Tuesday, February 09, 2010

This week in politics 2

This week has already not disappointed. I foreshadowed yesterday that eventually the Government would explain why an ETS was the preferred approach.

Then yesterday in the Parliament Malcolm Turnbull delivered a speech (at page 6) that was described in the Oz as an excellent speech delivered too late.

In making the case for an ETS Turnbul said;

But, given we have an apparent bipartisan agreement that emissions should be reduced by five per cent of 2000 levels by 2020, is an emissions trading scheme, this CPRS, at a general level the best policy to achieve the desired outcome? Believing as I do, as a Liberal, that market forces deliver the lowest cost and most effective solution to economic challenges, the answer must be yes.

He continued;

These changes have made it into a scheme that appropriately balances environmental effectiveness and economic responsibility. In fact, the proposed scheme very closely resembles the outline of the Howard government’s original 2007 proposal, in both its incidence and its timing. As we have seen in recent days, alternatives such as direct regulation or subsidies will be far more costly to the economy, no matter how hard their designers seek to argue the contrary.

And concluded;

The proposed ETS is a balanced, substantive and timely step forward on an issue of immense importance. By relying so heavily on market forces to address this very severe challenging problem, the ETS is far more in the great traditions of modern liberalism than any other available policy response. After all, I have always believed that Liberals reject the idea that government knows best and embrace the idea that government’s job is to enable each of us to do our best. This ETS allows Australian businesses to make their own decisions as to how to reduce their emissions. Government sets the rules and, in particular, sets the cap on total emissions and then lets the market work out the most efficient and effective outcome. Schemes where bureaucrats and politicians pick technologies and winners, doling out billions of taxpayers’ dollars, neither are economically efficient nor will be environmentally effective. For those reasons, I will be voting in favour of this legislation.

I think the only point he failed to mention is that a market mechanis eventually allows for global trading in the right to emit - so that eventually where, for example, the fossil fuel is burnt is irrelevant. That is, the decisio on where to burn Australian coal is not determined by a country's own targets but by the global target.

Meanwhile the rest of the commentariat in berating spin only asseses spin. I didn't watch all of Q&A - I find the format sometimes really hard to bear. But I don't think the kids caned the PM. In fact, I don't think that is what the audience thought it was doing.

I pose an alternative view. Would the ABC have been able to fill the same room with as many young people to engage the previous PM? Probably not.

Malcolm Colless writing in the Oz has returned to the theme that the PM is a micro-manager who isn't getting the right kind of strong advice from his office. I never thought I'd see the day where a member o the fourth estate was suggesting a PM needed to employ more thuglike characters such as Richo or Peter Barron.

But you see this is still a journalist who criticises the PM as not having substance but thinks the solution is in how you spin it;

Rudd clearly feels that there is a lack of appreciation in the community of the hard yards that his government has covered through daunting times such as the global financial crisis. But in difficult times the electorate is driven very much by hip-pocket issues. The spike in his ratings after he doled out mega-millions in goodwill cheques proved that. But the value from this gesture has quickly dissipated in the face of inflation-driven rises in interest rates and the consequent cost of living. No wonder his tax-based emissions trading scheme spooked the electorate.

All of this underlines the need for a new direction in Rudd's strategy for communicating with the electorate as he leads Labor to this year's poll. He is quick to remind the community that he is up to making the tough and sometimes politically unpalatable decisions that are necessary to make Australia a better place.

It is really easy to make an accusation that the Government doesn't make tough decisions, and then decide to interpret the stimulus plans and other GFC responses as anything other than tough.

I sometimes wonder whether our working press now dislike Kevin Rudd for the same reason they disliked John Howard. That is their determination as PM to try to talk directly to the people rather than through the mediation of the press.

If the press were to start doing decent policy analysis rather than reporting politics as a horse race or celebrity then Prime Ministers might again take them seriously.

The greatest irony of the demise of Malcolm Turnbull is that it was all reported as about the horse race, about winning leasership and winning elections. As I've previously noted losing the Liberal leadership was probably in the long run a good thing for both Turnbull and the Liberal party.

He certainly showed yesterday not only his quality, but why he is appropriately a member of the Liberal Party rather than the ALP. The question is what the rest of the Liberal Party thinks they stand for?

1 comment:

Vic N said...

Really not convinced by Cap-and-Trade.

As James Hansen argued, because cap and trade is enforced through the selling and trading of permits, it actually perpetuates the pollution it is supposed to eliminate. If every polluter’s emissions fell below the incrementally lowered cap, then the price of pollution credits would collapse and the economic rationale to keep reducing pollution would disappear.

Worse yet, in the U.S., polluters’ lobbyists ensured that the clean air amendments allowed existing power plants to be “grandfathered,” avoiding many pollution regulations. These old plants would soon be retired anyway, the utilities claimed. That’s hardly been the case: Two-thirds of today’s coal-fired power plants were constructed before 1975.

Cap and trade also has done little little to improve public health. Coal emissions are still significant contributing factors in four of the five leading causes of mortality in the United States — and mercury, arsenic and various coal pollutants also cause birth defects, asthma and other ailments.

Yet cap-and-trade schemes are still being pursued. They institutionalize the problem they are trying to solve.