Considering Labor’s position on the climate change bandwagon

In recent months, it has been somewhat surprising to find that the issue of climate change has been so successfully thrust into the limelight of public political debate. Let’s face it – it is relatively rare for political issues that have a lifecycle vastly longer than the next election campaign to take hold in the imagination of the media and the restless public. It is even rarer for issues to take hold when they run counter to the all-pervading mass consumer culture that underpins all Western-style economies in the modern age.

More over the fold.

On climate change issues, the Liberal and National parties have been behind the game for quite a while now. Part of the reason for this is that imposing further government controls on production runs counter to the “small governmentâ€? / “low interventionâ€? approach to policy that the conservatives tend to hold dear. The conservatives also seem to have a natural aversion to the politics of climate change for the plain and simple fact that these issues are stereotypically seen as leftist policy issues. No doubt there are many within the Howard Government who believe that significant political capital can be gained by attacking the reform agenda of the Greens (and to a lesser extent, Labor) and maintaining a firmly pro-business line.

The Greens are of course the party that most people associate with the politics of climate change. Support for the Greens has been consolidated and embellished in recent years by a slowly growing degree of disenfranchisement with the major parties; a disenfranchisement felt by a certain proportion of voters who want change and are dissatisfied with the preparedness or ability of the major parties to deliver it. As well as being probably the most strident critics of the environmental status quo, the Greens also seem to serve as a default repository for protest votes for those dissatisfied with the performance of the Labor Party in other areas. It is unclear how much of the Greens’ support is drawn from simple dissatisfaction with Labor and how much is drawn from the more aggressive policies that the Greens advocate in relation to issues like climate change. Interestingly. the policies of the Greens are currently being reviewed and are not available online at the time of writing.

So where does this leave Labor in relation to climate change? In a spot of bother. The politics of environmentalism are treacherous and need to be carefully negotiated, as the fallout from Labor’s Tasmanian forests policy during the last election campaign has shown us. Preferably, Federal Labor should propose a strong, moral and forthright policy platform in relation to climate change and conservation that captures the seemingly buoyant community desire for more activity from Canberra, but does not completely alienate business or (for example) the representatives of some unions which form part of its support base.

The most recent development from Federal Labor in relation to climate change has been a quite astonishingly arrogant step – the organisation of a national summit on climate change hosted by the party. The summit occurred on Saturday in Canberra, and appears at least from my eyes to be a spot of grandstanding, albeit some quite well intentioned (and well orchestrated!) grandstanding.

Kevin Rudd gave an introductory speech at the conference and his opening remarks defining the problem facing the country are generally on the money:

Climate change is the great moral challenge of our generation.

Climate change is not just an environmental challenge.

Climate change is an economic challenge, a social challenge, and actually represents a deep challenge on the overall question of national security.

It’s for those sorts of reasons that people like Schwarzenegger in California are now describing climate change as the first great ‘post-partisan political issue’. And so it should be.

That first line strikes me as somewhat hyperbolic, but Rudd is correct in observing that the problem of tackling climate change is a multifaceted one. What happens to the jobs that are lost when Australia eventually starts to move away from its strong dependence on coal power? What happens to the jobs that are lost when forestry operations are scaled back further? How can we best prepare the nation for an embrace of alternative energy industries and ensure that Australia is ready to take the difficult steps towards a more environment-friendly provisioning of resources?

Make no mistake – Rudd is framing climate change as a partisan issue and will use it to attack the Howard Government in this year’s election campaign. For all his talk of post-partisanism, the fact that this single day summit seems to have involved no other political parties or speakers who wholeheartedly endorse the Howard Government view on climate change is telling. This summit was hardly a wholehearted debate in the true sense of the word, even though representatives from industry, business and environmental groups were in attendance. Part of the purpose of the exercise seems to have been to establish in the eyes of the media the fact that the Rudd Opposition is prepared to do some quite difficult things to stimulate debate, and gather momentum towards a political consensus on important political issues. Holding your own rent-a-summit in the middle of an election year in Canberra from Opposition is no mean feat. This act of political bravura is the act of an Opposition Leader whose confidence in himself is sky high.

The meat of the Rudd Opposition’s policies on climate change currently position Labor quite neatly between the Howard Government and the Greens. Labor supports the ratification of Kyoto, the reduction of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050, and initiatives to fund clean coal and “green carâ€? development initiatives. These proposals position Labor as being concertedly more aggressive than the government on climate change issues, and sidestep the difficult issues associated with investigating nuclear power, for better or worse. The Greens are still more aggressive in their approach than Labor, but perhaps too aggressive to ever be accepted by industry groups and much of the mainstream. I don’t believe it is possible to convince a high-consuming, high-polluting society like Australia’s to simply go on “hunger strikeâ€? in response to the issues raised by climate change. Healthy “dietingâ€? here is what is needed by Australia; to begin with, at least. I don’t think Australia can kick its coal habit in just a year or two – at least not without positively seismic domestic implications.

Three new initiatives announced this past weekend further the Rudd Opposition’s climate change agenda. A diplomatic initiative with China has been proposed – whereby members of Labor’s Shadow Ministry will effectively “travel under the radarâ€? to have roundtable talks with Chinese officials. This is an astonishingly bold step that undercuts the Howard Government completely, and probably one that only the Mandarin-speaking Rudd could pull off, most likely with the help from some old friends in Beijing. An Australian “Stern Reportâ€? would be commissioned by a Rudd Labor Government, to further investigate the local implications of addressing climate change. And an Office of Climate Change would be established within the office of the Prime Minister, no doubt to allow Rudd some direct input into facilitating the climate change initiatives being championed by Labor in government.

In short, I really do think that Kevin Rudd has shown his somewhat freakish political aptitude once again. Al Gore, that modern day doyen of global warming, has already extended what seems to be quite a ringing endorsement. With a softly, softly approach to industry, and a package that is guaranteed to woo the vast majority of preference flows from the Greens, Labor is already looking to be in a much more carefully considered position on the environment in 2007 than it did in 2004.

With the combatants poised in their current stances, and the public’s notorious distrust of nuclear power still alive and well, I don’t see how Howard can hope to outflank Labor on this issue.


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66 comments on “Considering Labor’s position on the climate change bandwagon
  1. Steve says:

    Don’t think Howard has any idea as to how big this issue is and that by pushing the Nuclear button as a major solution is just seen as out of his depth and way past his use by date.

  2. Uncle Milton says:

    “No doubt there are many within the Howard Government who believe that significant political capital can be gained by … maintaining a firmly pro-business line.”

    Business in Australia is now firmly in favour of policies to curb carbon emissions. All of them accept the science. This can be seen by reading their submissions to Howard’s task group on emissions trading. It’s true even of mining companies, oil companies (including Exxon Mobil) and companies that burn coal to produce electricity.

    The Business Council of Australia, the (reflexively pro Liberal Party) Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, various industry associations, etc, have all jumped on board.

    This doesn’t mean that have become Greens in suits, of course. They may just be pragmatically adjusting their positioning on the issue to the zeitgeist. But one would struggle to find a significant business in Australia that is openly climate change denialist. In this respect, they are far ahead of the government, which still contains a fair few denialists, like Nick Minchin, and a few sceptics, like Howard himself.

    Where there is a quitea deep division within the business community is on the merits of a carbon tax versus emissions trading, which is quite strange, considering that they pretty much have equivalent effects.

  3. I’m not sure, but if I had to guess the split over a carbon tax versus carbon trading is driven by the different business sectors who bear different risks.

    As I understand it, in a carbon trading scheme, companies who bear risks according to the level of greenhouse pollution a(such as insurers) re best hedged, because there is a hard limit on the emissions level and the costs of permits will adjust accordingly. The big emitters bear the uncertainty. With a carbon tax, the emitters have certainty to make investment decisions accordingly, but the insurers bear the risk of not knowing what the level of emissions will be.

    Furthermore, taxes are more transparent than a trading system; if the carbon tax rises everybody knows about it. I suspect some of the emitters regard this as a desirable feature as it makes it easier to put pressure on the government to not raise taxes.

    In practice, of course, tax levels, and quantities of permits issued, are subject to fiddling if the economy goes haywire in the process, so it probably works out pretty much the same in the end anyway, as the economists have said.

  4. observa says:

    “Where there is a quitea deep division within the business community is on the merits of a carbon tax versus emissions trading, which is quite strange, considering that they pretty much have equivalent effects.”

    Oh they do in principle Unca Milt, as Gittins describes so eloquently here

    The crunch is
    “So whether the proceeds of the implicit tax end up in the government’s hands depends on whether the government auctions off the original emission permits or whether it merely gives them away to the companies in the industry according to their existing levels of production.”

    Well faced with Gittins probable fait accompli, what can a multinational/big biz do but hop all aboard the new leftist inspired $120bill gravy train described here

    In the comments there I outline broadly what you really need to do to make a cap and trade system, in principle, the same as a carbon tax regime. That’s not what the failed Kyoto emissions handouts have achieved. In fact the emissions rights were so generous, their initial price collapsed. Nevertheless, with stats on actual emissions now that will change and naturally the locall BCA is happy to hop aboard the free gravy train here. Wouldn’t you all have liked to be around at the same time they dished out all those water rights years ago? Welcome to the future legacy of the God players with Kyoto. There are many new disciples of course, wanting all that mannah from Heaven.

  5. observa says:

    As usual the leftist quantity control freaks are gunna help screw the little bloke over for decades to come. Nothing new here, move along.

  6. Paul Norton says:

    Good post, Steve.

    I agree that Labor have positioned themselves very well on this issue for the election, aided considerably by the willingness of the Mining & Energy Division of the CFMEU to involve itself and its members proactively in the policy debate. This has marginalised the most conservative elements within the ALP who would use a professed concern for workers’ jobs as a reason not to run hard on the issue.

    In policy terms, there is no need to be frightening the horses by talk of shutting down the coal industry within the first term of government. There are big emissions reductions to be had quickly with a net economic benefit by aggressively promoting energy efficiency.

    Tim Colebatch provides a good discussion of the issue in today’s Age.

  7. Uncle Milton says:

    Observa, I refer you to the Productivity Commission’s submission to the Howard task group. The PC, which is the institutional bastion of free market economic rationalism in Australia, makes the following conclusions on the merits of emissions trading compared to emissions taxes

    “no instrument dominates the other … ultimately, the choice of instrument will depend on the weighting given to various aspects, whether it is to be applied domestically or multilaterally, and the specific design features of the tax and trading system … on the multilateral evel, the need to minimise the interference with participants’ sovereignyu mau be a strong argument for cap-and-trade system. In domestic policy, different countries have chosen either instrument or a combination of both”.

    In other words, it’s not a big deal, either way, so you can safely stop hyper-ventilating about gravy trains and quantity control freaks.

  8. steve says:

    Read the Productivity Commission Report here

  9. grace pettigrew says:

    With all their negative carping and wedge politics, not only the Howard Government, but most of the mainstream media, seems to be missing what the electorate has grasped quickly, that there are many positives to be gained by shifting to a greener future, if we can do it together as a nation.

    People understand intuitively that living cleaner and greener is better than what we have now – belching smoke on the way to work, watching the trees die, and buying more stuff. It might even be exciting and profitable, if we are not hamstrung by all the usual rent-a-crowd economic doomsayers, from John Howard down, who have held sway in our public discourse for far too long.

    My family was part of the earth hour switch off last saturday night even though we do not live in sydney, and it felt great, the kids loved it. Yes, I know, it probably made not much difference to greenhouse gas emissions for that period, but that does not diminish its value, which lay in the good feeling that comes from “coming together” across the nation for one small hour.

    We are Australians, we can do what’s needed, and we want to do it. Get off the bus Howard, you are holding us all back.

    This is an inspiring moment in history when casting off the dreary shackles of “work till you drop” and “have another for the country” looks actually inviting. Facing into the wind and taking a punt for the sake of our children’s future is not such a bad idea, and Rudd’s right onto it. Good for him.

  10. observa says:

    Come off it Uncle. What would you expect ‘public servants’ to say to their masters? Raise taxes up front and transparently vs sneak them in via the back door boss? Look how the various Kyoto signatories raised their initial caps so high as to be virtually meaningless for reducing GG over the last 3 years too. As for govts holding a true auction as I pointed out, in order to capture the true economic rent and make the two regimes, in principle the same, whaddya reckon? If they did that, the real risks and downsides in what they’re doing would be totally transparent and as politically unsaleable too. Nic Gruen shows us the true cost of that little tradeoff and where it’s all going. Screw the little bloke over again.

  11. observa says:

    Why not auction the warrants I describe and put the proceeds in the Future Fund eh? Pay for future public servant adviser’s super and a couple of public broadband rollouts for rent to the highest bidders eh? Instead the luvvies are gunna give it all out to you know who. The multis and Big Biz, which ultimately feeds their big union mates. Bah, phoneys!

  12. Uncle Milton says:

    “Come off it Uncle. What would you expect ‘public servants’ to say to their masters?”

    Obs, you should familiarise yourself with the working of the PC. It is an independent body, and has a long and proud history of giving advice to governments that was the last thing they wanted to hear, especially publicly.

    On the particular issue which so agitates you, the allocation of emission permits, the PC has a balanced and sensible discussion of the pros and cons of auctioning them versus giving them away.

  13. observa says:

    I wonder if they’d like a balanced discussion with the owners of Cubby Station about whether they get auction price for them or give back their water rights?

  14. observa says:

    we’re not arguing about the problem, or in front of the kiddies, just about the best way of securing, rather than selling out their future. In the meantime we can all play turning out the light games with them, when they’re around.

  15. tim says:

    Robert, you say:

    “there is no need to be frightening the horses by talk of shutting down the coal industry within the first term of government. There are big emissions reductions to be had quickly with a net economic benefit by aggressively promoting energy efficiency.’

    The thing is, energy efficiency cutting greenhouse emissions means one thing, and one thing alone – using less coal. The more we cut emissions using efficiency (and renewables for that matter), the less coal we burn.

    Sure, talking of shutting down the coal industry within one term of government is unnecessarily frightening the horses, but it’s worth noting that that is not actually Greens policy – it’s a misrepresentation of it by Howard, Rudd and the MSM. The policy is actually to develop a strategy for shutting down the coal industry within the first term of government.

    And by the way, in case you missed it, we geosequestration sceptics got a boost the other day when Paul Anderson of BHP Billiton came out:

  16. Paul Norton says:

    Tim, I said that, not Robert. I only said it because the original post stated that:

    I don’t think Australia can kick its coal habit in just a year or two – at least not without positively seismic domestic implications.

    and I thought this warranted a response. Of course I know it’s not the Greens’ policy to do this, despite what various usual suspects have said.

  17. Guy says:

    Quite apart from what Labor or the Greens or anyone might say, does anyone have any thoughts on how long it would realistically take (ignoring the political difficulties and economic ramifications for the time being) to wind down the coal industry?

  18. tim says:

    Paul and Robert, apologies to you both.

    Guy, I can imagine it might be possible to give a picture of how fast we could phase out coal ignoring the political difficulties, but it’s not really possible to do it ignoring the economic ramifications.

    You, see the picture would change so dramatically, depending on that factor.

    Technically, we could replace coal across Australia by 2020 using efficiency and renewables such as solar thermal, geothermal, wave, bioenergy and wind. And there’s no real reason beyond politics and economics (?) why we couldn’t stop exporting coal tomorrow. So there’s the answer, I guess. In a nutshell.

    When you take the economics into account, it really depends who you listen to. My view is that there is no reason economically why we can’t do it by 2020 – both domestic and export. Sure, it’d raise the price of electricity. But you could offset that partially with efficiency measures and with assistance to the poorest to help them get by. The rest we’ll live with (at least more easily than we’ll live with climate change). The other big economic question is jobs. Over that time, you could retrain workers and seed new industries in their areas to ensure that employment in coal areas actually grows rather than shrinks.

    Politically, I believe the biggest challenge is not business – they’re coming on board fast. I reckon it’s the unions who’ll be blocking action the longest. Once we can convince them of the benefits of a Just Transitions process, we can launch straight in and do it.

  19. Spiros says:

    “Technically, we could replace coal across Australia by 2020 using efficiency and renewables such as solar thermal, geothermal, wave, bioenergy and wind.”

    That is totally fanciful. 2020 is only 13 years away. None of those technologies is even remotely close to replacing coal for base load power.

  20. More to the point, if you’re ruling out nuclear, the only thing coal-fired power stations are likely to be replaced with within that time is gas-fired power stations. Which is fine, and less polluting than coal. Until, that is, the price of gas starts to skyrocket as it rapidly becomes a globally tradeable commodity…

  21. tim says:

    Spiros, I am happy to email you the CSIRO report that I sent to Brian recently that finds quite clearly that solar thermal power is mature and ready to replace baseload coal. What’s more it’ll be cost competitive with coal within 7 years. Start rolling out 1GW plants in 2009 and you’d get more than 50% of Australia’s power from solar thermal by 2020.

    Next stop wind power, which can easily supply 30% of our demand without detabilising the grid. If we support wind like the Spaniards, Germans and Danes have, we could reach that target around 2020.

    Efficiency can cut our demand by 30% immediately. It’ll grow again from that level, but we can keep it close to 25% below current demand through to 2020 and beyond.

    Bioenergy is a mature technology that could meet some 20% of our needs by 2020 if we give it the right incentives.

    By 2020, with the right incentives, wave and geothermal will be ready to start pumping substantial amounts of power into the grid, too.

    This is not fanciful technically. It may be fanciful politically, at this stage, though.

  22. hannah says:

    tim on 4 April 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Spiros, I am happy to email you the CSIRO report that I sent to Brian recently that finds quite clearly that solar thermal power is mature and ready to replace baseload coal. What’s more it’ll be cost competitive with coal within 7 years.

    Is this what you are referring to tim?

    “Solar thermal technology is capable of producing Australia’s entire electricity demand and is the only renewable energy capable of making deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, a confidential coal research report obtained by The Canberra Times says.
    The report, by the Cooperative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development, claims solar thermal technology “is poised to play a significant role in baseload generation for Australia” and will be cost-competitive with coal within seven years.”

    From the link above.

  23. Paul Norton says:

    I reckon it’s the unions who’ll be blocking action the longest.

    Having written a chapter of my Ph.D. thesis on the unions’ role in the greenhouse debate, I beg to differ. I think that if the appropriate deliberative forums are established to enable the views and interests of coal mining workers and energy sector workers to be considered, if it becomes clear that the climate change problem can’t be solved without significantly curtailing coal, and if the employment, retraining and economic needs of the workers are adequately provided for in a transition program, the Mining & Energy Division of the CFMEU will take a deep and pensive breath and cooperate. I think it’s the fossil fuel bosses (and probably also the aluminium industry) which will be most intransigent.

  24. Tim, with the greatest respect, that’s hopelessly optimistic. It would probably take seven years to get the first such plant operating if the feasibility and approval process started right now; it apparently takes about six or seven years from go to woa to build a wind farm from scratch – the construction time might be relatively short, collecting all the necessary data and getting the requisite approvals isn’t.

  25. wilful says:

    One obvious difference between a tax and a trading scheme that is important that doesn’t seem to get mentioned is that a tax will only ever be applied nationally, while a trading scheme could hook into an international system easily. This would be it’s great strength, and challenge, to my mind. If we can offset India and China more cheaply over there than here, we should do so, but there will be rorts and dodgy accounting galore. I think that a (revenue neutral) tax would be much simpler and provide opportunities to reform some inefficient taxes, like payroll.

    Observa, are you on drugs? Climate change and proposed economic solutions have little or nothing to do with “luvvie lefties”. Try reading what the big Australian companies think about this issue.

  26. Bridie says:

    Mechanisation is and will continue to significantly reduce the overall number of jobs for miners and hard heads in the CFMEU mining division are well aware of the need to adapt and would participate in a Just Transition scheme, particularly if they are given no other choice, which would be one choice more than was given by government and industry to tens of thousands of workers in the heavily restructured public sector and manufacturing industries in recent decades. (Newcastle being a prominent exception.)

    Unliking the Forestry Division of the CFMEU, the Mining Division has a long history of trade unionism that encompasses active support for a diverse range of social justice, internationalist and environmental issues (including feminism!) as well as the more typical economic issues of wages and conditions. The mining union section of the CFMEU is characterised by a collectivist working class ethos quite different from that existing among the more individualistic and stratified owner-driver subcontractors and their employees typical of forestry work. These will prove to be important differences in how the two sectors react in coming climate change battles.

    “Beyond Coalâ€? by Geoff Evans in the latest “Chain Reactionâ€? elaborates.

    Mineworkers have more to fear from unilateral employer labour cuts than a moratorium on new mines, as former CFMEU leader John Maitland noted to an industry conference in 2003, when he said: “As far as jobs and climate change go, the reality is that industry restructuring will probably destroy more coal jobs than climate change politics ever will.You can’t ward off the greenhouse challenge by saying you are defending jobs – because there are precious few jobs anyway.â€? for web.pdf

  27. grace pettigrew says:

    And who put you in charge of the debate Observa? You seem to spend most of your time on this website and others talking to yourself. Or hadn’t you noticed?

  28. steve says:

    If anyone can dig out the Lateline transcript from February, 7, 2007, it contains valuable information from the Minister for Merchant Banking speaking to Tony Jones regarding clean coal technologies.

    The ABC has their wires crossed on the clip not matching the date. If anyone can get written transcript please post it here for all to read.

  29. tim says:

    Hannah, yes that’s the one. The report has been buried, but I downloaded a copy before it was removed from public access. Happy to distribute.

    Paul, I would be absolutely fascinated to read this chapter and more of your thesis. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to share? I guess the reason I think the unions are likely to be a bigger block is because the business community is currently moving far faster. Not the aluminium industry, sure, but I reckone they’ll get left behind soon enough. Unless and until the ALP takes on Just Transitions and does the hard sell, the CFMEU mining will block action.

    That’s how it seems from here. Keen to be convinced otherwise.

  30. tim says:

    Robert, what I presented was indeed optimistic, and possibly hopelessly so. But it was a technical reality. These technologies are technically able to replace coal in a very short time frame. Whether the politics will allow it is another question. The economics, too, are another question.

    Re approvals processes – that’s a political decision. I have no doubt at all that if Howard is re-elected and decides to go nuclear, he’ll dispense with public consultations and legal approvals processes as fast as you can say “Paul Lennon”. If we decided that climate change was urgent enough and important enough, we could do the same for approvals processes for renewables developments.

    Re wind farms – you’re absolutely right that construction time is short and much of the time is data collection. However, you might not realise that an enormous amount of data has already been collected and is sitting waiting to be used. Pretty much all of south east Australia has been wind-mapped. When the MRET review happened, there were literally tens of thousands of MW worth of projects on the boil. When the government nixed the target, they were all dropped. They can be up and running in no time.

    This is what sets renewables and efficiency aside from geosequestration. Renewables and efficiency are technically able to be implemented now. There are numerous examples all over the world of each major technology operating at large scale. I am ‘hopelessly optimistic’ that we will soon enough get the drivers to implement them. On the other hand, geosequestration is not technically ready and is unlikely to be for over a decade, if ever. No-one has demonstrated long-term storage of super-critical carbon dioxide captured from a coal-fired power station.

    Compared to what I set out, relying on geosequestration is a giant leap of faith.

  31. hannah says:

    I’d like a copy of the CSIRO report please tim.
    How do we organize that?

  32. observa says:

    From BHP Billiton
    “Mr Anderson said he did not favour an emissions trading scheme. He said it was too open to “political mischief” that would allow companies to lobby for special deals or exemptions and not achieve the necessary cuts to their emissions.

    While he supported a carbon tax on emissions, he acknowledged he was in the minority.”

    Yes he and I are in the minority Grace, but he’s being more honest than the BCA, given his company’s position in the marketplace. Be clear, I’m not denying the GW problem, just saying to the new evangelists whoa up a bit and think about the right direction, before we all go charging off. Now our parents and grandparents might be forgiven for not considering all the intergenerational ramifications of doling out the Murray Darling instead of selling(taxing) the water annually, but there’s no excuse for us to make the same mistakes today. Our kids and grandkids might grow up to ask us why we gave out these rights to pollute for nothing and might not take kindly to- ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time and besides it was the easy thing politically”

  33. tim says:

    Erm, I don’t actually know, Hannah. Brian emailed me. I assume as one of the official LP’ers he could access my email address from my posts.

    Brian, could you pass it on, if you are watching this thread? Or maybe one of the other admins here could send Hannah my email address?


  34. observa says:

    However far away or well developed the alternative technologies are, they would all come on stream faster with a carbon tax and it’s flexible and reversible if we ever get a rude shock about the cause of GW. Furthermore it’s not open to political mischief like Kyoto has been and as a consequence has achieved nothing in the last 3 years. As for giving away the increasingly scarce right to pollute to the multis and big biz, what more can I say here? Don’t worry, I’ll be watching closely which ones get handed them, in order to adjust my share portfolio accordingly.

  35. John Greenfield says:

    While it is comforting that Australians are ready for a lengthy and sustained debate on how we should approach climate change, the theatre of Labor and The Greens scratching each others eyes out will be the highlight of this campaign. Me suspects it will get ugly. REAL ugly.

  36. Guy says:

    I don’t think so John. Oh, there will be skirmishes and accusations and I’m sure some of it won’t be pretty, but at the end of the day, Labor and the Greens’ mutual dislike of the Howard Government and desire for a change in government should prevail.

  37. Mark says:

    Or maybe one of the other admins here could send Hannah my email address?

    Duly passed on, tim!

  38. John Greenfield says:


    There is some sense in that, but at the end of the day, The Greens exist as a distinct and unique political movement and party. I can’t imagine too much preparedness to assume the position of Labor’s cheersquad or Second Eleven. I imagine no prisoners will be taken in tryingt win seats such as Sydney and Grayndler

  39. steve says:

    Funnily enough I think that it is the Libs and Nats who are well and truly out of their depth on this one and will be struggling to keep up with the debate. The general population is so far ahead of the Government on this issue that it might just be the Tories kicked from all sides rather than your bloodbath predictions of Labor v Green.

    Even Big business has left the Government standing at the barrier while they race to set targets that the Government still denies is needed. See the Mineral Council’s break from Government thinking here.

    Even though they don’t give an actual figure for a target it is obvious that they are concerned that the targets be realistic so it is obviously not with the Government that they will be having any input into on this issue.

  40. Mark says:

    The Greens usually have a better chance in the smaller and more demographically homogenous state electorates, John.

    In Grayndler, they came in third behind the Liberal in 04:

    Philip Myers Grn 15,914 21.1 ( 08.0)
    Sue Johnson SA 1,010 01.3
    Jen Harrison AD 1,579 02.1 (-07.0)
    Anthony ALBANESE * ALP 38,634 51.2 ( 02.0)
    Stephanie Kokkolis Lib 18,347 24.3 ( 01.4)

    Note that there was a swing to Albanese, and much of the Greens’ improvement over 2001 looks to be a straight swap from the Democrats.

    The Libs were further ahead of the Greens in Sydney, and the story is not dissimilar, except that Plibersek needed preferences whereas Albanese didn’t:

    Jane Ward 1,346 01.6
    Jenny Leong Grn 17,784 21.6 ( 06.9)
    Michael Shevers Lib 23,419 28.5 (-01.6)
    Tanya Plibersek * ALP 36,766 44.7 ( 00.3)
    Adrian Ford CEC 150 00.2
    Michael Webb 553 00.7
    Susan Price SA 564 00.7
    Michelle Bleicher AD 1,701 02.1 (-08.8)

    I don’t think Plibersek and Albanese will be losing much sleep.

  41. Brian says:

    Or maybe one of the other admins here could send Hannah my email address?

    Duly passed on, tim!

    Before I saw that, Mark, I emailed the report to Hannah.

  42. Brian says:

    observa, since everyone has been slagging off at what the Europeans are doing on emissions trading, you might be interested in an article by Ian Hamilton in today’s AFR. He says phase one was a dress rehearsal and doesn’t matter. They are setting up Phase 2 (2008-2012) at present:

    The European Commission has so far matched words with action to ensure the phase one over-allocation of permits, which meant little action to reduce emissions, is not repeated.

    Of 18 of the 27 phase two national allocation plans so far ruled on, 15 have had cuts imposed, savage in some cases, as Brussels engineers a shortage of permits to ensure the EU’s Kyoto emission targets will be met.

    As he says, whether this works remains to be seen, but we should realise two things.

    First, they are serious about climate change.

    Second, they aren’t a mob of silly clowns who couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery, no matter how Anglo-Saxon countries tend to view them.

    On business in general, the BCA said today that they were in favour of targets and trading. Essentially they can see it coming and want to know what regime they’ll be planning future investments under.

    And, yes, the insurance industry. But also one of the big financial or accounting firms, can’t remember which, did a study of the top 100 companies to assess how they would perform in a GW world which was written up in the BRW. Merchant bankers and stockbroking firms would have their heads right into the issue.

  43. Mark says:

    Oh, thanks, Brian!

  44. Brian says:

    Guy, thanks for the post.

    My main comment is that there was a reason for the summit that parhaps has not been recognised. It was announced when the nuclear debate first became lively. It was evident that the full range of attitudes within the ALP.

    Rudd had declared himself in favour of more mines for export but no nuclear power stations here. It was also an agenda item on national Conference. Rudd said there was going to be a debate and that he would win.

    So his prestige is on the line and of course he’ll win, over the views of his shadow minister (Garrrett) who will lose.

    I see the summit as working for Rudd the same way as the Intergenerational Report did for Costello. Costello used the report to bring in policies and provisions that had little to do with the report, or even ran counter to it.

    So Rudd is boosting his cred on the issue, certainly within the community but above all within his own party.

  45. observa says:

    “On business in general, the BCA said today that they were in favour of targets and trading. Essentially they can see it coming and want to know what regime they’ll be planning future investments under”

    I understand what you’re saying Brian about new Kyoto targets, but who gave them their initial targets? Surely not the political mischeif makers BHP’s Anderson speaks about, putting one over all those worldly pollies and experts? As if we don’t get enough special pleading by big biz now, like in my state with Mitsubishi getting Rann and the Feds to trot out Bert Kelly’s cow regularly. So we get well into emissions trading with all those giveaway rights to the multis. Can’t you just see the bean counters looking over the sums of some aging aluminium smelter in Bracksland, or car factory in Ranndom. It needs a bit of an upgrade and the returns are looking a bit so so, but closing down and scrapping all that investment is a mighty tough call. But wait a bit! Look at the price of our emission rights now? Wow! Time to liquidate them and move to China, unless it’s a helluva lot more of Bert Kelly’s cow. Get the minister on the phone.

    I might just be a cynical old bastard, but I’ve been around long enough to remember some wise words, to beware an honest gathering of businessmen like the BCA, especially when they’re singing from the same book of lullabies as a bunch of lefty greens. Feels like a smash and grab going down to me, but I’ll shutup now and hang about quietly for the droppings.

  46. Brian says:

    tim, on the CSIRO report, I still have some hope we might do a post on it. But I have read it and am not quite so sanguine.

    We are talking concentrated solar power here, so it needs direct sunlight. The forms that are likely to be used can store energy, but only for about 13 hours, although it says 17 in one place, at a cost of course. (Storage was via a tank of molten salt.) Conditions are best 150 km from the east coast, but we have rainy days even there.

    I got the impression that the main use would be as a booster for traditional power plants, and it seems they can be integrated quite well.

    The cost issue was mainly one of scaling up, plus some efficiencies that would come from ‘learning’. Certainly 7 years was mentioned, but 2020 is perhaps more realistic if there are strong incentives or a market intervention to go down that track.

    But I still had the impression that solar was seen as an adjunct to coal. Not surprising, since Big Coal funded the study. And the solar chapter was only one of 13 in the whole report on future energy options, which I don’t have and wouldn’t have time to cope with.

    I’ll have another look, but that was the first take. certainly it showed solar in a better light than we usually see it.

  47. hannah says:

    Received, thank you gentlemen.

  48. Mark says:

    Pleasure, hannah, glad to be of some assistance.

  49. Brian says:

    observa, you have every right to be a cynical old bastard, and if I dug up a BBC item I saw recently it would feed your cynicism. There were stories of exceptions being made for projects that created jobs in particular areas in Britain.

    Also in Germany, they haven’t made provision, which they must do in law, to stop power companies building coal powered stations, and just last year Angela Merkel was promoting some particularly dirty ones in the east. Again jobs are an issue. There’s also is a suspicion that she’s angling to shed her coalition mates and go nuclear after the next election.

    So all these things need to happen in the real world, but we are reading about them, and as we go forward I suspect the wriggle room will decrease.

  50. tim says:

    Mark and Brian, thank you both.

  51. steve says:

    Well according to the Minister for Merchant Banking we certainly won’t be sending any clean coal technology to China any time soon but stresses that urgent action must be taken to clean up the mess in China and the US. He can’t have it both ways.

    China has 10 nuclear power reactors and a proposed total of 19. So how come if the Nuclear option is so clean and green is China still building coal fired power stations? The US has been a nuclear power for years too and is the other major GHG emitter. Something just doesn’t make sense about the whole nuclear argument.

  52. observa says:

    Eschew all that cynicism, the Observa has woken up to The Advertiser headline “GREEN MINE” ‘Expanded Olympic Dam to cut emissions’ Well hallelujah, I can stop nagging MissO to turn off the lights and open up the blinds during the day(is that normal behaviour for 19yr old young women?)

    Well not quite it seems, despite all the flummery and the pump up editorial to boot.
    ‘Nearly one-fifth of the energy use in the expanded Olympic Dam mine operation will be free of Greenhouse emissions, under a plan by BHP.’

    ‘Mr Higgins [BHP CEO for base metals operations] said most of the GG reduction would be made by capturing heat created by the smelting and sulphur burning process.

    “We think there could be a potential of up to 80MW or so, of cogeneration, [you all got that?]which would be 80MW out of the 500MW we need so it is a significant part of our total future energy demand from cogeneration which is a completely green form of energy” he said. That process would reduce GG by about 800,000 tonnes a year’ yada, yada.

    Party pooper-
    ‘Greens MLC Mark Parnell has previously said the mine’s [$5bill over 2009-13] expansion could negate GG emissions reductions already being achieved in the state.

    “Unfortunately every single step, from initial construction to the transporting of the final product will send enormous amounts of GG emissions into the atmosphere,” he said.’

    ‘Mr Higgins acknowledged the expanded mine would create significantly more GG than was being produced now but said the company would ensure the emissions were kept to the lowest possible level through advanced technologies.’

    ‘Premier Mike [60% reductions Pledge] Rann[who is currently touring a school set up by BHP for poor kids near the Escondida mine in Chile] said one of the key products of the mine was uranium- which itself reduces GG emissions in other countries where it is used for energy. He said he was pleased BHP was planning to limit the amount of emissions it produced.’

    And with that load off my mind, it’s time to think about what this Easter Bunny is gunna get the nephews and nieces hopping in fom interstate.

  53. John Greenfield says:

    Interesting figures Mark. I thought the Greens were closer than that. I suppose it helps that both Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese are very strong supporters of Green policies, so the risk of those two particular MPs falling victim to any ‘protest vote’ is limited.

    Also, I suppose the very strong Green showing in Marrickville and Sydney in the recent NSW elections can be reduced to State issues. That is, just how abominable NSW Labor was/is!

  54. John Greenfield says:


    I am not convinced “the Tories” are so out of step with the public at large. The elevation of climate change in public consciousness is quite recent. Yes, the public is ahead of the government. But surely that should not be surprising given the generally reactionary character of this government.

    A character, we should never forget, that has seen it elected four times in a row.

    You would do well to guard against dismissing the government as “the Tories.” That sort of talk might have moved the Labor base in the 1930s, but in 2007 it sounds a little twee and also shows a dangerous lack of regard of the diversity of people who have supported this government over the past 12 years.

  55. Cliff says:

    I’m rather astonished at the effectiveness of a former republican spin doctor’s strategy, of transmuting the term “global warming” into the more benign “climate change”. Even those who oppose conservatives on the issue use the term.

  56. observa says:

    At the rate we’re going in South Oz it will transmogrify into ‘climate variation’. Change is such a brutal word and so hard to cope with.

    Tell me, do you think BHP will be able to sell the 800,000 tonnes of emissions it would have emitted, if it could have but didn’t in future, under the new Kyoto targets?

  57. steve says:

    Change is such a brutal word and so hard to cope with.

    Nobody here is ever expecting change from you Obby,so I’m sure you’ll cope just fine.

  58. observa says:

    Whaddya mean? I am changed.

    Hey, speaking of change. You don’t reckon Mr Pledge is thinking of changing to the dark side on nuclear energy do you?(only after the Federal election of course) Really sticking his neck out with that Advertiser report-
    “Premier Mike Rann said one of the key products of the mine was uranium- which itself reduces GG emissions in other countries where it is used for energy.”
    It would make a lot of sense for the driest State. Cuts GG (that 65% commitment)and could power massive desal to end our reliance on the Murray, all the while fuelling the mining boom(the lovely bucket of money). He just had this sea change bloke advising his govt apparently

  59. Razor says:

    It would be interesting to be a Fly on the wall when the ALP delegation rocks into Beijing and tells the Junta to cut emmisions.

    What is Manadrin for “You and the horse you rode in on can go F*** yourselves.”

  60. observa says:

    Well I’m with Gaia(previous), the Big Australian(Anderson) and the Big American(here),20867,21418225-643,00.html?from=public_rss
    Oh and these guys

    Click to access tree-smart-280307.pdf

    Gaia man, now how’s that for change all you corporate benefactors, eh?

  61. Uncle Milton says:

    Razor, no one is going to tell the Chinese to do anything. But they might offer them a deal on clean coal technology.

  62. observa says:

    Razor, they’d smile at them as sweetly as Syrians with Democrat delegations and use the Chinese word for dhimmitude knowingly.

  63. observa says:

    I think our (Australias) total dhimmitude at present steve, is failure to address the rewriting of our constitutional marketplace, to allow the resulting ‘free market’ to flow in all the right directions. Without that, we are witnessing our political parties and leaders tinkering and skating around the edges.

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