Dragging the chain

Looking at the Abbott-Hanson government that is now taking shape behind the nominal leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, the dominant theme is one of pointless resistance to inevitable change.

The most striking instance of this is the plebiscite on equal marriage, dreamed up by Abbott as a way of dodging the issue of a Parliamentary vote. At this point, it is obvious that the whole thing is just an expensive and painful exercise in delaying the inevitable. Equal marriage is law throughout the English-speaking world, and is rapidly becoming so everywhere, as well as being supported by a majority of Australians. Even if the opponents could somehow carry the day in a plebiscite, the position couldn’t be sustained for long. And of course the Abbott group know this. As soon as Turnbull was locked into the plebiscite they started loading it up with everything they could to ensure it would never happen. Even from the most cynical viewpoint, this seems silly to me. They are going to lose in the end, and when they do, they will be wailing about freedom of conscience for cake-makers and so on. If they agreed to a Parliamentary vote now, they could make it a condition for Turnbull to include such clauses and reject any amendment. But in three years time, or whenever a parliamentary majority emerges, there will be no reason to appease people who have shown themselves to be bigots.

Then there’s climate change. Everywhere else in the world, things are moving fast. Country after country is abandoning coal, and the share of renewables is rising rapidly. Even England is generating more power from solar PV than from coal. But Australia is going backwards. Having dropped any idea of turning Direct Action into an emissions intensity scheme, Turnbull and Frydenberg have joined the science denialists at the Oz in a campaign against renewable energy. At least they have signed on to the agreement to phase out HFCs, an agreement driven by, among others, the US, Canada, China and Brazil (the EU has already legislated an early phaseout). It’s good that the government has agreed to do the minimum required for developed countries under this deal, but takes some chutzpah to say, as Frydenberg does that this makes Australia a world leader.

The only remaining item about which the government seems to care is Abbott’s vendetta against the unions, settling scores dating back to the 1980s.

Abbott and Hanson and are almost exact contemporaries of mine (as is Turnbull, though he scarcely seems to have any active role). But politically it seems to me that they have chained themselves to ways of thinking that were ossified even in John Howard’s generation.

36 thoughts on “Dragging the chain

  1. @John Quiggin

    If the point is about Abbott backing Hanson’s racism while Turnbull stands and watches, your examples were badly chosen. Hanson is irrelevant to the government’s policies on marriage and climate change. These were in place long before she re-emerged.

  2. @Greg McKenzie Why should Australian law be guided by what is happening in India or China?

    The fact of the matter is that for some time a majority of polled Australians favour SSM. However the legislative agenda is being frustrated by minority groups, who claim victimhood.

  3. Tom Davies, that’s what to my knowledge some tax economists have been consistently saying since the late 1980s – even totally absent global warming a carbon tax is a good idea because it is a broad-based resources rent tax and is therefore better than the taxes it is likely to replace.

  4. @Greg McKenzie

    Greg, you’re making a point that’s totally different from Roman’s. He’s claiming any country for which English is a primary official language as “English-speaking”. That includes India.

    As a matter of general observation, policies and idea that prevail in the leading English-speaking countries (notably UK and US) tend to be adopted by the rest. So, the chance of the opponents of equal marriage prevailing here in the long run would be small even if they currently had majority support, which they don’t,

  5. @Kolchak

    In these cases, Hanson is backing Abbott’s policies. But I’m getting sick of quibbles, so I’ll make the same offer to you as to Roman. Either make a useful contribution, or collect your refund on the way out.

  6. @Joe

    On “freedom of conscience for cake-makers”, I find it strange that the cake-makers are concerned only with homosexuals.

    Even on the terms of their own bigotry they seem inconsistent. Do they object to baking cakes for Jewish or Muslim weddings, secular or atheist weddings, Wiccan weddings? Surely these would offend their apparently rarified Christian sensibilities as well. Why do we not hear them complaining about these types of weddings, which are already legal and presumably ordering cakes as we speak?

  7. @paul walter

    You would almost think that the ABC were clairvoyant, and knew what big lie the right were going to come out with, and stacked the audience appropriately. But given that they knew the guys sacked by CUB (whose beer I shall avoid), were in the audience, why did they tell the lie?

  8. Another example ‘of pointless resistance to inevitable change’ is forcing the NBN to use Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) with its technological limitations and dependence on buying Telstra’s copper network at an exorbitant price. The quality of the copper is uncertain and in many cases at least poor. There will be a huge reduction in the improvement bandwidth for little or no reduction in cost in comparison with Fibre-to-the-Premises.
    Technical discussion forums are referring to node-roulette where the distance from the house to the node makes a huge difference in the bandwidth. Some unlucky people will get barely any improvement over ADSL2 which will inhibit take up and hence funding and progress. It is likely all the FTTN will have to be replaced with FTTP in the future but the intermediate step makes the process slower and far more expensive.

  9. @suburbanite

    “…one set in motion by John Howard. His political masterstroke: “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”

    left the opposition effectively mute because they failed to think of a pithy comeback to this dog-whistle (or generally argue a strong case about anything). ”

    I think a lot of people in the Australian community now are unhappy with the refugee regime currently in place with all the abuses in offshore detention, and other issues.

    I also think there is the opportunity for community groups to influence the government over the next 2 years due to global UN negotiations on the refugee issue scheduled between 2016-2018, which Australia will have to be party to unless the government decides to make us an international pariah, which is unlikely since Malcolm Turnbull went to the Obama summit after he was invited.

    The UN Summit on global refugee and asylum seeker and migration issues in September returned with the New York Declaration, which commits countries to principles about the treatment and passage of refugees sort of like an updated version of the Declaration of the 1951 Refugees Convention.

    As well as this the New York Declaration has committed countries to another conference in the future and negotiations for “a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration” by 2018. The 2018 compact is intended to be a stronger framework more detailed than the principles set out in the New York Declaration, is my understanding.

    http://refugeesmigrants.un.org/declaration

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