The politics of the CPRS

In the process leading up to the Senate’s rejection of the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, no one has covered themselves with glory. Starting with the Independents, there’s little that can be said about Fielding except that the sooner he is sent home to nurse his delusions, the better. Nick Xenophon has unfortunately followed his customary line of trying to come up with his own alternative scheme. At this stage of the game, this position is not much different, in practice, from Fielding’s, though it offers more chance of a rethink on the second round. The Nationals have pretty much followed the Fielding line, and the Liberals have been all over the shop, as usual.

That leaves Labor and the Greens, neither of whom can be particularly proud of themselves. In the absence of a disaster, they will control the Senate between them in the next Parliament and will have little choice but to make deals on climate policy. As a leadup to this, it would be great if they could have reached an agreement on an improved, if still imperfect, CPRS. But Labor is more interested in wedging the Libs, and the Greens are more interested in political purity.

What would an improved CPRS look like? First, as I’ve argued already, the government’s conditional target of 25 per cent is about right. There’s no way Copenhagen will produce a number much larger than this – the US is offering 17, and the EU 30 with an asterisk (a choice of start date that makes them look particularly good). The 5 per cent target could be higher, but really, if we don’t get a global agreement, nothing Australia does really matters. The big flaws in the CPRS are the excessive giveaways of free permits (and the correspondingly limited compensation for households and displaced workers) and the fact that the design negates the benefits of any voluntary reductions (I initially thought the changes announced in March addressed this point, but they don’t).

Looking ahead, the politics seem reasonably promising for the government, promising but risky for the Greens and the Nationals, mixed for the Independents, and disastrous for the Libs. The government would be crazy not to take the opportunity of a double dissolution: given the resounding win that seems almost certain, they would be able to pass the legislation in a joint sitting without any outside support. That would create a “fact on the ground” which would make it life more difficult for the Greens; they could scarcely block legislation required to fix problems with an existing scheme as they emerged, and would be stuck with making incremental changes. Against that, they would have the balance of power in the Senate, and the chance of taking a couple of inner city seats from Labor (remote in my view, in the context of a double dissolution). The Nats would be able to demonstrate some independence and perhaps stave off their extinction for another election or two. As for the Independents, Fielding should never have been elected (thanks, hardheads at the Vic ALP for the deal that got him in!) and won’t get back. On the figures from last time, Xenophon could be re-elected with a running mate. I doubt that would happen. He’d probably get back in, but the numbers in the new Senate would leave him on the sidelines.

As for the Libs, the idea of a double dissolution in November fought on an issue where they can’t keep a consistent line for more than a day at a time, seems appalling. They’d be better off backing down and passing the government’s legislation. But if they are going to cave in November, why didn’t they make a serious attempt at cutting a deal this time around? Like Mr Micawber, they are hoping that somethng will turn up, but they are likely to be disappointed.

81 thoughts on “The politics of the CPRS

  1. and I should have added Fred – that your efforts are even more valuable than the govts who have so greedily sold off water rights that they have starved the rivers…even more valuable Fred.

  2. @Alice
    And maybe Fred – we dont really even need State governments any more. Maybe they ARE a relic of times gone when communication was lesser…maybe we dont need them, and their in fighting and their squabbles and their pathetic managements. Maybe we need only one government for the whole country and state governments should be cleaned out as a relic of a bygone age.

  3. Alice
    I took a day or so to have a think about your point re state govts.
    Its not an issue I have considered much in the past nor paid too much attention to when it has been discussed, sort of a tangential idea for me.
    But maybe I’ll have a deep rethink about that.
    I kinda like the idea of local governments as being closest to the community in our 3 tiered sysytem. Even where I live the apparent homogenity of the area hides several fundamentally different local micro ‘geopolitical’ variations, so much more so are these local issues obscured with a state context.
    I lived in Canada for a year and local govt. operates several services eg police and schools, that are state responsibilities here.
    The Canadian model seemed [my familiarity was brief and superficial] to run well.
    Maybe state govts are unnecessary.
    Maybe.
    I’ll think a bit more.
    Certainly they bear a huge resposibility for the plight of for the Murray.

  4. Im beginning to think so myself Fred. The State govts have become a bit of a relic. They cant tax sufficiently so they make a mess collecting fees and charges over puny assistances – and they make money through donations and shonky deals with developers that dont do us any good. They are constantly crying “broke, broke broke” and their trains dont run on time and they sit around trying to get the private sector to fix their messes and they individually get on the gravy train big time…Im seriously starting to wonder if it shouldnt be all fed and local myself.

  5. @fred
    Thanks Fred, for providing that information; it’s great to get some insight into what is really required to regreen – perhaps revegetate is closer to the mark, given the previous state of much of the land here – the area. With the regional rainfall being typically low and lumpy (correct me if I’m wrong here) it’s difficult to imagine new plants sprouting and maturing without human intervention these days.

    You also pointed out that the heatwaves challenge the saplings and other plants, which is interesting to me because in the past in Adelaide I’ve lost plants through a single day of extreme heat. They look like the plant equivalent of the overseas tourist on one of our beaches in January: sunburnt and dehydrated to the nth degree. I’m no greenthumb however 🙂 For the local area, meaning Murray Bridge and surrounds (South Australia, 80km from Adelaide) the move towards a hotter drier climate – as the CSIRO boffins have predicted – means that the odds of getting several extremely hot days and extremely hot nights (defined as > 40C for day and > 30C for night) sadly rise considerably. My limited horticultural knowledge not withstanding, I recall hearing that for Australian trees extreme night time temperature is what gets them. That seems consistent with other information I’ve found on tree thermal death. It shows how hollow the claim by Plimer and others is, that a warmer global mean temperature will be good for plants. Not if the plants are in South Australia, it’s not.

    I share that frustration concerning the Murray, not that I have clear ideas on how to fix it. I remember how we used to swing on the rope, tied to a branch of a long gone tree, out into the water – naturally, teenagers don’t see danger – and now, whenever I do a morning walk down the reserve all I see is an extended shore line and the bits of junk us kids luckily avoided landing on.

    Keep up the great work, Fred.

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