The Australian has the text of ex-opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull's latest speech to parliament on global warming - its a shame he didn't make more like this while he was leader - Why I support the ETS proposal .
CLIMATE change is the ultimate long-term problem. We have to make decisions today, bear costs today so that adverse consequences are avoided, dangerous consequences, many decades into the future.
Right now, both sides of politics are agreed that Australia should, regardless of whether any international agreement is reached, reduce our emissions by 2020 so that they equal a 5 per cent cut from 2000 levels.
But it is not enough to say you support these cuts, you must also deliver a strong, credible policy framework that will deliver them.
The transition from a high emission economy to a low emission one cannot be achieved without major changes to the way we generate and use energy and in the way we manage our landscape.
Decisions to build new power stations will involve tens of billions of dollars over the next few decades and a critical element in making those decisions is being able to form a view about the direction of carbon pricing.
This need for leadership and direction from government on carbon pricing was one that was apparent to the previous government. That is why in 2006 prime minister John Howard established the Emissions Trading Task Group, chaired by Peter Shergold, the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. In 2007 the Howard government adopted its recommendation to establish an ETS in advance of and in order to promote a global agreement.
Plainly stated: in the absence of a clear carbon price signal either no investments will be made or investments will be made of new carbon-intensive infrastructure because they are more profitable in a world where there is no price on carbon.
The SMH thought the government wishes it could do as good a job explaining and defending the ETS - A dream Labor speech from the vanquished.
Fifteen words in we knew what sort of speech this would be. "Generations" is a great big Malcolm Turnbull word. Churchillian. "All of us here are accountable not just to our constituents but to the generations that will come after them."
He was not going to trim. Though his party made sure his audience in the chamber was small, he might have been addressing thousands.
This was the old Turnbull with his odd way of leaning forward on his desk, fists clenched in the pose of a well-dressed gorilla.
After East Anglia, the Himalayan glaciers and the holiday glow cast by Lord Monckton's tour, his message was blunt: "The planet is warming because of the growing level of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. If this trend continues, truly catastrophic consequences are likely to ensue . . .''
The Prime Minister doesn't say that kind of thing. Nor does the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, who earlier in the morning dragged the press corps to a shop in Queanbeyan to watch him iron a shirt and declare: "You cannot run a dry-cleaning business without using energy."
Abbott had yet to stumble into Turnbull's Great Big Dump on Everything. It seemed the member for Wentworth would be talking to utterly deserted Coalition benches. But then Petro Georgiou, Russell Broadbent and Joe Hockey materialised. They looked impassive, stunned.
Hockey listened to Turnbull's crisp exposition of what had been party policy until 10 weeks ago, with eyes closed. Lucy Turnbull sat with a couple of members of her husband's staff in the public gallery. All through the great rabbit warren of Parliament House, the speech was being monitored on closed circuit television.
Turnbull was not delivering a great farewell. This was a working speech, a selling speech, the kind of speech Labor supporters wish their leader would deliver.
Crikey quite liked the speech as well - Turnbull takes aim at Abbott’s climate plan, and doesn’t miss.
Former Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has demolished Tony Abbott’s climate action plan and backed the Government’s amended CPRS legislation in a long speech explaining his decision to cross the floor in support of the Government’s ETS bills.
Last week Tony Abbott launched a climate action plan that rejected any market-based emissions abatement mechanism in favour of $10b worth of handouts for businesses and farmers to reduce emissions. Turnbull rose in the chamber early this afternoon to speak on the Government’s CPRS bills, reintroduced as promised last week. Watched by colleagues Petro Georgiou, Russell Broadbent, Paul Fletcher and, interestingly, Joe Hockey, Turnbull tore apart the proposed plan as economically inefficient, environmentally ineffective and unable to meet the task of reducing Australia’s emissions by 5% by 2020.
After quickly discussing the need to address climate change, including that the 2000s had been the hottest decade ever after the 1990s and 1980s, Turnbull emphasised the similarity of the Government’s CPRS with the Howard Government’s intended CPRS, declaring that the bills were “as much the work of John Howard as it is of Kevin Rudd” and outlining why the Howard-era Shergold taskforce had rejected non-market approaches like regulation or subsidies to address climate change.
Without mentioning the new Coalition plan or Abbott by name, except with an indirect reference to “as we have seen in recent days”, Turnbull attacked a subsidies-based approach, warning it was “a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a vast scale… a slippery slope that can only result in higher taxes and less effective abatement.” As a Liberal, Turnbull said, he supported a market based solution that allowed businesses and consumers to determine the most effective means of reducing emissions. A price signal was critical in order to drive the large-scale transition of the Australian economy necessary for lower emissions.
“In the absence of a clear carbon price,” Turnbull said, “no new investment will be made or investment will be made in new carbon intensive infrastructure.”
Turnbull also took aim at soil carbon, which would under the Coalition scheme provide most of the reductions needed to ostensibly meet the 5% target. As leader he had supported soil carbon, Turnbull said, and he believed it had great potential, but much work needed to be done before it could play a significant role. Moreover, its benefits would be more easily obtained through an ETS, and he had negotiated amendments to the CPRS that would allow exactly that. He quoted one biosequestration expert who said he supported soil carbon initiatives but was “horrified by the prospect of a fund from which public servants hand out money to grow trees.”
Joe Hockey was one of the few shadow ministers to turn up to watch the speech, but his lethargic and depressed appearance has tongues wagging - Where did Joe’s mojo go?.
The contrast, as Kevin Rudd invariably says, was stark. Joe Hockey sat slumped on the seat nearby, gazing up at the Reps chamber ceiling, while Malcolm Turnbull explained why he would be voting for the Government’s CPRS bills.
The body language, surely, was deceiving. Turnbull might have appeared forthright, aggressive even, as he expertly articulated the case for the CPRS far, far better than anyone from the Government ever had – particularly when, in three short sentences about how each recent decade had been hotter than the previous one, he demolished the myth of global cooling promoted by the likes of Tony Abbott.
But Turnbull was alone, reading — if the Press Gallery commentary is correct — the last rites over a political career wrecked on a point of principle, offering only a glimpse of what might have been had he ever mastered his many faults and coupled his undoubted brilliance with a more consultative and reflective style.
But Hockey remains Shadow Treasurer, a key part of the Coalition economics team, under a leader polling better than Turnbull ever did, perhaps a mere 2-3% away from achieving his career goal of Treasurer.
So, Joe, why the long face?
It might possibly be that Hockey was envious that he could never give a speech as good as that, for Turnbull’s speech was, instantly, a classic of Australian politics. So what if it was delivered to a near-empty chamber? Its content was scintillating.
Australian politicians don’t do soaring rhetoric or great oratory and there was none of that in Turnbull’s speech, but there was an intellectual rigour and cold, hard refusal to countenance bullshit that is sadly lacking in modern politics (and, in truth, much of Turnbull’s own period as leader).
No politician, from any party, has ever nailed the case for action on climate change so succinctly, and no politician — and certainly not Kevin Rudd — has ever come close to explaining so clearly why a market-based mechanism is preferable. And in his comprehensive demolition of the Abbott plan — all delivered without mentioning Abbott or the details of the plan, or anything that could be construed as personal criticism — Turnbull has not merely provided the Government with perfect soundbites, but with perfect talking points for its own use.
In fact, it did Hockey great credit that he showed up for the speech when it might have been easier to stay away and try to ignore what was happening. Only he, Russell Broadbent and Petro Georgiou were there for all of it. But Hockey has been in a funk since the leadership spill and what was commonly agreed to be his poor handling of it.
And to close, John Quiggin has a look at the path to delusion that the Liberal Party has followed - Send in the clowns.
It’s hard to believe that, three months ago, Australian national politics was (primarily) a contest between two broadly normal political parties. The government was running well ahead, but open to criticism for having talked a lot and done relatively little. The opposition was excessively keen on the maxim ‘the first duty of an opposition is to oppose’, and the alternative policies it proposed were neither as detailed as they might be, nor entirely consistent, but that has always been true of oppositions. Although a change of government in 2010 looked unlikely, there was nothing to suggest that such an event would be a disaster if it happened.
That could not be said today. The government is much the same as before, but the opposition has become a clown show, happy to do or say whatever comes to mind, either to chase votes, secure the support of its base or simply to muddy the waters enough that they have a chance to win in the resulting confusion.
Most obviously, we have an opposition leadership that embraces delusional beliefs on climate science. That would be bad enough if delusion could be confined to denial of the validity of science, but such isolation is not possible. Instead, delusionism is pervading everything the Liberal and National parties do and say.
First up, there are the personnel changes, with the replacement of Turnbull by Abbott, the rise of Minchin to the position of kingmaker and, most absurdly, the appointment of the ‘authentic’ but innumerate Barnaby Joyce as finance spokesman. Of the leadership team, only the marginalized Julie Bishop gives any indication of being connected to the real world. In the key economics portfolios, only Joe Hockey rises to the level of mediocrity, and he’s pretty much discredited by his vacillation during the leadership spill.
Then there’s the shift from ‘scepticism’ (the belief that thousands of scientists have simply got it wrong in ways that can easily be detected by armchair critics) to the kind of full-scale conspiracy theory exemplified by Lord Monckton’s claim that NASA crashed its own satellite to prevent it revealing the data that would disprove AGW theory. While the conspiracy theory has the merit of being more coherent and plausible, it paves the road to absolute craziness (again, see Lord Monckton). Of the leading figures in the Opposition, Minchin and Joyce are overt conspiracy theorists, and Abbott is willing to go along with idea. And whereas the conspiracy theorists were willing to undermine Turnbull throughout his leadership, any remaining pro-science Liberals (with the exception of Turnbull himself and the departing Judith Troeth) are keeping very quiet.
Unsurprisingly, this combination of delusion and incompetence is reflected in the opposition’s response to the government’s climate change policy. Naturally, the ‘science’ is pure wishful thinking, based on a willingess to count highly speculative gains from increased soil carbon as the primary line of policy response. But the economics is far worse – even the advocates of soil carbon don’t claim it can be done in the zero-cost fashion claimed by the opposition. More generally, since the opposition plan amounts to picking some winners, and throwing public money at them, it’s obvious from first principles that it must be more expensive than the government’s ETS.
But of course this doesn’t matter. No one, not even the opposition themselves takes the plan seriously – it’s simply there to meet the political necessity to have a supposed plan to refer to.
Finally, and most seriously, there is the embrace of the reality-free talking point approach that characterises the delusionist commentariat as a whole. Someone like Andrew Bolt is not acting out of character when recycles discredited delusionist talking points on a daily basis. His general approach to politics is no better. And, as the blogosphere has shown (as an archetypal example, see Glenn Reynolds) the longer you are immersed in this point-scoring, talking-point approach to political debate, the more distant becomes any connection to actual reality.