August 10, 2009 | Graham

ETS – Exit Turnbull Stage left

The release of Malcolm Turnbull’s “Greener, Cheaper, Smarter ETS” puts the seal on his demise. You can explain Utegate away as a bizarre, once-in-a-lifetime accident, but the idea that you fight the government’s ETS by producing one of your own, is complete incompetence.
Apart from anything else, with his credibility, undeservedly, in tatters over a faked email, who is going to believe him when he says his ETS is better than Rudd’s?
It shows that Turnbull just doesn’t “get” politics, and neither, it appears do many of his colleagues. The result is that they may be wedged and forced into a double dissolution election that, while it won’t deliver Rudd control of the Senate, will decimate the Coalition.
The Coalition has a perfectly simple line available to it on the ETS. It is that it will do nothing to slow global warming because unless the rest of the world signs on to similar schemes all it will do is shift Australian emissions to countries without an ETS, and with them, Australian jobs.
This would mesh with growing community concerns that Kevin Rudd doesn’t deliver while avoiding the wedge of whether man-made CO2 emissions are a significant problem. Both the Greens and the coal mining unions could run with this, as could Wilson Tuckey and Greg Hunt.
The ETS is, like the GST, a tax on everything, and like the GST before its implementation, and for sometime after, most people don’t like it. There is also a broad political coalition arrayed against it. It should be easy to beat.
What’s more it is bad policy.
No matter what you think about global warming, the worst way to tackle it is via a complicated artificial market-based mechanism where rights to pollute will be traded using arcane financial instruments, much like, until recently, we’ve been trading mortgages, and we know where that led.
Turnbull undoubtedly needs an alternative policy, and for this there are two options.
He can propose a carbon tax which will replace existing taxes in the system so as to be fiscally neutral. As a tax on virtually everything, it has the many of the same problems of the ETS and is not something you would cheerfully take to an election.
Or he can point out that no matter how high the cost of CO2 emissions, there are no alternative technologies available at the moment to replace hydrocarbon fuels, and that the most sensible use of public monies would be to encourage development of those technologies.
Of course, if the rest of the world comes on board with an ETS, then we will have little choice but to go along with one, but until they do, there is nothing for Australia, and nothing for the Opposition, in supporting an ETS.

Posted by Graham at 11:22 pm | Comments (8) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. I have to agree with you Graham. The ETS will ruin Australia’s economy.

    Comment by Russ — August 11, 2009 @ 3:52 am

  2. Graham,
    I rather think that you’ve missed the bus. You assume that there is a significant constituency out there for a “no plan, do nothing” position. You fail to see that Rudd is actually still very popular in the community. You advocate a more prominent role for Wilson Tuckey. I’d say you won’t be getting to many calls from Liberal Party headquarters.

    Comment by Patrick B — August 11, 2009 @ 9:59 am

  3. And I agree that if someone articulate and respected actually went after the ETS exposing it along the lines you suggest… it would be Kevin and Penny needing to exit left.

    Comment by Jennifer Marohasy — August 11, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  4. Hi Graham. Not so sure about this – I think a “do-nothing” position would take a bit of selling. The Greens would be easier to persuade than the public. Don’t you think the reason that Turnbull’s gone for this bizarre plan is that he’s being told that the public want something done immediately?
    That said, I don’t necessarily disagree that nothing – for now – might wind up being better than the ETS we appear to be getting.

    Comment by Jason — August 11, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  5. When the Swiss Watchmakers invented the digital watch in their laboratories, they treated it like a toy. After all it wasn’t a real watch,was it?
    They did not take out a patent.
    When Texas Instruments and Seiko saw this new watch at an international watch expo, the watch paradigm suddenly had shifted and after one year 65,000 Swiss watch makers were out of work.
    They had paradigm paralysis and could not see the future when it was staring them in the face.
    A lot of people want to hope that climate change is not a paradigm shift and are in serious denial.
    The thing is that when a paradigm shifts, every one goes back to zero.
    If the future really is in renewable energy and Hydro-carbons become feed stock for a chemical industry. Those who now have Paradigm Paralysis will be the big losers. The conservatives and their scientists look like they are dealing themselves out of the game and risk being part of the catastropic changes that more open minded scientists are predicting.
    Sorry Malcolm, you are stuck with the wrong bet.

    Comment by john Ward — August 11, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

  6. The whole thing is a farce.A tax imposed on the basis of an unproven theory and little Aust with less than 0.33% of the world’s pop is going to lead the charge into oblivion.
    Kevin Rudd won’t be so popular when the debt chickens come home to roost.This is the biggest pork barrel in our history.
    I never thought Malcolm would self destruct so easily.The next leader will be a sacrificial lamb[caretaker] also, to reduce the damage,so he can’t have too much ability.Woe is us.

    Comment by Arjay — August 11, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

  7. I just can’t let this stupidity rest.Kevin Rudd is going to borrow on our behalf $ 315 billion over the next few yrs to pay for infrastructure and stimulus packages.In a microcosm we have $5 billion worth of pink bats from China sitting on our docks waiting to installed for free.Many houses can be insulated for far less than $1600.00 say $900.00. Kevin is borrowing billions from China to buy insulation for our houses at inflated labour prices with no added increase in manufacturing or productivity in Australia!Has the penny dropped yet?
    Under Kevin’s policy the yoke of debt will enslave our children forever,yet he has 66% approval rating!
    Get this.We have a private balance of payments deficit due to OS Borrowings of $650 billion plus Kevin’s debt of $ 315 billion.This is almost $1 trillion.Just the interest alone is almost $10,000.00 for every working person pa.How will we ever pay it off particularly if rates rise and they will?
    It took the Howard Govt 10 yrs to pay off $90 billion of Labor debt in the 90’s in boom times.

    Comment by Arjay — August 12, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

  8. I agree with you totally Graham. If the Libs had attacked the ETS starting over a year ago it would be Rudd on the ropes and the general public would have started to turn on this issue. Ok so in the polls people say yes to a wishy question of “should we do something for the environment?” But if they were also asked “how much are you prepared to individually pay to lower carbon emmisions?”, it would be nothing near what the ETS will impose. And the true cost of the ETS isn’t getting out there.
    Turnbull is dead scared he will be called a skeptic and the media won’t love him. The Libs should have been showing Penny Wong up a year ago just as Steve Fielding has managed to do with a few simple question over global warming (with no party machine behind him mind you).
    Come on Libs stand up. You won’t get any votes trying to appeal to the left. The right don’t like it, and the left don’t believe it. Loose/loose.

    Comment by Joe — August 13, 2009 @ 11:04 am

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