April 30, 2007 | Graham

Labor the new conservatives

Why should you vote for Kevn Rudd? Because Rudd leads the major party in Australia not committed to radical change. That’s the message from this last weekend’s conference.
Rudd has been running hard on two issues – IR and Greenhouse. His solution to IR is to wind the clock back to somewhere in the mid-Twentieth Century. His solution to Greenhouse – a green-friendly sample bag of government subsidised home improvements that will make very little difference to the level of Australia’s emissions.
Labor’s IR proposals run counter to the needs and inclinations of modern workers. For us flexibility and lifestyle are what is important. Awards and unions are dinosaurs we hardly ever encounter. The evidence is that those who have access to AWAs tend to take them. Australian workers don’t need a “them and us” system to negotiate a fair deal for themselves. As an employer I know they are pretty good at negotiating for themselves.
As an employee – and being both employer and employee concurrently is pretty symptomatic of the present times – I have just been offered an AWA by a university, and I think I will take it.
I know from our research that voters believe that Howard is a man of the past, but on this issue the Opposition is even more old-fashioned.
If Howard gets his news in black and white, it appears that Rudd is still fiddling around with crystal sets.
And fiddling is what Labor is doing when it comes to Greenhouse.
There are two things that I know about voters, again from research. One is that they are worried about Greenhouse. The other is that they will not suffer a significant cut in their living standards to deal with it. That means that electricity and petrol will continue to be staples of our economy as long as they are available. Howard is a Greenhouse Realist (which means that he is not inclined to panics on the issue) and he understands, as Rudd presumably also does, that reliable power means baseload power stations, not dinky solar arrays on roof tops or a cluster of wind turbines somewhere on the coast.
For baseload power there are currently only two reliable solutions – fossil-fuel or nuclear power stations. Howard has never wavered from a belief that we must use both of those, and is spending serious money on research on clean coal technologies to solve the Greenhouse challenges of coal.
Labor has now embraced clean coal technology, but it can’t bring itself to face up to the need for nuclear. The farcical decision on uranium mining demonstrates that it knows nuclear is necessary, but it doesn’t have the political will to implement it in Australia.
It is one thing to wear your greenhouse piety on your sleeve, and another to do something about it. Howard may not be a Greenhouse pharisee, but he is the only one with any practical plans and determination.
Rudd is following a well-worn track. When you look at the major challenges around Australia they are to do with water, roads, infrastructure, public transport, health and education: all areas for which the states are responsible and all areas neglected by state Labor administrations for whom the future is defined as the next election. I’ve been withholding judgement, but I think it is now safe to say that this is Rudd’s idea of the future too.

Posted by Graham at 6:44 am | Comments (4) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Graham,
    I agree with everything you say, except for the nuclear energy bit.
    Nuclear power is bloody dangerous, and it always will be.

    Comment by Leigh — April 30, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

  2. Put yourself in Rudd’s position. He knows the people are worried. Research shows they are willing to pay more for their electricity if that will help reduce emissions. There are two technologies which can be implemented inside his next term – and neither is clean coal or nuclear. A huge proportion of the electricity generated in base load stations is lost in transmission lines. Sliver technology will dramatically increase the efficiency and lower the cost of PV cells. Tehey will be on the market within three years. Distributed power delivers a net result. People who are at work all day will be delivering the power they generate back into the grid, as they do now. 30% of domestic power is consumed by hot water systems: already there is a backlog of supply of over a year as consumers act to install them. Similarly with rain water tanks. How rocks technology is vastly more simple to implement that nuclear and the first station will be on stream within five years. If you were Rudd what would you do? You do want Green preferences I assume…

    Comment by John MacKean — April 30, 2007 @ 4:56 pm

  3. There are at least six major reasons why nuclear power is irrelevant to the global warming problem:
    Only about one fifth of energy used in industrialised countries is in the form of electricity yet that is all nuclear power is capable of supplying;
    currently only around 2%of world electricity (not energy!)comes from nuclear power. If a substantial percentage of world energy came from nuclear plants, economically accessible yellow-cake would last only a few years;
    no-one knows how to dispose of nuclear plants at the end of their life. It has never been done, although world-wide there are dozens of power stations beyond their use-by date. Some nuclear scientists suggest that if all the energy that goes into the building, running, fuelling and disposal of a nuclear power station and its wastes were totted up, it would exceed the station’s lifetime output of electrical energy. Much of this energy, such as concrete containment structures, has to come from fossil fuels;
    the nuclear fuel cycle is largely identical with the process of building nuclear weapons and it is clear that this is in the minds of many of those promoting nuclear energy in countries like Australia. Philip Baxter certainly made no bones about his nuclear weapons ambitions when he was head of the Australia Atomic Energy Commission. ASIS, the military arm of our secret agency structure, was a major contributor to the apparatus pressing for OPAL, the Lucas Heights replacement reactor, which has hardly any functions
    other than giving us a seat on the nuclear club IAEC (for what it is worth);
    Because the usual time for construction of a nuclear power station from design to commissioning is around 15 years, this would provide a convenient delay for our government which has no intention of really engaging with the greenhouse question. This would be exacerbated by conflict with the states which would certainly refuse to harbour nuclear installations on their soil, as they did when faced with providing a site for low and medium level waste storage, which had to be sited on Commonwealth land.
    Certainly, nuclear power for Australia is meaningless; red herrings cannot as yet be used to generate anything other than verbal heat.
    Gerry Harantt.

    Comment by Gerry Harant — April 30, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

  4. John MacKean doesn’t refer to the ‘research’ that supposedly shows that we are willing to pay more for electricity. I am not willing to pay more than I do now to pay for some pie-in-the-sky scheme which is unlikely to do a damnn thing about emissions.
    We cannot stop people claiming: ‘research shows’, ‘recent poll proves..’, etc. But we do not have to believe them. Nor should we believe them, unless they can give as a reference to polls they invoke. Some of the questions used in these polls will show us that no other answers than those the pollsters wanted were possible. Polls can be a big con.
    Incidentally, equal numbers (to the doomsayers) are now saying that emissions generated by humans have absolutely nothing to do with global warming/climate change etc., so there is nothing humans can do about this current cyclic event – if it is an event!

    Comment by Leigh — May 1, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

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