February 07, 2007 | Graham

Climate change could work against Rudd

You wouldn’t think it from yesterday’s question time, but global warming could be a bigger political problem for Rudd than Howard. Howard is currently being criticised for appearing to suggest that the link between CO2 and climate is still unproven. That may yet be the case, but it is an untenable position for the leader of any country to take at the moment.
But there is more than one untenable position on the issue when it comes to electors. One of those is to demand that Australia take more than symbolic action to fix the problem.
Howard holds government because of the compact he has made with working class conservative Australians. While global warming is currently the highest rating issue on the news (three out of the four AGW piece we’ve published so far this year are in the top ten percent of most popular articles for that period), that doesn’t mean that it rates outside the news. Average Australians are much more likely to be worrying about what brand of air-conditioner they are going to buy than reducing their “carbon footprint”. And they remain deeply suspicious of “trendy academics” without much “real world” experience.
Rudd is an enthusiast for all things AGW, which is where Howard’s potential benefit lies. If he is going to win the next election Howard needs to renew his compact with blue-collar Australia. He can do this by painting Rudd as a trendy inner-city elitist who wants to impose every currently fashionable notion on Australians, whether or not they work.
Amongst these notions is ratifying the Kyoto protocol. Yesterday’s announcement by the Chinese government that while they accept greenhouse gases are a problem, they don’t intend to stop building CO2 emitting power stations because they can’t afford to, shows just what a political problem it is.
For example Labor needs to win the new seat of Flynn, which is centred on Gladstone in Queensland, with the largest alumina plant in the world. Alumina uses so much electricity, it is sometimes described as “solid electricity”. Howard can go to Gladstone and say:
“If you vote for Kevin Rudd he will sign Australia up to the Kyoto protocol. That means that your power station and your alumnia refinery will go overseas to somewhere like China. And the sum total of difference that will make to global warming will be zero. In fact, it will be less than zero. We will be worse off because not only will our jobs go overseas, but they will go overseas to a country using dirty electricity which will emit even more pollution into the atmosphere than we do.
But what would you expect from Kevin Rudd? He says he has the economic credentials to make Australia strong because he ran Queensland under Wayne Goss. Well, we all remember how Wayne Goss gutted rural and regional Queensland under the fashionable economic theories of the times. Some things never change. So who do you trust to fix global warming and keep you in a job?”
Howard’s taskforce which reported today in favour of carbon trading is a plank in that strategy, as his his other inquiry into nuclear power.
Howard is putting himself in a position where he can pit “bad” Kyoto against “good” Howard policy; trendy Labor versus trustworthy Howard. I’m not putting any bets on the next election yet.

Posted by Graham at 1:21 pm | Comments Off on Climate change could work against Rudd |
Filed under: Australian Politics

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