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Friday, September 18, 2015

No change in Australian #climate policy with new PM Turnbull

This week Australia watched as the Liberal Party changed the Prime Minister, deposing Tony Abbott in a 54-44 party room vote and reinstating Malcolm Turnbull to the position of party leader and now Prime Minister. The change follows succeeding worsening polls for the Government.

Sunday afternoon Canberra was abuzz with rumours of a leadership challenge in the Liberal Party. Even though the Canning byelection is in progess, this is a sitting week in Canberra when politicians were available for a party room meeting. The #Libspill quickly came to fruition on Monday night in the Liberal party room meeting.

This is the third Prime Minister in 5 years who has been deposed in a party room ballot. Kevin Rudd was deposed by Julia Guillard in 2010, who then went on to form a minority government after a general election with the support of Independent MPs. With polls souring, Guillard was deposed by Rudd near the end of her term in 2013, with Tony Abbott then becoming Prime Minister after the Liberal National Parties won a majority of seats in the general election.

Now it was Abbott's turn to be deposed after serving less than 2 years as Prime Minister and numerous gaffes in government. The most recent gaffe was a laughing response to a joke in bad taste made by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on rising sea levels and Pacific nations.

Turnbull was formerly Opposition Leader in 2009 engaged in negotiating a bipartisan Emissions Trading Scheme called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) with the Labor party, when he was defeated in a leadership challenge by Tony Abbott by a difference of 1 vote.

The hard right climate denialist faction in the Liberal Party had taken control. Malcolm Turnbull went to the backbench. The Liberal and National Party were able to defeat the CPRS with the support of the Greens in the Senate. Labor had put all their eggs into a bipartisan deal with the opposition, locking out the Greens from negotiations and any possibility of their support. An Emissions Reduction Scheme policy that had been put forward by both Labor and Liberal Parties at the 2007 Federal election, was now lying in ruins due to the hard politicing from all parties.

In December 2009 Turnbull made this extraordinary blog post on the Liberals new Climate policy: Time for some straight talking on climate change.

I think I have to eat my final words in that blogpost. Turnbull has been spouting the Government line so long, botched the NBN transition as Communications Minister, and now reverses his position on mitigation tools which he plainly knows lack effectiveness for the targets climate science say are needed. He used to smell of roses, but he has been in the cesspit so long that now he smells like the rest of his party.

Live Coverage of leadership coup

Of course the leadership ballot was covered live by ABC News 24 and broadcast on ABC1. The popular live QandA program with a studio audience and a live twitter feed was relegated to being broadcast on ABC2 and also live streamed. As QandA regularly discusses politics, there was a lot of overlap in questions on the change of leadership.

Tony Jones, the compare of QandA, announced that we have a new Prime Minister to the QandA audience part way through the program.

In The first press conference after being elected Prime Minister by a party room vote of 54 to 44, Turnbull was asked to explain his current attitude to climate policy and climate targets. Read the full transcript at the Sydney Morning Herald:

Reporter: Can I ask on a policy of the key policy questions, on gay marriage how will you progress that one? Secondly, on climate change, two of the key doubts...

Malcolm Turnbull: Let me make this clear. The policy on climate change that Greg Hunt and Julie, in fact, prepared is one that I supported as a minister in the Abbott Government and it's one that I support today.
So the... again, just going back to what Lenore said, policies are reviewed and adapted all the time. But the climate policy is one that I think has been very well designed. That was a very,very good piece of work.

Julie Bishop: Can I just say, we've already announced climate targets for Paris in December and I expect those targets to continue.

I wrote a post in February 2015 how Turnbull wanted to become Prime Minister so much, that he bargained his soul and capitulated to the hard right climate denialists in the party: Malcolm Turnbull squashes #climate action for #libspill chance as Prime Minister. That was the price he paid. To continue the current ineffective climate policies at the behest of the hard right in the party for his chance as prime Minister.

Turnbull challenged on climate and renewables policies

On Tuesday, Greens MP Adam Bandt asks if Prime Minister Turnbull will change the Government's climate change targets and policy, to which Turnbull confirms no changes will be made.

"Many people hope that it means a change of direction for the country, and you said that we need leadership that respects people's intelligence and explains complex issues, so my question is: does this include climate change? Are you beholden to the hardliners in your ranks, meaning that you will stick with pollution targets that fudge the science? Or will you explain and persuade that the science requires much deeper pollution cuts than the Abbott government had proposed?" asked Adam Bandt during Question Time.

Turnbull answered "The cuts proposed by the government which are being taken by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for the Environment to the Paris Conference of the Parties are very substantial ones, and they are in line with cuts proposed by comparable economies."

"The cuts that we are proposing are absolutely comparable and appropriate, in line with other comparable economies. They are very substantial cuts. The means that we are using, which the Minister for the Environment has diligently and carefully put in place to achieve them, are doing their work...."

Let's have a factcheck and look at the current targets and what the Climate Action Tracker assessment of those targets in these two articles of mine.

On Wednesday the Labor Party stepped up it's questioning of Turnbull on climate change related questions. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten asked: "Will the Prime Minister join Labor in adopting a policy to ensure that 50 per cent of Australia's energy is sourced from renewables by 2030?"

Turnbull, in turn attacked Labor's 50 percent by 2030 renewables target, "He is highlighting one of the most reckless proposals the Labor Party has made. Fancy proposing, without any idea of the costs, without any idea of the abatement costs, that 50 per cent of energy had to come from renewables! ... There are so many means of reducing emissions. Any rational person, particularly one seeking to be Prime Minister, would say, 'We will cut emissions in the cheapest possible way.' "

Indeed Prime Minister, yet you have forsaken using the free market mechanism of an Emissions Trading Scheme for cutting corporate emissions, betraying your own ideological commitment to free market tools, and instead relying on a tax-payer funded scheme which does not address the largest sources of carbon pollution that need to be transformed. The $2.55 billion tax payer funded ERF is cherry picking the easiest carbon abatement and not forcing the largest polluters to transform their carbon intensive businesses.

I'll leave the last word to Steve Bloom on California's renewable commitment:

Read the full storify story with more tweets here:

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