, when he loses his seat at the next election in a few months time. Why Hockey is becoming leader now is a mystery. If he sat back, he would be leader after the next election (if he could keep his seat I suppose). Now he will be leader for 10 months or so, (if he lasts that long – no sure bet in the current liberal party). When the Liberal go backwards in the next election, he will be dumped. And the next 10 months are not going to be pleasant times for any Liberal leader. Got talked into it, I suppose. What a sucker.

    Of course, it is a shame that all the Liberal moderates able to be leaders will have been destroyed during this term in opposition. And by the actions of the right-wing. So after the next election when the remaining rump of the Liberal party need to regroup, the only suitable candidates for leaders remaining will then be from the ultra-conservative faction.

  6. john Willoughby on 29th November 2009 8:46 pm

    Its a “carbon” copy of Malcolms republican effort.

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