A climate ambush

When she took power, Julia Gillard said she wanted a national conversation and ‘deep community consensus’ about climate change. What she has given us, instead, is an election campaign that is, by its nature, guaranteed to produce neither.

“I was concerned that if you were going to do something as big to your economy as put a price on carbon, with the economic transfer that implies … you need a lasting and deep community consensus to do it,” she said.“I don’t believe we had that last and deep community consensus.” (Gillard on the Nine “Sunday” program on 27 June)

In place of the consultation Gillard promised, she has produced an ambush. Even if—as now seems likely—her policy will be to propose a future consultation leading to a carbon tax, there is no chance of a detailed debate over the next five weeks on the necessity or sufficiency of that policy as a response to the “greatest moral challenge of our generation”. The ‘deep community consensus’ on substance will be at best postponed and at worst abandoned under cover of an indeterminable “mandate” on climate for whatever party wins government.

This is a betrayal of both sides of the aborted dialog. It will no-doubt disappoint the faithful that after a full term in government Labor’s policy will be no more detailed and inspirational than the sort of non-committal mashup found in ‘fiscally responsible’ electoral platforms. It will certainly disappoint the sceptics (and taxpayers) that a jumble of slogans and half-explained ideas could be all the justification given for a radical and burdensome ‘tax reform’.

Given that the Cabinet spent some time debating climate policy last week (with the coming election in mind), the failure to spell out a plan suggests that, contrary to her leadership mantra, Gillard has not restored a sense of direction (on climate, at least) to the party that had “lost it’s way”.

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