A policy disaster is now back from the dead, a nice Christmas surprise for us all. It’s the carbon tax we all thought we were rid of. We have known for years Malcolm Turnbull’s adherence to the climate change religion, but we were hoping that in his second period of Liberal Party leadership he had learned to steer clear of being a climate change heroic. But eventually the real Malcolm began to emerge determined to steer his party to the left.
Where has this development come from? It stems from a planned review into the Coalition government’s climate change policy which currently consists of its direct action policy and a modest renewable energy target. The terms of reference for this inquiry does not specifically exclude a carbon price on emission heavy power generators. This decision not immediately exclude a carbon price is extremely alarming. Considering that the Australian people decisively rejected a carbon tax at three federal elections you would at least think the conservative side of politics would respect the will of the people.
This blunder from Turnbull once again shows he is not the political messiah we was promised to be when he replaced Tony Abbott in 2015. After the nearly hung parliament as a result of this year’s federal election he was referred to as Malcolm Gillard, meaning that despite the initial euphoria when he came to the leadership and that we would see an emphatic election victory we instead got a campaign full of blunders and gaffes which nearly saw the incumbent government lose power. Of course after the 2010 election Julia Gillard introduced a carbon tax when she had promised not to, now following in her footsteps Malcolm might be about to do this same.
But aren’t we getting worked up over nothing? In response to this alarm Turnbull stated “In terms of carbon policy, I have never supported a carbon tax,” and added “The review of our climate policies, which will be undertaken next year, has been part of the Coalition’s policy for many years, long before I was Prime Minister,”. Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce also tried to pour cold water on the concern “I can only tell you what the position of the Coalition is now, and I can tell you what the position of the National Party is now, we don’t support a carbon tax.”
Today Turnbull went even further under pressure from outraged backbenchers such as Cory Bernardi “We will not be imposing a carbon tax and we will not be imposing an emissions trading scheme, however it is called. An emissions intensity scheme is an emissions trading scheme. That is just another name for it. That has been our policy for many years now.”
Isn’t that case closed then, why the hysteria? Because the language used by Turnbull is the same weasel words that the Labor party has used over the years. Julia Gillard tried to say she had not broken her promise because the carbon tax was actually a carbon price. Bill Shorten claims that the Labor Party no longer supports a carbon tax but an emissions trading scheme which is basically another form of carbon tax. Just like Labor Turnbull is choosing his words carefully on this issue so he can leave the door open to introduce some form a carbon tax in the future. Let’s remember there has been no change to the terms of reference of this pending inquiry.
The reason why a carbon tax is plausible is because the Turnbull government has pledged to meet the emissions reduction targets announced in the Paris Climate Accord and still has an official position of believing in man-made climate change. Although Turnbull has decried the South Australian government over its reliance on renewable energy and high electricity prices which has led to two blackouts in that state, it is still Coalition policy that the Australia as a whole eventually close down all of its coal fired power stations. They did not stand in the way of one of Victoria’s major coal fired power stations Hazelwood’s impending closure.
The bottom line is unless the Coalition government completely rejects the premise of manmade irreversible climate change then any future policy they implement will be guaranteed to increasing electricity prices, jeopardise the reliability of electricity, which in turn will lead to even more industry leaving Australia and a declining standard of living. The election of Trump has proven that adherence to the green religion is not needed for electoral success. Just because all these international bodies and the media are lobbying for these climate policies does not mean our governments must cave in.
Until we see the climate skeptics within the conservative side of politics take control of Australia’s climate policy we must continue to be vigilant about this government’s direction on this issue. Turnbull has proven over the last few days he is still not to be trusted on this issue and we are quite right to make our opposition to the return of a carbon tax known even at such an early stage.