After the contortions of the last few weeks, I think itâ€™s pretty safe to draw the following conclusions
(i) The Liberal Party is all over the shop on climate change and is going to stay that way, at least as long as Brendan Nelson remains leader
(ii) Whatever legislative proposal the government comes up with, the Opposition will oppose it
The first is pretty obvious. While the outright delusionists kept quite in the leadup to the election, and for a few months afterwards, theyâ€™re getting louder again, and Nelson is already pandering to them. On the other hand, the small but important group who actually want to do something, most notably Hunt and Turnbull, have nothing to lose by saying so. The great mass whose instinct is to do nothing, but who can see the political risks of this approach (of whom Nelson is a prime example) are swinging from one side to the other.
On the second point, in a situation like this, itâ€™s natural to fall back on the maxim â€˜the duty of Opposition is to opposeâ€™ and thatâ€™s what I expect will happen in the end. That leaves the Rudd government with a number of choices, some of which must be made in advance.
The most aggressive response would be to move forward rapidly with legislation close to the model in the Green Paper, with the expectation that neither the Coalition nor the Greens would support it. A three-month wait and the same legislation would provide a trigger for a double dissolution. This seems appealing in a lot of ways. The risk of defeat in the Reps is small, and a more tractable Senate highly likely. On the other hand, Rudd is generally cautious.
The main alternative is to attempt a deal with the Greens and independents, with the threat of a double dissolution held in reserve. Itâ€™s hard to tell how this would turn out. The best outcome, in terms of a combination of political salability and environmental effectiveness, would be one where the government maintained compensation for households and at least some for industry, and secured Green support by the adoption of reasonably stringent targets for emissions reductions.