Energy Policy at Convention
I concluded yesterday’s Commentary by noting that, at the Liberal National Party State convention in Brisbane, Turnbull had told the attendees that “Those people who say coal and other fossil fuels have no future are delusional and they fly in the face of all of the economic forecasts”. This was reportedly greeted with applause by the crowd, who a day earlier had passed a resolution urging a future state LNP government to promote and support the coal industry.
Some other aspects arising at the convention are of interest in considering what response the Turnbull government might take in regard to the Finkel report proposals for reduced emissions of 50% by 2050 and increased usage of renewable energy of 42% by 2030 – but while supporting the coal industry? While the convention did vote down a resolution formally calling on the federal government to back out of the Paris Climate Accord, the AAP report says it was a “narrow” loss (it was apparently argued that if the resolution was passed it would put pressure on Turnbull to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead).
Also relevant is that, in his address to the convention, LNP Leader Tim Nicholls indicated that a major issue in the lead up to the election (which has to be held by end May 2018 and is being tipped as possibly being in this calendar year) would be the increase in electricity prices and the adoption of a renewable energy policy, for both of which he blamed State Labor. Both of these aspects have implications for what climate change policy will be adopted by Turnbull, whose policies can be said to have been a major cause of the price increases and the increased use of renewable.
Climate Policy Portrayed by AFR
Another development in the debate on climate policy is the publication of an article in the AFR by journalist Aaron Patrick reporting that the executive director of the IPA, John Roskam, told him that “The majority of federal Liberal MPs are not convinced the science behind climate change is settled and support reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases for political reasons”. He said “he hadn’t conducted a formal count but found most Liberal politicians shared his doubts about what many experts say is the greatest global threat to mankind” (see AFR Aaron Patrick on Sceptics on Climate Change).
According to Roskam, “More than 50 per cent are solid sceptics and more than 50 per cent feel they need to be seen to do something,” he said in an interview. “The science is not settled.”If correct, this is an important development in the policy debate. It is also important that a leading Fairfax journalist was allowed to have such an article pulished.
Patrick also reports that former PM Howard told a forum last Thursday that he was “never a paid-up enthusiast” and has “become increasingly more of a sceptic on climate change”.
Patrick has also reported an exchange I had with him during which I told him I had personally suggested to Turnbull that he was wrong on climate policy. Patrick correctly says that I had “a long discussion with Turnbull on climate policy many years ago in which he dismissed my view that human activity had not caused global warming and refused to examine several highly questionable aspects of the dangerous warming thesis.”
Patrick also suggests that Nic Cater, the Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre, is “a climate sceptic and vociferous critic” of the IPCC.
OZ Says Civil War
The lead story in today’s Australian, headed ‘End civil war or Libs will lose’ indicates the seriousness of the problem facing the Coalition and includes the view by new Federal President Greiner that there must be a reconciliation between Turnbull and Abbott and that he would be happy to attend any meeting. But there is no recognition that the problem comes from the policies pursued by Turnbull being inconsistent with Liberal Party objectives and the fact that this is the main cause of the unfavourable polling. Turnbull is showing no sign of changing his position but is trying to persuade other Ministers to accept a new Home Office department headed by a conservative (Dutton) which would cover various agencies (such as ASIO) as well as Defence. Yet he has not been able to identify any serious problem with the present arrangements. Note also that LNP Leader Nicholls is said to have distanced himself from Turnbull (see OZ on Libs Civil War).
A realistic appreciation of the “civil war” is reflected in the article by Maurice Newman, who argues that
“Turnbull sought to remake his party’s founder, Sir Robert Menzies, in his own image. Turnbull argues that the Liberals were never a conservative party and that Menzies had purposely rejected traditional conservative politics because, at the time, “the authoritarian right had no appeal”. That’s intellectually disingenuous. Menzies abhorred all tyranny and was, at heart, a classical liberal. Indeed, Menzies’ views are clearly expressed in a 1974 letter lamenting that the “State executive is dominated by what we now call Liberals with a small l — that is to say who believe in nothing, but who believe in anything if they think it is worth a few votes. The whole thing is tragic.”
Menzies would have viewed Turnbull as fitting this description. Turnbull is fashionably left. He’s for big government and climate change. He’s drawn to identity politics and same-sex marriage, is pro-choice and a republican. Freedom of speech, he says, “will not build an extra road”. On fiscal policy, he argues “it’s better to be fair than in the black”. He supports generous welfare and high wages. He equivocates on IR reform and deregulation. If this is Turnbull’s “sensible centre”, it differs from Labor only at the margins (see attached Newman on Turnbull).
As I have already said, the only solution to the Civil War is for Turnbull to be replaced. If he is not, there will be adverse results for both the Federal and State parties.