Monday, November 30, 2009

Australian Tories Depose Leader Over Climate Change

The Australian Tories (confusingly called 'Liberals') have deposed their leader, by a margin of just one vote, in favour of a climate 'sceptic'. Presumably he does believe there is a climate, just not what any scientist might have to say about it.

The Liberals had been bogged down with infighting over the party's policies on emissions trading. The former leader of the party, Turnbull, had been in favour of a free vote on the issue but the new leader, Mr Abbott, was unimpressed and beat Turnbull 42 votes to 41 which effectively killed the government's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in the days running up to Copenhagen.

On Saturday then leader Turnbull issued this statement on the need to tackle climate change. This section is pretty indicative of Turnbull's position, and why it enraged the climate deniers;

I recognise there are many people, particularly in my party, who do not believe that climate change is real and naturally do not see the need to do much about it. I respect their views and that of other climate change sceptics. But the fact is we should approach this issue from a risk management basis. Conservative leaders, centre-right leaders from around the world do that. I am not aware of any major political party in the world that has a do nothing approach to climate change, that has a policy of climate change denial.

Margaret Thatcher herself, back in 1990, nearly 20 years ago, said we should take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions as a matter of “risk management”... because what we are talking about here is not just an issue of today, this is an issue for today, tomorrow and the years to come. It is about protecting our planet, protecting the future of our children and their children.

Currently the Liberals are in disarray and their newly found hard-line stance on climate change is unlikely to do them many favours outside of their core tribal support. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, one supporter of the old leadership as saying the Liberals have ‘‘f----- ourselves over’’.

I'm not saying the ETS is great. The Ozzie Greens have been pretty clear in their opposition but why you oppose something is as important as the fact that you do. The new leader Abbot, who has written books on how great having a constitutional monarchy is, wrote an article last week on this very subject which you can see here. If we dip into his "Carbon Vanity" piece there are some revealing passages;
The Liberals have always opposed deep cuts to carbon emissions in the absence of a global agreement.

Some, unconvinced that human-caused carbon dioxide emissions pose potentially catastrophic climate risk, have opposed an ETS in principle. Others, though disinclined to believe that climate change is the "great moral issue of our time", have thought that prudence could justify the imposition of a modest carbon price. Still others, impressed by weight of numbers, have supported strong action against climate change in conjunction with other countries...

Claims that Al Gore's film presented hypotheses as certainties plus evidence that the world has actually cooled slightly during the past decade have undermined the arguments for immediate, drastic action. Last week, the Lowy Institute published data showing that the percentage of Australians who regard global warming as a pressing problem that needs to be addressed, even at significant cost, had dropped from 68 to 48 per cent since 2006.
Hmmm. Having someone that is open about his belief that there is no need for urgent action on climate change may be an electoral liability for the Liberals, but the broader picture is that this is a step back for everyone. As a major force in Australian politics the fact that they have chosen to take this course creates real problems.

The irresponsibility of the Liberals makes my blood boil. By taking this decision they are giving international comfort to backwards reactionaries everywhere from the US Senate, the murky corners of our Tory Party and every other science hating runt that hopes to have political influence.


Dave Riley said...

The complication is Jim that a good part of the Liberals opposition to the CPRS is correct . It's tax on all of us and a multi billion pay out to the main polluters. Any self respective green would oppose the legislation as the scam that it is.

That it is the excuse for a spill is indicative of the situation the Liberals are in and the conundrum capitalism faces in regard to the issue.

Jim Jay said...

Well, I think you're right Dave that people should be opposed to the legislation - not least because it appears to have huge subsidies for the coal industry built into it (I've not gone through it in detail though). However, what's worrying is that it shifts the entire debate to the right and the fact they had the confidence to go in this direction is pretty distressing.

The Tories here are led by someone who has bent over backwards to appear to be concerned about environmental issues which has created a consensus on climate change in mainstream politics that 'of course we need to do something about this' despite the limitations of this I think that's a good thing, legitimising the issue.

The Liberals have just given succour to everyone who wants to ignore the need for climate action even if the specific objections were over a poor plan.

Jim Jay said...

Just to follow this up I've been pointed towards this (thanks Pippa) which indicates that less than half Liberal voters think they should block the legislation of the three candidates for Liberal leader Hockey, who was knocked out in the first round, was the preferred candidate of Liberal voters and Abbott came a very poor third choice among all voters - although disturbingly it was young people who most liked him (still third though).

This seems to suggest I was right that Abbott appeals to a hard core vote but will problems reaching out beyond that - which means he's the Michael Howard of Australia and hopefully condemns the liberals to electoral wasteland for some time to come.

Pippa said...

More from Possum again today: