The Turnbull Position

Malcolm Turnbull, if you are to give the media any credibility is being the Ghost of Christmas Past, (Tony Abbott’s Julia Gillard).

There are many questions that are left open, and I suspect that one of them that is worth asking is ‘does the media get it’. Julia Gillard is a climate change believer, so she tells us, and one would feel that is a valid position for her to hold. As a climate change believer she has in the last ten months or so come to believe in public that which she did not previously believe in public, that we need to have a carbon tax and we need to have it now without another election, and without her getting a mandate for major financial and social change.

Tony Abbott has stated a position that is strongly opposed to the Carbon Tax as a method. Julia describes him as a climate change skeptic, and accuses him of preferring the opinions of shock jocks over scientists. The media seem to have swallowed this, and tells us that Tony does not believe in climate change, effectively he is a Lord Monkton. Does being opposed to a Carbon Tax mean that you are a climate change skeptic?

Malcolm says no! He is a well known Climate Change Believer and has a publicly know position on the matter. He was prepared to work with Kevin Rudd as far a possible towards an outcome. However he seems keen on a the Liberal position of affirmative spending towards a goal or reducing green house gas emissions. The problem that the Gillard Government has is that they need to convince us that we can trust them to use another bucket of money wisely, given that they have squandered so much of our money in the past, we know how much we trust them with responsible economic management.

I think we all need the assess our position a little more carefully.

The first question is do we believe it is responsible to us as a global community to dump large amounts of green house gasses into the atmosphere and not clean up, or do we believe that we should be working towards a reduction in human emitted pollution. Most Australians I believe feel that our impact in this area is less than positive and would like to see some global initiatives to redress the balance. If you are a climate change believer, you would expect this to be a valid position. If you are a climate change skeptic you may still like the position for any number of reasons, simply being good management of the resources, or a do no harm policy, or wanting the world to be a better place.

The next question we need to ask is about Australia. Is it appropriate for Australia to have a higher than average per-ca-pita output of Greenhouse gas emissions that the world average by almost double. Again I believe that most Australians would like to be on the other side of the balance point.

Then we ask, does anything thing Australia does make any significant difference when we only account for 2% or the world emissions. Probably realistically most of us would conclude that we will have only minimal impact until the big three come on board (The worlds big three polluters are India, China and the USA). None the less I believe most Australians would prefer to think we were being clean and doing our bit, and perhaps even harbor the idea that our actions may show moral leadership in the world.

Per capita anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissi...
Image via Wikipedia


The the question is what do we do about it. One option we have before us is that we will have an additional tax on carbon pollution and then the government will have lots on money to fix the problem. Unfortunately one of the problems we see is that Governments are addicted to revenue, and if the measure was effective the result would be to reduce the value of the tax to Government the they would need to add further revenue measures to sustain their income. I am not saying that a Carbon Tax is wrong, however it is not a magic bullet and going on what Government has shown to date I am not convinced that giving them more revenue is always the most effetctive solution.

There is an affirmative spending model that has some credibility as well, and this is to use the moral argument to encourage and convince all of us to modify behavior so as to work towards a common result. One of the things we would need in that is leadership from Government whom it would seem a quite big polluters themselves. Coal Fired Power Stations are a clear example or the problem. There are cleaner options and we need to do more. We also need to be looking to cleaner fuels and I believe in Australia we should be looking at the idea of ethanol as a viable sustainable long term fuel and the CSIRO should be vested with directions to be exploring these areas.

That having been said, I think Malcolm’s position is entirely tenable in the debate. The debate at the moment is not as Julia says, whether we believe in climate change or not, but rather if we believe that a Tax on Carbon is the right response. If Julia believes it is the correct response, it should be not unreasonable for her to put the case and seek a mandate to act. Otherwise the question remains, What has changed that means the thing you said you would not do twelve month ago and sought an election on that basis, you now propose to do without the courtesy of allowing the people of Australia to endorse the action.

One bi-election from disaster, I can see why she does not want an election, however I can not see why she does not want a referendum. A referendum would also give her the clear opportunity to act or not act without feeling that Bob Brown is making the bullets for Julia Gillard to fire.


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