Morrison Fails to Get Over It

Morrison Fails to Get Over It

In yesterday’s editorial The Australian concluded by saying that “at some stage we need a serious debate about what we are doing and why” on energy policy (see OZ Editorial on Energy Policy, 12/9). Also yesterday Morrison answered Shorten’s question in the House about why Turnbull has been sacked by telling him to “get over it”. But he is the one who needs to “get over it” – the “it” being Turnbull, who is reportedly still busy from New York telling colleagues to have Dutton’s eligibility to be a minister tested in the High Court. Morrison had no real option but to reject this proposal.

The trouble is that Morrison has made no attempt to explain Turnbull’s abandonment and, what’s more, it is difficult to see any substantive difference between the energy policy announced so far and that followed under the Turnbull government. In fact, while Morrison has drawn attention to areas which require policy attention neglected under Turnbull, such as industrial relations and banking, he has given no indication as to what he might have in mind.

True, he continues off and on to say the number one priority is to reduce power prices. But yesterday he made the absurd statement that Australia has to adopt climate change policies supported by Pacific Islands (a well known regular attempt to get more aid but which would not benefit from the changes sought). Today he is reported as assuring two backbenchers that he will not dump renewable energy targets (see Morrison Endorses Renewable (13/9).

Further,  Morrison’s abandonment of the NEG policy, and the legislation embracing the Paris agreement to reduce carbon emissions, do not themselves reduce power prices. The policy that seems to have replaced Paris still involves the same reduction in emissions and the target for renewable is retained. Both of these increase costs once the required additional back-ups  are taken into account.

Some reduction may be achieved through possible operative reforms of the energy market as suggested in the ACCC report. But the reported rise in prices in the futures market since the abandonment of NEG suggests downward pressures would have minimal effect. Unless the new government adopts a credible energy policy its Newspoll will be stuck at an unelectable level.

As National Political Editor James Campbell points out in today’s Herald Sun, if the polling booths repeat anything like the Newspoll  of a Coalition primary vote of only 34 per cent (Labor 42 per cent), that would slaughter the government (see Campbell on Morrison(13/9). He argues that the Coalition has no chance of winning unless its primary vote is above 40 per cent.

Today’s article by Chris Kenny (who has experience working in a minister’s office) identifies a number of problems areas, viz

  •  “The change in style is everything to Scott Morrison. And this looms as a strategic mistake ­because he needs to reshape the substance as well”.
  •  “The new leader couldn’t resist the temptation to remake the Coali­tion in his own image, looking to neutralise most areas of conflict with Labor”.
  •  “Turnbull lost the leadership because he had taken the party to the left, so Morrison needs to show he is taking it back to the mainstream right-of-centre where it belongs. Climate and ­energy policy is key”.
  • ” Already several backbenchers are agitating to withdraw from Paris and former assistant minister Keith Pitt has rejected a frontbench position to argue this stance. Critics portray them as ideol­ogues, whereas in fact supporting cheap energy is practical and pragmatic; it is making costly and futile climate gestures that is ideological”.
  • ” Our Prime Minister ought to make clear that if something needs to give on electricity prices, reliability or emissions targets, it is the climate goals that will be disregarded”.
  • ”If Morrison runs a version of the Turnbull government, only with an approachable and down-to-earth style, he won’t implode but he won’t win. If he backs that up with a few substantial measures demonstrating his government is firmly rooted in main­stream ­Coalition territory, win­ning won’t be out of the question.

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