Abbott/Turnbull policy on climate change and energy caused current mess

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Alan Kohler and The Great Coal Hoax. (Image via @australian)

Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party have only their own kack-handed efforts to blame for blackouts by failing to come up with a responsible solution to energy security. Can't be all that hard, says John Menadue.

LET'S BE clear, the Coalition and particularly the Liberal Party and Malcolm Turnbull are responsible for the current mess and impasse on electricity prices, and reliability and supply. This is the result of years of policy and political failure. We are now seeing the dreadful consequences.

Pleading by the Business Council and others for bipartisanship on energy policy is a political cover for their past and very politically partisan support of the Coalition on energy policy, such as an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and a carbon price.

In 2006, John Howard asked Peter Shergold, the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, to examine the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions. Peter Shergold advised that an ETS was necessary. There was no progress.

Then the first Rudd government, following discussion papers, introduced its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009. Unfortunately, the legislation was rejected in the Senate because of the combined opposition of the Coalition and the Greens. By then, the Coalition was at the peak of its climate change denial and the Greens said that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) was not good enough. Disappointingly, Kevin Rudd decided not to take the issue to a double dissolution. After the disappointment of Copenhagen he lost his "mojo".

There is no doubt in my mind, however, that if the CPRS had been agreed, the issue of global warming and carbon pollution would have been almost done and settled. Or at least we had the beginnings of a good policy.

But worse was to follow. Malcolm Turnbull supported CPRS because we thought he believed in its importance as a market mechanism to put a price on carbon and let the market influence investment decisions. Unfortunately, many Coalition members, including Tony Abbott, disagreed with him and Malcolm Turnbull was defeated by one vote in the Liberal Party in 2009.

After the 2010 election, the Gillard Government proposed a so-called carbon tax, which I still believe is sensible policy. But the carbon tax let loose a scare campaign by Tony Abbott and his business and media supporters that we have not seen the like of before. Tony Abbott won the 2013 election quite handsomely with a dishonest campaign of opposition to the carbon tax and scant regard for the damage that climate change was already causing in Australia.

Restored to the leadership of the Liberal Party in September 2015, and as prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull has been crabwalking away from climate change and related policies as fast as he can in order to placate the right-wing climate change deniers in his own party. He blamed the South Australian Government for blackouts, which had very little to do with renewables, but were due to the collapse of the pylons. He continually talks about blackouts in SA, but in NSW with a state Liberal government, he merely refers to "power shedding". There certainly have been substantial electricity price increases in SA, but the price increases have been much greater in Queensland, which is very dependent upon coal-fired generators. Almost all the media, including the ABC. have been complicit in not exposing the PM’s false claims.

'Almost all the media, including the ABC, 

have been complicit in not exposing

the PM’s false claims'

Malcolm Turnbull has abandoned almost all those things that we thought he believed in. In a difficult situation, he cannot be relied on. He is not there when we need him.

He installs solar panels and a battery in his own private residence, yet attacks state premiers for their commitment to renewable energy.

For years, there have been cries for a stable and predictable environment on climate and energy policies in order that wise and efficient business decisions could be made. It didn’t happen. We were warned about a system crisis. We now have one as our record hot summer unfolds.

In his journal, The Constant Investor, under the heading 'The Great Coal Hoax', Alan Kohler sheeted blame very directly to the Coalition and Malcolm Turnbull.

He wrote:

Those crises have now arrived in the form of blackouts, and they are not caused by too much renewable energy… it’s due to a lack of investment, in turn due to a lack of policy certainty and clarity.

This is entirely the Liberal Party’s fault — not just Malcolm Turnbull’s, although he is a rather pathetic figure now. If he didn’t go along with the hoax, he’d be sacked and another PM would.

By taking the low road in 2009 instead of the high road, and deciding to mislead Australians about the true cost of energy, the Liberal Party condemned the country to a decade of confusion and stasis on energy policy.

That reached a nadir of absurdity last week with the Treasurer’s coal stunt.

The rest of Australia’s leaders, in particular the CEOs of our largest companies, should declare now that enough is enough, and pull these idiots into line.

See also Quentin Dempster in The New Daily on Tony Abbott’s role in Australia’s energy crisis.

This article was originally published on John Menadue's blog 'Pearls and Irritations'. You can follow John on Twitter @johnmenadue.

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