The most arresting change in national politics since the installation of the new government hasn’t necessarily been getting used to the combination of the words “prime minister” and “Albanese”.
And it’s not the absence of the obsession with empty announcements that characterised Scott Morrison’s prime ministership. It’s the way the PM and his ministers approach climate change. The Coalition’s passive-aggressive “denialism in the guise of action” shtick is no more.
New approach on climate: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.Credit:Louie Douvis
Instead, the Albanese government is out and proud on the issue. No more finessing on the reality of climate change or the need to move to clean energy; the government wants Australia to be a renewables superpower.
The Europeans and the Americans and most of the Pacific islands have welcomed us back into the tent. All Australians who want us to do our bit once again should be pleased. But are they?
Not the Greens. The day after the election, their leader Adam Bandt sought policy deals with Anthony Albanese in return for guaranteeing confidence and supply. No other crossbenchers wanted to do that. Albanese, mindful of his painful experience in office in the Rudd-Gillard years, told Bandt to go jump.
On decarbonisation, the Greens and Labor are miles apart. Labor was elected on a promise of a 43 per cent reduction of emissions on 2005 levels by 2030. The Greens target is 75 per cent. On this, they’re backed by the Climate Council. Key industry groups also favour higher targets. The Business Council wants 46-50 per cent. The Australian Industry Group wants 50 per cent.
But of the aforementioned, only the ALP was running at the election with a view to heading up a government. Therein lies one big inconvenient truth. We have a majority Labor government – but only just. It’s surely operating under a probationary licence given that it won just over 50 per cent of the seats with fewer than a third of voters putting a “1” in the Labor box. It can’t afford to get too far ahead of public opinion, and it definitely can’t start ripping up its pre-election promises.
If it does, it’s likely to meet the same fate as the Gillard government, which screwed up its mandate soon after the 2010 election when it cheerfully, and cluelessly, negotiated with the Greens and some independents to introduce what came to be known as a carbon tax. Gillard had famously promised just before the election that there would be no carbon tax. It was a clear breach of faith with the public. Once that deal was done, she and the minority government she led were cooked.
In late 2009, the Greens twice voted with the Liberal and National parties in the Senate to block Kevin Rudd’s proposed emissions trading scheme, claiming it was inadequate. Two Liberal senators crossed the floor and voted with Labor. If the Greens had voted for the scheme, it would have passed and a carbon price would have been established.
The Greens seem to be in denial about this. Do the Greens need some sort of truth and reconciliation commission so that they can understand that they did play a role in ushering in the nine mostly wasted years on climate change under the Coalition?
Greens leader Adam Bandt.Credit:Getty
To borrow from Gillard’s words when she assessed the extent to which sexism hurt her as PM, the Greens’ interventions weren’t everything, but they weren’t nothing.
There were plenty of other authors of Labor’s downfall: Kevin Rudd played the politics of the emissions trading scheme with the Liberals and Greens too hard and then went to water; Gillard assumed too much goodwill in a fractious electorate; the Labor leadership struggle manifested a death wish; the Liberals’ relentless negativism was highly effective.
In principle, Bandt and the industry groups are right to pitch for a 2030 target higher than 43 per cent, but the 75 per cent target is unachievable. The question is how far the Greens, who’ll be able to do much to frustrate the government’s program in the Senate, will go to demonstrate their policy purity. After so many wasted years, it’s hard to see the value in undermining the one major party that’s ready to tackle climate change.
It’d be rich if the Greens, as the nation’s smaller left-wing party, used this parliament to frustrate and politically damage the government of the larger left-wing party.
I’m not suggesting the Greens roll over and give the ALP carte blanche. They have to stay true to their values. But surely in the bigger picture, and with the rotten waste of the past nine years having only just concluded, it’s in the interests of Greens voters for the government to be able to deliver on one of its most important policies.
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