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Enemy of the good

For many years I have been furious with the Greens for their sabotage of Labor’s ETS in 2009. Perhaps the policy was flawed. Certainly it did not go far enough. But it would have been a start. Imagine if the CPRS had begun more than a decade ago? Rather than a decade of arguments over whether we should act on pricing carbon, we could have spent the decade refining the targets and methodologies. I’m still mad about it. But in the wake of the 2019/2020 summer bushfires I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m making exactly the same egregious error.

More than one opinion article has been published in recent weeks suggesting the Morrison government might use the fires as an excuse, a trigger, to recalibrate the Coalition’s approach to climate change policy. Each time I read such an article I find myself thinking along a well-worn track:

Don’t do it! Don’t start taking climate change seriously. Don’t deal with the deniers in your own ranks. Don’t suddenly start sounding reasonable!

We know that the bushfires have focussed Australia’s attention in a way never before achieved. We know that the last vestiges of AGW denial are crumbling in the real world. We don’t want the Coalition to be a part of the real world. We prefer our Coalition politicians to be outliers, historical artefacts, easily pushed aside in favour of progressive parties whose policies are obviously simply better.

Fantasy politics

There’s a narrative that has the Coalition remaining intransigent on the issue, clinging stubbornly to coal mines and fossil fuel oligarchs, carbon exports and the revolving door of post-politics coal company directorships. In this fantasy world, Labor drops its own recidivist approach, ceases clinging to coal and instead brings a decent selection of climate policies to the next election. And the Australian public, woken up by repeated disasters and environmental collapse, consign the conservative parties to history where they belong and sweep progressives into power across the country.

It’s a good dream – but it’s little more than a fantasy.

2019 was supposed to be the climate change election. The Coalition came into that election clinging stubbornly to coal and gas. By contrast, Labor brought a stable of progressive climate policies, along with the Greens on the far left. This was supposed to be the election at which Australia stated, loud and clear, that the preceding decade of policy stagnation and climate inaction would not continue.

And we know how that turned out.

When polled about important electoral issues, climate change ranked highly in the estimations of Australians. When push came to shove, though, it was not as important as taxes, cost of living and “death taxes”. (Never mind that the Coalition is higher-taxing, presides over escalating costs of living and entirely made up the threat of death taxes.) The Australian people increasingly understand the importance of climate change, but they won’t vote for decent environmental policies if it means foregoing franking credits.

Obviously there were many factors at play in the 2019 election. But that’s the point. There will always be many factors at play in any election. Climate change may persuade some hesitant Australians that environmental policies are needed, but the Coalition can play that game – they like to wave fig-leaf policies around, just enough to assuage conservative voters that they have the issue in hand, while not enough to actually force any kind of change. The expectation that climate change policies will be a vote-changer, let alone an election-decider, has so far proven unfounded.

It’s seductive, thinking that our dying environment (or, really, any one major issue) could be the defining factor in the next election, in the contest of ideas and the competition for government. It’s always foolish. There are no single-issue elections.

What’s a single-issue voter to do?

For many voters, the exigency of global warming and the existential threat to human civilisation trumps all other considerations. To the extent that if the Coalition had the best suite of climate policies on offer (and any feasible likelihood of being serious at carrying them out) a single-issue voter would need to consider voting for them, against their better interest in every other area of social policy. Climate change is so important that it can take priority over healthcare, education, tax policy or industrial relations.

So far in the 2010s and 2020s, there has not been a need to weigh climate change policy against other progressive issues. The progressive parties have also offered the best climate and environmental policies.

But what if the Coalition were to pivot to a decent environment strategy? How would that impact on the left, who fully expect – nay rely on – them to remain troglodytes on the issue?

The problem with being a single-issue voter is that political operators like to neutralise issues. If climate change is a perceived area of weakness – which it undeniably is, for the Coalition – then they will seek to minimise its impact in any election, through a combination of downplaying the issue’s importance, and offering policies so it can appear to be interested in doing something.

Adopting a single-issue approach willfully ignores and demotes the dozens of other defining policy areas on which the parties compete. It relegates consideration of a rejuvenated NBN. It discounts overt corruption, pork-barreling and electoral tampering. It devalues the Coalition’s continual budget cuts to the ABC, childcare, social security and just about any other area excepting the military and politicians’ salaries.

There are so many other political issues worth our attention. But in this hyper-partisan age it hurts us to consider that in any specific area, let alone the area of possibly greatest consequence for the future of the country, the other team might get something right. If it’s difficult for conservative voters to imagine the Coalition’s approach could be wrong, perhaps it could be almost as hard for us on the progressive side to give credit for things they do right.

Of course, this is likely all academic. It doesn’t seem likely that the Coalition will change its stance. They are too riddled through with entrenched climate change deniers. Too embedded with the mindset that coal is the energy source of the future and will be the backbone of Australia’s economy for the foreseeable future. Too dependent on the financial backing of their masters and supporters in Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and the Minerals Council of Australia. They seem unable to grasp that the market for coal exports will die, suddenly and quickly, and that climate change action can bring economic benefits rather than costs.

Most likely, I’ll never be confronted with the cognitive dissonance of the Coalition finding the way forward on climate change. I just need to accept that there’s a big part of me that hopes they never will.


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  1. Kaye Lee

    I spend a lot of time criticising politicians so I once set myself the exercise of “what would I do if I suddenly became benevolent dictator”.

    I wanted to work out priorities – both in urgency and resource use whilst thinking about opportunity cost ie could the money be better spent.

    It was impossible.

    So then I tried splitting into immediate, short term, medium term, long term.

    Still really hard plus some things I wanted to achieve were in conflict with other goals.

    I have spent a long time pondering this and some things are easy and obvious – increase Newstart right now for starters.

    But during all those musings, I kept coming back to global heating.

    We must deal with that whatever else we are also doing. And we mustn’t accept the lies.

    There is no Planet B.

  2. Terence Mills

    A lot is going to depend on the next few day in Davos, Switzerland.

    Trump is giving a keynote speech at the 2020 World Economic Forum which will be dominated by climate change and global warming, none of which Trump believes in. Quite the opposite, he is aggressively rolling back environmental protections and has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

    I have tried a Google search to find who is representing Australia at this forum but with nothing coming up.

    I suppose whatever Trump says we will back to the hilt !

  3. Alan Nosworthy

    You have hit the nail on its head.
    Although I am sure that inaction and deliberate frustration of meaningful climate change action will be repackaged as “sure and steady”, ” deliberate and calculated”,and a
    “masterful mature policy of climate action” by the howling dogs of Murdoch press if not by the Muppets themselves.
    A very large part of myself wants to see them lined up against a wall, or hoisted on their own petard of ignorant self interest. A claim that they now see the light and believe is not going to be sufficient.I am unable to turn the other cheek, and love my enemy, and I do not expect to see true repentance just a new track of obfuscation and dodging of responsibility.F them all

  4. Kaye Lee


    A look at who is going to Davos and I see no-one from Australia named yet.

    It won’t be a comfortable agenda for whoever we do send.

    The meeting will be guided by the Forum’s recently released Davos Manifesto 2020, which builds on the original Davos Manifesto of 1973 and lays out a vision for stakeholder capitalism that addresses fair taxation, zero tolerance for corruption and respect for human rights.

    “Business has now to fully embrace stakeholder capitalism, which means not only maximizing profits, but use their capabilities and resources in cooperation with governments and civil society to address the key issues of this decade. They have to actively contribute to a more cohesive and sustainable world,” said Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.


    Australia is being represented at Davos by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who will speak at a session on Thursday titled, ‘The global impact of Australia’s wildfires’.

  5. LambsFry Simplex.


    Wasn’t Davros the head Dalek?

    No wonder Oberfuhrer Cormann is going.

  6. Phil Pryor

    Cormann the huge Cowpat, a refugee from old adolf type policy, is a complete lying dud, a front used for the conservatives at low cost to cloud issues, lie up a gossipy storm, evade with fumbling pseudothought and generally to take us back, down , out and under. He is a part of a local and international problem of fascist streaks, whitey supremacy, old imperial pride in their record of murdering and thieving and a wish to preserve all the profitable past filth and fantasy and fraud for career, money, pose and poncing photos. Cormann is part of the great conspiratorial corporate construction to suck out wealth, keep controls, coerce minorities, sneer at lesser beings, support filthy superstition where it suits their aims and bare the bulging botty to an urgent Murdoch and similar types of plantation owners. This grovelling fellatio friendly financial fornication is ruinous to civilised progress, social welfare, democratic possibilities, decency.

  7. Yes Minister

    Thanks LambsFry Simplex and Phil Pryor, your comments provided a few chuckles in a sea of despair. Actuallly I’ve been looking for a tribe of DALEKS to let loose in every parliament house and government office in the country …..EXTERMINATE ANNIHILATE DESTROY. As for Oberfuhrer Cormann, he is at least a match for herr stormfuhrer potatohead

  8. ozfenric

    @Yes Minister, nobody is a match for herr UberTuber.

  9. Pingback: Enemy of the Good – Random Pariah

  10. Matters Not

    Sending Mathias Cormann to Davos ticks all the political boxes. Always a great choice when there’s the need for a representative who is never troubled by evidence, can argue that black is white (or vice versa), forever loyal (until he’s not and therefore completely predictable), and because he’s a great mate of Dutton it’s very convenient that he’s not in the country as much as possible.

    Morrison ought to be congratulated.

    No doubt he was there to hear Trump say the US will join 1 trillion tree-planting scheme.

  11. Kaye Lee

    One might be wondering why our Trade Minister Simon Birmingham isn’t at Davos as he was one of three ministers who went last year….

    This may explain it….

    Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Monday that he hoped Australia would not need to use carryover credits from achieving its Kyoto targets to meet a 26 per cent target by 2030.

    It must be lonely to be a moderate in the Liberal ranks nowadays.

  12. LambsFry Simplex.

    By golly that is a telling blow, Kaye Lee.

    You really are worth your weight in platinum.

  13. wam

    A great heading and a very pleasant read.
    Too light on boobby and the loonies but!
    “When push came to shove, though, it was not as important as taxes, cost of living and “death taxes”.
    Arguably the lies influenced voters in Tasmania, where the two Bs turned against the noisy fortnight of the 6 year of billy trappist. and torpid tanya
    However for this little lefty tragic the real killer(and still is) was jobs. The sky, ch7/9 images of loonie women screaming at workers and unemployed basically hours before the vote was the clinchers can we trust labor with debt and the economy when they are killing the chance of adani jobs(irrational bullshit but changing government is not easy)
    Never mind what is done is done it will take the loonies 10 years to reveal the underlying purpose of the timing of the caravan.
    Sadly, god will reveal the way forward and albo will join calwell, beasley and shorten as ?????
    Thanks, boobby.

    ps lonely is a ‘caring person’ in the armed services, or in dutton’s departments and showing the care.

  14. New England Cocky

    Recently ABC Radio had a brief article suggesting that a change in COALiiton climate policy may require the government buying back all the coal investments from coal mining and coal burning entrepreneurs at public expense. The old “Socialise losses privatise profits” scenario.

    So the LIarbral Nazianal$ misgovernment will pay back years of political donations using public monies to buy out the failed investments???

    But why concern about the misgovernment ignoring the best interests of the Australian voters who make negligible contribution to party political funding to keep the unelected political hacks who control pre-selection in the manner to which they wish to remain accustomed?

    Just look at the MDB water allocations plus associated “water theft” or the $80 MILLION purchase of empty glasses of MDB overland flows (during the worst drought in living memory), or the “theft by council agreement” of Armidale drinking water to maintain the profits of an about 50% foreign owned Guyra Tomato Farm in a year where an about $170MILLION is acknowledged by the corporation.

  15. Torquemada Simkins

    “Greens on the far left”

    Don’t make me laugh. They may have been ideologically hobbled when it came to killing the ETS, but they are hardly far left.

  16. Terence Mills

    Well, Trump gave his keynote speech in Darvos. It was given in monotone almost a bored, bland delivery where he spent a lot of time congratulating himself on being an excellent President and leading America out of the dark-ages.

    He also criticised those calling for climate action as ‘perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse’.

    Trump is in favour of planting a trillion trees somewhere but neglected to comment on how these trees would survive severe bush-fires and global warming.

    Yes, apparently Cormann is representing Australia but to read the Davos agends and attendance list or the Australian media evidently this was a secret !!

  17. Ken Fabian

    Must be very comforting to know that nothing Rudd and Labor did or didn’t do had any effect on their own failures, that if The Greens had just voted differently that one time all the climate wars would have been over forever!

    Well, I suppose it is good to see some bipartisanship; but blaming The Greens as the one standout example of it from the LibLabs who thoroughly own Australian politics is not very heartening. Bob Brown and the convoy being the cause of the election loss this time around? Which looks like an unproven claim straight out of NewsCorp to me, made truthy by saying it over and over and especially truthy by getting Labor stalwarts to say it too… we wouldn’t want to think it was Labor that screwed up their opportunity!

    I cannot oppose the LNP getting rational about climate change – not that they are anywhere near that yet and we will get a shift of rhetoric way before we get a shift of policy. As Michelle Grattan said “The prime minister is not galvanised by the importance of the climate issue itself.”

    I think that it will take that conservative right shift to put climate action on firm ground but the current lot are incapable of it. In a nation susceptible to droughts and fires these are people who think adding 3 to 5 C degrees won’t matter… because “but we always get droughts and floods”. Which says how devoid of fact or reason the current LNP position is.

    It will be when the conservative right take the climate issue seriously that we will see genuine progress – and what Labor votes it gets because they (supposedly) do climate policy better than the LNP will be lost. Well, lots of Australians don’t think Labor is all that serious about it either, thus it is not great a great vote winner for them; if it is a choice between supporting coal miner jobs for life or letting Australia and the world burn 2020’s Labor, like the LNP, MCA, BCA, IPA etc, will choose to let the world burn.

  18. crypt0

    So Kormann is Australia’s rep. in Davos …
    How unfair, after all the good work Angus did in Madrid. bringing Australia’s efforts re climate change to the attention of the entire world.
    I guess it was about Mathias’ turn for an o’seas trip.

  19. Kaye Lee

    I can’t for the life of me see why people keep harking back to a vote over ten years ago. Do they forget that we actually had a price on carbon for a while there? Didn’t stop the vandals from wrecking it just like they did the first one by dangling the leadership trinket in front of a very surprised Tony Abbott who couldn’t believe he had finally been chosen as captain of something albeit in a sock puppet kind of way.. Save your anger for the COALition.

    Re Matthias, he was no doubt sent because he is their best stonewaller. He just repeats the same phrases over and over regardless of what he is asked.

  20. Lambchop Simnel

    Kaye Lee, perhaps it a length of string argument.

    Was the Rudd initiative adequate or not, the different criteria as to a result and how far could they go given the politics of the era?

    Should the Greens have not voted with the opposition?

    Many known unknowns and for that matter, unknown unknowns for a spur of the mo response. As usual I’d call it about fifty fifty, as usual with Labor/Greens stoushes. Too many vested interests behind the proceedings and were the parties too rigid in dealing with each other.

    So it is likely it was a lost opportunity for all concerned who cared and set in place the politics leading to today’s disasters.

  21. Joe Carli

    For the simple-minded who would defend The Green’s treachery of joining with the enemy in voting down the ETS, I would remind them of the old rhyming maxim : ” For the want of a horse-shoe nail”… well, when experience tells us so severely the damage to the bush that the reckless lighting of ONE MATCH will do . . . ?

  22. ozfenric

    We could re-litigate all that political drama as much as we like and it won’t change the present. Personally I believe that had the CPRS been adopted, we would not have needed the ETS, we wouldn’t have had “Axe the Tax”, which would have spared us Tony Abbott. Maybe the CPRS wasn’t perfect but it was negotiated, and you need to start somewhere. It certainly wouldn’t have been the end point, and we would certainly not be any worse off than we are now.

    I guess fantasy politics can be just as much fun in the past as the future.

    Ken Fabian [9:39am] – I suspect you’re right. Labor is squandering its opportunity to ride the wave of new climate change acceptance and appetite for change, by attempting appeasement of mining communities and Sky News listeners.

  23. Joe Carli

    “We could re-litigate all that political drama as much as we like and it won’t change the present.” …..Well how about we just learn from history and NEVER trust The Greens!

  24. Kaye Lee

    “I think our climate change policy at the last election damaged us and we need to listen to that message. We need to be less ambitious.” – Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon

  25. Matters Not

    There’s the past and then there’s the history and more often than not (perhaps invariably) – they don’t equate.

    The Greens have this incredible knack of being ahead of the curve which might explain why they are not good at the art of the possible.

  26. Jexpat

    In other words, you’ve spent years ruminated in a partisan pique about the Greens pushing for evidenced based public policy based on a successful working model in British Columbia -one that not only lowered emissions but boosted their economy, in favor of an ETS system that’s since proven to have been rorted elsewhere.

    And even now you’re coming up with rationalisations and cliches that sound like some undergrad intern trying to impress a local member.

    Sorry if that sounds harsh, but as you mention in the comments: you need to get over re-litigating the issue and accept the reality that, no matter what the emissions policy was, the Liberals, Nationals, Hansons and Palmers- along with the entirety of the Australian media, would have:

    A. Lied about it;

    B. Shouted down whatever meager defence Labor and its surrogates put up (which wasn’t and wouldn’t have been much: Labor couldn’t even promote its world beating economic policies after the GFC); and

    C. That it would have unceremoniously repealed by the science denying coalition after the 2013 election.

    there’s also that wee little matter of failing to call a double dissolution in 2010- at a time when Labor under Rudd would have been returned with a majority.

  27. Matters Not


    The expectation that climate change policies will be a vote-changer, let alone an election-decider, has so far proven unfounded

    Indeed! Everyone (almost) loves Greta and her message but there’s no evidence it’s yet a vote-changer. Or at least that’s the outcome to date. But, seemingly, things have changed for large numbers. Yet if progressives don’t keep fueling these political embers, the memories for many on the periphery will fade quickly. Where is Terri Butler, Murray Watt, Mark Butler, et al who have some carriage in this area? They can’t all be overseas on holiday?

    But then again it’s the traditional political silly season.

  28. corvusboreus

    I have read much of what ozfenric has submitted over the years.
    I would not describe his attitude as being one of ‘partisan pique’, but more akin to one of the near-despairing frustration over the consistent intrusions of cynical corporate politics in delaying and dismantling of any implementations of possible pragmatic solutions towards addressing a blatantly manifest existential threat.
    I confess to harbouring similar sentiments.

  29. corvusboreus

    I realise the inadequacy of the term ‘ threat’ in the context of what we are living in, which should more properly be termed a ‘crisis’
    Examples of a ‘threat’ (what some might term a ‘warning’) might be the bold-print health message on every packet of cigarettes, or the upper end projections of the 1998 IPCC report.
    Examples of a ‘crisis’ would be the routine coughing up of blood-clots midway through every fag, or the broadscale ecocidal holocaust that we are currently witnessing/experiencing.

  30. Steohengb

    This is the best one paragraph summary of the 2019 election I have seen, it is well worth repeating

    When polled about important electoral issues, climate change ranked highly in the estimations of Australians. When push came to shove, though, it was not as important as taxes, cost of living and “death taxes”. (Never mind that the Coalition is higher-taxing, presides over escalating costs of living and entirely made up the threat of death taxes.) The Australian people increasingly understand the importance of climate change, but they won’t vote for decent environmental policies if it means foregoing franking credits

  31. ozfenric

    Jexpat, what you outline is certainly possible. Had the CPRS been implemented, we might well have seen it repealed, the rise of Tony Abbott and a dysfunctional politic. Just as likely as my alternative history where Tony Abbott stays on the backbench and the Coalition shifts ground to argue over the form of climate action, and whether the CPRS goes too far or not far enough. Don’t forget, there have been moments of bipartisanship on the issue between the eras of Kevin07 and Scomo.

    If there’s one thing the past decade should have taught us, it’s that it’s much easier to amend and fix something already in place, than it is to take the first step. Exhibit A: the NBN. Exhibit B: the NDIS. In both cases Labor legislated a program against strident opposition, and once the opposition took the reins, they were unable to get away with abolishing them. When Labor gets back into government, it will find it much easier to massage them back into shape than it would to get them started.

    The thing that sealed the fate of Julia Gillard’s carbon price was her concessions to the Greens at the 2010 election, and her misstep in allowing the carbon price to be described as a ‘tax’. Axe the Tax was born and the carbon price was lost. Arguably, this has its roots in the deal-making Gillard was forced to do with the Greens to secure her minority government. That the Greens were willing to countenance a Tony Abbott coalition government if Labor had not played ball should show you all you need about their motivations at the time.

  32. Matters Not

    ozfenric, re the NBN and the claim:

    When Labor gets back into government, it will find it much easier to massage them back into shape than it would to get them started.

    Maybe. But with the NBN there will be the massive cost of going back to square one before any new effort can be actioned. Yes it will be easier in the political sense that the punters have a taste of what is possible (and will want much better) but the theoretical (old plus new) financial debt will be frightening.

    Should have – done it once and done it right.

  33. ozfenric

    Oh, no arguments from me. Sabotaging the NBN was, in my opinion, probably the most treacherous action Abbott’s government ever took. Repealing the carbon tax was a crime against the world, but burying the NBN was a crime against Australia’s future.

    Should have – done it once and done it right.

    Absolutely. But doing it, having it sabotaged, and fixing it is better than never doing it at all.

  34. corvusboreus

    Pedantic semantics again.
    I would suggest that an act of sabotage against the essential communications infrastructure of one’s own nation is more accurately defined as ‘treason’ rather than ‘treachery’.
    Then again, if how can phuqqing our own internet network be considered treason when it was openly proffered as intended policy and electorally endorsed?

  35. wam

    kaye it was a very important step in a process of ‘ego’ through juliar through voting to double the debt through gagging the women through the caravan desperate to be a mob of gnats.
    Beauty cuckoo trump showed the silliness of the beliefs of deniers. He would be the equal of craig kelly and just as head shakingly hollow headed no-brainer..
    My megarich health card carrying franker observed how stupid the NBN policy of rudd was. When no labor voter could ever use the power of fibre. But all of his family and friends could and I bet all his party pollies has fibre in their homes and investment houses and I bet we paid for top of the line battery storage

  36. Henry Rodrigues

    Climate change was the foremost issue on every voters mind, but easily overtaken by ‘what’s innit for me’ attitude, like property investments, franking credits, miniscule tax cuts. All aided and manipulated by the compliant media led by that bastard Murdoch. I personally know and have debated these issues with family and acquaintances who now slink around me with guilty consciences. I hope they all rot in hell for the damage they have allowed to happen with their selfish perspectives. As for these sobs Scummo and the his bunch of crooks and thieves, their day will also come, the earth and the wildlife are crying for justice and retribution.

  37. totaram

    HR: “..the earth and the wildlife are crying for justice and retribution.”

    They can cry out all they like, but none will come from any divine intervention in spite of many fervent hopes.

    I am happy to know that there are some who do slink around with guilty consciences. Most people just indulge in cognitive dissonance and assume that their vote was well placed. Or they will manufacture and believe plausible myths to support their views, like the ones about “greenies” causing extreme bush-fires.

    The human race is heading for extinction, in my view, because we have been unable (as a group) to internalise the rigorous logic of science which has given us these powerful technologies. We will surely “develop” ourselves out of existence.

  38. Jexpat

    Ozfenric wrote: “If there’s one thing the past decade should have taught us, it’s that it’s much easier to amend and fix something already in place, than it is to take the first step.”

    Seems to me the evidence shows the opposite to be true. Once something’s put in place, there’s no impetus to fix the obvious and glaring errors (see, e.g. NBN and NDIS where people are dying, while the funds are being raided for _______ (fill in the LNP interest group).

    This was also said about programs like Obamacare too- and the insufficient US stimulus don’t worry: we’ll fix it down the track. They didn’t get it done-and so, it never got done. Or conversely, with the repeal and replacement of WorkChoices with woeful half measures. The list goes on.

    The trouble we have now of course is that we are (and were) out of time to deal incrementally or ineffectively with climate mitigation. So every day we waste- or make matters worse -as with Albo’s ‘how good are coal exports?” nonsense, means much worse outcomes down the track, which we shall all see. And breath.

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