08 November 2011
This was published on The Punch today.
Carbon Bingo, Australia!
You’ve put a price on carbon and stumped up $13 billion dollars for renewable energy. It doesn’t sound very hard when you say it quickly.
Actually, its been excruciatingly hard.
Is there anyone who isn’t completely sick and tired of the whole debate?
From the moment Tony Abbott got the leadership, he and his dogged faction of supporters in the media have been biting and snarling at anyone associated with climate action.
As Laurie Oakes wrote of Mr Abbott recently, ‘His style is pure attack dog, as feral as you’d get.’
Today is the last day that the attack dogs can have a practical impact on the carbon package. If you watch the Senate debate today, you will see no constructive impact, rather you will hear premonitions of the carbon apocalypse.
Coalition Senators have been playing every trick in the Senate book to stop the carbon price. They are not just following orders from Mr Abbott. These people passionately believe they are saving Australia from a legislative plague of Old Testament proportions. They want the carbon price and its Green advocates dead, buried, cremated and their ashy remains used as biochar in Greg Hunt’s Direct Action Carbon Farming Initiative.
Take Senator Barnaby Joyce (NAT, Qld) for example. He said during the last sitting period that the carbon price legislation ‘will destroy our nation’. We are not heading to a clean kill either, but rather a gothic-modernist horror, for Senator Joyce says, ‘It is just an absurd, kafkaesque policy.’
Senator Boswell has a more New Testament slant on history. He opined to the Senate, ‘When you think about this, you would have to think this is the greatest sell-out since Judas Iscariot took 30 pieces of silver.’
While the Press Gallery has been watching the main show in the House of Representatives, the Senate side-show has descended into mad territory.
Senator Ian McDonald, who was once a Liberal Minister, interjected something offensive last week. Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, called him on it but rather than withdrawing, which is the usual response in such a situation, he actually spoke up for the benefit of Hansard, to put on record, ‘GetUp! is the Hitler Youth wing of the Greens political movement, and I stand by that.'
Figures released by the Department of the Senate show how divisive the antics have been during last sitting period (11-13 October).
It documents that the Coalition forced the Senate to a division (a counted vote) 33 times in 3 days. This represents 17% of the 188 divisions for 2011 whereas the period of 3 days only represents 7% of the 43 sitting days for 2011 up to that point.
But all this ‘No’ amounted to not one amendment to change the carbon price and as King Lear said, ‘Nothing comes of nothing.’
The 18 bills of the carbon price and renewable energy package total over 1000 pages of law. The Liberal National Coalition Senators have proposed no amendments to any of these bills!
(Actually, to be pedantic, there is a Clayton’s amendment, which is to prevent the implementation of the whole package until after the parliament comes back following the next election.)
Like their American cousins, Australia’s conservative parties now stand proudly with Tea Party radicals. These folk are not conservative in the traditional sense, because they do not respect science or other forms of expert knowledge. They are proud of being self-styled anti-elites, notwithstanding the fact that their movements or think-tanks are funded by oil and mining barons.
These new, radical conservatives are not just climate denialists, but now also believe that renewable energy is part of a global conspiracy to destroy Western values. The ‘brands’ solar and wind are increasingly defined by their Tea Party enemies, as a negative political symbol of ‘watermelon’, green communism.
A new low point for Australia’s solar and wind industries was reached when opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb accused renewable energy of being corrupted by “white-shoe salesman” and “vested interests”.
Over the past 15 years, the west has undergone social and technological transformations. The radical conservatives refuse to adapt to change, whether it is climate change, technological change or social change.
Solar modules have dropped in price by 60% in 2 years, which means cheaper power for the consumer, but to the radical conservative, this is an elite conspiracy, not a simple fact of technological change.
The old alliance between conservatives and business no longer holds sway as it once did. Read the Hansard online to see the uninformed, almost anti-capitalist slurs that Coalition Senators and MPs make against solar and wind technologies and companies.
Multinational technology companies now get a better hearing from the Australian Greens that the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party in Victoria has almost killed the wind industry dead, with a 2km setback and no-go zones. The Liberals refuse to see the economic opportunities in solar and instead frame the technology negatively.
The outcome of all the rage is confusion and frustration, not least among the Coalition themselves, because they are not going to vote down even 1 bill. The Greens hold balance of power in the Senate and no filibustering or point of order changes a thing.
As soon as the carbon price passes the Senate, the wheels will start turning in a $13 billion dollar renewable energy boom. Australians will start to get new jobs and opportunities. There will be no turning back the clock of history.
The Coalition should at least enjoy their shouting today. Look out on your Carbon Bingo card for ‘watermelons’, ‘latte drinkers’ and ‘great big new tax’.
If we are lucky, perhaps Senator Joyce will explain the pleasures of life in a ‘quasi-socialist nirvana’. Bingo!