Sunday, 29 November 2009
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