It’s been quite a day here in Australia for politics. As John Quiggin put it, “Turnbull defeated, Hockey discredited, Abbott doomed“. In a nutshell: the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (our ‘climate change hero‘) proposed an emissions trading scheme (ETS) in the Senate, which needed the help of the opposition to pass the bill with a majority vote. Last week, Malcolm Turnbull (leader of the opposition party) agreed on a deal to pass a modified version of the ETS, providing the go ahead for the Rudd’s legislation.
Why is this important? Whilst the Labour party see this as an essential step to curbing CO2 emissions and seek to pass the bill before Copenhagen next week, the opposition Liberal party (who are still busy debating as to whether climate change even exists) see this as a ‘$120bn energy tax‘. Since last week, turmoil in the Liberal Party (directly over the ETS scheme) prompted a leadership challenge, and Malcolm Turnbull was toppled in favour of Tony Abbott – a self-proclaimed climate change skeptic who will lead the Liberal party to renege the deal done with the Labour party over the ETS.
He said he was humbled but exhilarated by the win. “We are gearing up for the fight of our lives,” he said at his first press conference as leader, adding that he was not frightened to fight an election against Kevin Rudd on climate change.
Tony Abbot rather famously once said:
“The argument on climate change is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us. 80% of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.”
So wait: according to the Liberal party, the science is crap, but we still need an ETS? Don’t worry, apparently that’s just hyperbole and no longer his considered opinion. Thankfully, others in the Liberal party view this more honestly:
One unnamed moderate Liberal MP, quoted by AAP, put it less tactfully, saying the party had “f…ed ourselves over”.
So what happens next? Watch carefully. The possibility of members of the opposition rebelling and crossing the floor to vote with the government isn’t out of the question). However, if the Senate fails to pass the ETS before Copenhagen (which is looking increasingly likely), Rudd has the option of dissolving the senate and call a double dissolution election – taking the matter to the polls (and according to opinion polls, would clean sweep). Or, with the Austral summer holidays and the festive season coming up, there could be no easy resolution until the new year.