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DD coming up?

November 27th, 2009

The failure of the Senate to pass[1] the CPRS today means that the Rudd-Turnbull deal is dead, and that Rudd now has little choice but to go for a double dissolution, early in 2010. Assuming he does, and that Labor wins, the worst outcome we can get is the original bill. But, given that Labor will have no choice but to deal with the Greens for the foreseeable future, it would make much more sense to go for something better. Whereas a couple of days ago it looked like we would get a shabby deal, politically profitable for Labor, mildly embarrassing for the Coalition and barely passable for the environment, we now have the prospect of getting it all – a decent emissions trading policy, an open debate in which the delusionist conspiracy theorists are exposed for the loony fruit loops they are, and a split in the Liberal party that will keep it out of office until it dumps its current base and moves a long way to the left (see UK Tory party)

Some observations over the page

If the Libs are going to stand or fall on climate delusionism, it makes no sense for them to put up Joe Hockey as a compromise leader. Sooner he later, he will be forced to support or repudiate delusionism, and either way he’s a loser. Better to go for Abbott and get it over with, one way or the other.

What happens at Copenhagen makes a difference, but not a big difference now, since it’s clear the Libs will never support any kind of ETS once Turnbull is gone. Assuming, as seems likely, that Copenhagen produces general agreement on the need for action, though not a final agreement, Rudd will have enough to run on. DD triggers last forever, so he can call one anytime he wants.

The attempt to buy the support of the electricity, mining and coal lobbies with utterly unjustifed “compensation” packages has clearly failed. Labor should go back to the principles laid down by Garnaut in this respect. It may be that the current owners of these assets are overgeared and will go bankrupt. Tough luck to them – the prospect of action to control emissions was flagged decades ago, and they’ve taken a losing bet. As long as the assets are still viable taking account of the cost of permits, new owners will be found to operate them.

fn1. This is the crucial phrase in the constitution, as regards double dissolutions. IANAL, but I’m confident that (a) Rudd will be able to convince the GG that referring the bill to a committee constitutes a failure to pass, and that (b) no High Court, and certainly not the current one, would be suicidal enough to block an election at short notice or to overturn the result of an election once held. So, barring an amazing reversal on Monday, it’s game on.

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  1. SJ
    November 27th, 2009 at 21:12 | #1

    Prediction:

    The Libs won’t understand any of this until they’ve lost at least one and probably two more elections.

    Labor won’t change the massive rip-off from individual taxpayers to fund coal and aluminium, etc., because that’s what they always wanted from day one.

  2. Toby
    November 27th, 2009 at 21:13 | #2

    As to (b) in your fn1, the GG’s decision to accept advice and call an election is nonjusticiable. The High Court could only get involved after an election, and after a joint sitting, at the point where someone challenges the validity of the resultant legislation. In the challenge to the legislation (and not before), the Court can be asked to determine whether the senate had failed to pass the bill.

  3. johncanb
    November 27th, 2009 at 21:19 | #3

    Double dissolution really not the best choice for ALP, as it will likely lead to more minor parties in the Senate. Better to go for normal election (including half-Senate) in Sept 2010 or so. (Antony Green sets out likelihoods very well on his blog). Then a new ETS can be negotiated with greens (who will hold balance of power), and that legislation can pass as soon as new Senate starts, which will be July 2011. (They’ll have many months to negotiate after the election and before the new Senate actually starts). July 2011 for the legislation will not really be a problem, as they will be able to shorten those early settling in periods for the scheme, given there has been so much planning and discussion already.

  4. jquiggin
    November 27th, 2009 at 21:26 | #4

    Antony Green’s analysis is all wrong. The wait until 2011 is a huge problem. By contrast, the fact that the Greens might get one more Senator and Labor one less is a trivial issue. it makes zero difference to the chance of getting legislation through.

  5. Rationalist
    November 27th, 2009 at 21:51 | #5

    Labor is smart enough to:

    A) Not deal with the Greens on the ETS because of the dominance of Labor right behind the scenes.
    B) Go to a DD (nobody likes more minor party riff raff in the Senate).

    I don’t think anyone can predict what will happen over the next week.

  6. Rationalist
    November 27th, 2009 at 21:51 | #6

    *Not go to a DD.

  7. Chris Warren
    November 27th, 2009 at 21:58 | #7

    As I recall, a double dissolution is a path to a joint sitting, which is probably the best way to get a ETS policy through (when the more numerous HoR is strongly supportive and the less numerous Senate is obstructive).

    But it is all very unpredictable.

    As a famous songster once said: “Don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin – And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin…..”.

  8. SJ
    November 27th, 2009 at 22:00 | #8

    Labor won’t change the massive rip-off from individual taxpayers to fund coal and aluminium, etc., because that’s what they always wanted from day one.

    Further, this is why there won’t be a DD.

  9. November 27th, 2009 at 22:18 | #9

    On the issue of “failure to pass”, this is what Lumb and Moens say in their annotated Constitution, at [439]:

    The second double dissolution took place in 1951 when a dissolution was granted to the Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, on a Commonwealth Bank Bill. This case also led to a discussion of the meaning of the phrase ‘fails to pass’ in the first paragraph of s 57… The Senate had not rejected the Bank Bill outright but had referred the Bill to a select committee of the Senate. The Solicitor-General of the time, in an opinion, stated that the words ‘fails to pass’ involved a suggestion of some breach of duty or some degree of fault, and imported as a minimum that the Senate had avoided a decision on the Bill. This, he said, following the opinion of an earlier Solicitor-General, could occur where the Bill was delayed by being referred to a select committee (as in this case) or being repeatedly adjourned.

    But it is clear that, in the light of comments made in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority case (Victoria v Commonwealth) that the Senate must be given time to consider a Bill and mere referral to a Select Committee does not amount to a failure to pass.

    [...]

    In any case, the 1951 double dissolution precedent indicates that the matter is one which will be evaluated by the government of the day and advice given to the Governor-General accordingly. The question arises whether the Governor-General may reject that advice. … In 1956 the government released the correspondence of the 1951 dissolution. The Prime Minister of the day had taken the view that, while the Governor-General was not bound to follow his advice in respect of the conditions of fact set out in s 56 (for example, whether there was a failure to pass the law), once those conditions of fact were accepted there was an obligation on the Governor-General to follow the advice of the Prime Minister.

    So, assuming the government can persuade Quentin Bryce…

  10. johncanb
    November 27th, 2009 at 22:34 | #10

    The other problem with a double dissolution is that you’re stuck with the current ETS ie the one that was rejected in August. Surely its better to wait until July 2011 to get a better ETS that comes out of the negotiation between the greens and the alp.

  11. Freelander
    November 27th, 2009 at 23:10 | #11

    A DD and an election in a hot summer and the Liberal party will be the junior partner in a coalition, assuming the remnants coalesce. Costello and Nelson must be in paroxysms.

  12. Jill Rush
    November 28th, 2009 at 06:51 | #12

    The question becomes whether the ETS that is proposed is better than no ETS at all. I am not particularly sorry that the legislation hasn’t passed because the deal that was worked out with the Liberals seems to have taken anything worthwhile out and made it impossible to actually achieve carbon reductions; at great cost to the taxpayer who gains no benefit from any actions taken at the individual level.

    A double dissolution is a circuit breaker in all of this although Antony Green suggests that the Government has until August next year to go this way. The numbers in the senate won’t make too much difference if there is a joint sitting of parliament. The Liberals in a DD would be likely to lose yet more seats. However an opportunity to have an election means that there would be a focus on this issue which hasn’t been there previously as it all gets too hard for the average person. Labour hasn’t really bothered to try and convince us that it has a good plan at the moment and the shenanigans amongst the Coalition and the concessions they have wrung from the government suggest otherwise.

  13. paul walter
    November 28th, 2009 at 10:02 | #13

    This is the problem with our system. Weak oppositions, unwilling to do the job they are generously paid for by the public, to keep gate on policy instead of the self indulgence of slandering everyone including themselves. This encourages governments to the worst hubris, conceit and laziness, free of scrutiny. Errors and then graft must surely follow, as day follows night.
    The opposition is a grouping of shameful people.

  14. paul walter
    November 28th, 2009 at 11:34 | #14

    Double dissolution or doubly dissolute as to abuse of the collective intelligence?
    All doubly disillusioning to me.

  15. Ikonoclast
    November 28th, 2009 at 13:59 | #15

    I hope JQ’s optimistic reading of 2010 politics is right. We certainly need a better CPRS bill. To be consistent with my past posts, I must add the caveat that I still think we are 30 years too late in starting action. However, as there is a small percentage chance we can still save the current anthropo-benign climate from total meltdown then we should act. I would advocate halving our world emissions by 2020 and a net zero CO2 emission world economy by 2040. That might just work.

  16. Kevin Cox
    November 28th, 2009 at 17:19 | #16

    @Ikonoclast
    How about net zero by 2020. It can be done and it will make us all wealthier than we are now.

    I have been promoting various mechanisms for getting investment into renewables and ways of saving energy. Here is the latest version of the same idea of zero interest money to build needed infrastructure with repayments from the infrastructure earnings.

    I am looking for comments on why it won’t work.

    To see how to fix climate replace water rights with kwh rights. This will work because without interest charges renewable energy is cheaper than coal.

    The ACT government is going to build a dam on the Cotter River to store an extra 70 gigalitres of water for use when there is little or no water in the rivers. Over a period of 40 years we can expect the dam to fill at least twice and for at least 140 gigalitres of extra water to be sold during that period.

    The ACT government can auction this water so that a person who purchases it gets the right to a kilolitre of water for the next 40 years. The government has to raise $220M and it can be expected that the price that people are willing to pay will be a minimum of $2 per kilolitre as the maximum price today is $3.60. That is the amount of water needed to be sold is likely to be less than the 140 gigalitres of extra water.

    These water rights can be traded independently and can be used as currency. It is likely that many building construction companies will be happy to be paid in water rather than money.
    This investment would be most attractive to superannuation and pension funds who have a need to preserve their assets and to have an asset whose value keeps up with inflation.

    If the government borrows money at 7% interest rate with a repayment of 20 years then it will cost the ACT water consumers $381,700,000 in interest and repayment costs. This is about $200 a year extra for every household for the next 20 years.

    If the water is presold then there is NO need to increase water charges.

  17. November 28th, 2009 at 19:02 | #17

    Pr Q said:

    The failure of the Senate to pass[1] the CPRS today means that the Rudd-Turnbull deal is dead, and that Rudd now has little choice but to go for a double dissolution, early in 2010.

    This is a big call and represents perhaps a smidgeon of wishful thinking or barracking rather than cold analysis of the situation. Although in the current hysterical situation cold analysis can go wrong because anything can happen.

    If the ALP had wanted to force a Double Dissolution they could have created a trigger anytime they wanted by just refusing concessions to the LP. Obviously they dont want one, presumably because this does not suit Rudd’s political calculus (and you can’t fault that so far).

    Also, forcing the LP to make a choice on an ETS has created a division in that party. More joy for Rudd the longer he can draw out that agony in the run-up to 2010.

    IN the meantime the ALP would prefer to take a flawed ETS to Copenhagen rather than have a Double Dissolution. They would prefer to negotiate an ETS now with the LP Browns as this only costs money, and they get some green cred with the Centre. Negotiating with the Greens costs votes to their Right and does not win any more to their Left.

    Hockey will not stand. Turnbull will prevail over Abbott in the party room, once the enormity of the disaster is apparent as the abyss looms up. The compromise ETS Bill will then pass with many, but not enough, L/NP defections. This will boil over now, although remain simmering until the LP finally get their a**es kicked in 2010.

  18. Alice
    November 28th, 2009 at 19:16 | #18

    @Jack Strocchi
    Well I suggest they should go for the DD jack (ALP) with the ETS they want not this LP mauled ineffectual puusy footing totally useless thing left spewed up on the grass so that even a dog wouldnt p**s on it (thankyou LP Australia – useless bunch of fools).

    Its time for the DD and its time the LP had their noses wiped in this Jack. You want a Menzie style liberal party back? Then start working on it and stop making excuses for idiots. They have no hope (and no brains) and Rudd should now gostraight for the jugular while they pussyfoot and tapdance around with their internal schizophrenia.

    Its a laugh Jack and the LP deserve it (to look very closely into the gutter).

    Remind me one day I saw this coming clear as a bell…..

    Ill remind you anyway Jack, just in case you forget.

  19. 2 tanners
    November 28th, 2009 at 23:13 | #19

    Rudd has said today in a doorstop that he has no intention of going less than full term. However, an August DD election may also be a full term election. The liberals were tearing each other apart on TV tonight with only one coherent message: this is what I think my electorate wants so to hell with you and the rest of the party.

    Not a conscience vote – a rabble.

  20. jquiggin
    November 29th, 2009 at 04:44 | #20

    I’m puzzled by Rudd’s thinking on this, but there is no doubt his strategy has worked brilliantly so far, at least in political terms.

  21. November 29th, 2009 at 06:36 | #21

    Pr Q@#20 November 29th, 2009 at 04:44 said:

    I’m puzzled by Rudd’s thinking on this, but there is no doubt his strategy has worked brilliantly so far, at least in political terms.

    Not to sound condescending – Pr Q has been the most prescient commentator in pointing out the extent of all-round delusionism on the Right – but I dont find Rudd’s aversion to a D/D at all “puzzling”.

    We know a number of things about Rudd’s political MO and strategy:

    – he is risk-averse, diplomatic, “c”onservative in style whereas a D/D is a bit of a risk, going by historical precedent;

    – he so desperately wants to wave a piece of paper around at Copenhagen when he gets his photo-op with Bazza – remember he is a diplomat so to him summits represent nirvana;

    – public opinion-wise, he prefers tilting to the Centre, negotiating compromises with the Brown Right rather than being seen as beholden to the Green Left (whilst all the time talking to the Left in soaring phrases). Left Green voters will preference him in any case;

    – policy interest-wise, Kevin “path of least resistance” Rudd does not want to negotiate a revised Left Green ETS. This will incur the wrath of King Coal and state ALPs and probably the Murdoch press;

    – he is happy to see the LP remain divided on policy and unsettled on leadership rather than letting them off the hook with a delayed decision and compromise candidate.

    More generally, Rudd is in no great hurry to rush through a “program”. I have predicted from the get-go that Rudd is probably a three term PM, which looks like cautious optimism at the moment. I have also made a vague prediction that Rudd will swing a bit to the Left in second term office, once he accumulates and owns enough political capital.

    So there will be time and room for him to toss some more enviro sops to the Greens once he is dealing from a position of invincible strength.

    The great policy advantage of a d/d is that he can pass a clean ETS with less exceptions and compensations. But that assumes a clean ETS is the object of the exercise, which I have all the time pointed out is naive. (sorry but ITYS)

  22. November 29th, 2009 at 21:01 | #22

    JQ said

    “I’m puzzled by Rudd’s thinking on this, but there is no doubt his strategy has worked brilliantly so far, at least in political terms.”

    Rudd doesn’t give stuff about the ETS, as the ETS policy he is pushing is a flawed one. His main strategy is classic ‘wedge politics’ and it has worked brilliantly. Although, taking his flawed ETS to the electorate could be dangerous as scrutiny will show it for what it is- crap. Leaving open the chance the election could back fire if Rudd thinks people are stupid enough to vote for it.

  23. Alice
    November 29th, 2009 at 21:04 | #23

    @Jack Strocchi
    I tend to agree with Stroppy Jacks (friendly nickname Jack LOL) take on Rudd re the capital “c” conservative approach and the efforts to negotiate compromise… but I think you forget one thing Jack…re the DD…he has a bit of a temper….which doesnt quite fit the mould

    He could find his patience gone… and after that I imagine if he decides to dig in for a DD he will go for it and it could be a hairtrigger bit more palaver from the LP that does it. I know Id go the DD if Abott or one of the loonies gets up, and there may even be a case if Turnbull stays…he has been weakened also but he has picked up some cred by his grace under pressure and his grace in dealing with the nasties in LP. Still think it would be a lost cause though for LP. Rudd def has the upper hand here and the money for an ad campaign which Id like to see him use.

  24. Freelander
    November 29th, 2009 at 23:50 | #24

    @jquiggin

    Rudd will want to seem extremely reluctant to call a DD. You really can’t expect him to be saying anything else. He really didn’t want to do it but they left him no choice.

  25. Freelander
    November 29th, 2009 at 23:52 | #25

    Also, the less the threat of a DD, the less the chance that the deniers will come to their senses or materialise in this universe from whatever bizzaro universe their currrently think they are in.

  26. Alice
    November 30th, 2009 at 05:27 | #26

    The bizarro land of Minchin’s Munchkins?

  27. December 1st, 2009 at 10:09 | #27

    bring it on, a DD election based on the eTs.

    It could be that not just the Libs are divided 50/50 about the eTs, but the whole community.

    It took 2 goes to get the gsT past the electorate and maybe the electorate might not be so gullible this time around. It will be an interesting election. Plenty of ammo to sh*t scare the electorate in Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 that is now before the Senate.

    Regardless of the final outcome re the eTs, it is good to see democracy at work.

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