Today’s Australian has published considerable material on the failure of Labor to clearly enunciate its policies. I have previously drawn particular attention to Labor’s failure to publish aggregates alternative to those in the Coalition’s budget and to costings for the economy of its global warming policy. This defect remains. But the recent emergence of many questions about Labor’s policies on specific policy issues has opened the way for much wider challenges to be made. The opening up of this area should also allow Morrison to reduce his announcements of funding small projects, which appear too much as vote buying, and focus more on attacking Shorten. It has also led The Australian to inter alia run the main letters column today with the heading Uncertainty Surrounds Labor’s Announced Policies. I was fortunate in having my epistle included as “lead letter”
I am presenting a Commentary which has no attachments because their inclusion would make it difficult to circulate the Commentary with the attachments and because I can send an attachment to those who wish to see it. The whole Commentary with attachments will also be in my web site. When controversial policy issues come under discussion in the public arena, there are often weird suggestions proposing government action. And the media publicises a supposed issue to give the impression that ““something needs to be done”. Take for example the idea that action to solve the dangerous warming threat might come if school children miss school one day and parade down the streets all over the country (and in other countries too) with placards instructing our elected politicians that urgent action is required. This is just what has happened. But has this publicity simply led to the school children going back to school and are people a bit tired of being told that much quoted models “prove” that climate change action is needed by government? Do such models actually so prove.
Due to a major technical problem which put my computer out of action for two days (possibly caused by a hacker I was advised) I am now in a catch-up position in regard to circumstances where numerous pre-election statements have been floated around by both major sides of politics. It has almost seemed like a new policy per day, which seems unlikely to have attracted votes because of the limited attention by the Coalition to explaining benefits. One commentator even described Morrison as a Muppet and, despite his increased media appearance, it is difficult to see a closing of the polling gap next time.
Yesterday’s meeting of COAG confirm that discussions of energy policy between federal and state minister have reached the point when people do or say things that are not sensible or serious ie the silly season has arrived (it appears that the only area of agreement was in regard to retail reliability!). The Liberal Energy Minister in NSW, Don Harwin, who somehow acquired a BEc(Hons), advised COAG to aim for zero carbon emissions by 2050 even though his website says “coal will remain a vital source of energy”. To put it mildly, these two propositions conflict and Harwin was not even allowed to put a motion to the meeting.
It was great to discover at last Wednesday’s Christmas drinks at Treasury (in Canberra) a number of “oldies” who said they were enjoying my Commentary and in particular the scepticism about the dangerous warming nonsense. While I resigned from Treasury in 1987 I later hoped that, with the danger thesis becoming more widely reflected in government policy both here and overseas, Treasury would publish analyses as John Stone and others had done on various controversial economic subjects during my time there. In fact, I edited a couple including one on the New International Economic Order(NIEO), which had an aim similar to one adopted by believers in the dangerous warming theme viz “save” developing countries by providing squillions of aid which would allow them to substitute costly fuel sources for cheaper fossil fuels.
My last Commentary (4 November) was headed “How Much Longer Can Morrison Last” and suggested that he must quickly address major policy issues and stop announcing handouts mainly designed to demonstrate that he is an “active” PM. But his decision to establish a electoral promotion bus to travel around parts of Queensland has so far not produced major policy statements. Of some interest is that senior Queensland Liberal Steve Ciobo (who voted for Dutton in the leadership spill) “refused to say yesterday whether the leadership switch to Mr Morrison would help improve the government’s stocks in the state”: ‘I don’t think it serves anyone’s purpose and I also don’t think, frankly, that Queenslanders or indeed Australians more generally, care about what’s happened,’ Mr Ciobo told Sky News (see Morrison Qld Bus Tour).
In my Commentary on 29 October I suggested that last Monday’s Newspoll of a 46/54 TPP, and the negative personal “Satisfaction” rate for Morrison himself, required him to quickly change his current strategy or face the question as to whether he should continue to be leader. I noted that, while Abbott was not currently presenting himself as an alternative PM, he is participating actively in the general political debate and previous PM candidate Dutton is also active as Home Affairs Minister. But on last Monday’s Newspoll Dutton and other Coalition MPs would likely lose their seats and he and other Coalition members ought to be pressing Morrison to address major policy issues and stop announcing fewer handouts designed to demonstrate that he is an “active” PM.
Many will be aware of Banjo Patterson’s ballad on The Man from Snowy River, which began with “There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around That the colt from old Regret had got away, And had joined the wild bush horses”. Clancy of the Overflow then caught the escaped horse and turned around the other horses which had formed a collective with the colt. But Clancy had first to overcome numerous obstacles.
The Australian reports that the “final” version of NEG has now been sent to the states from where they will soon be leaked (see NEG “Finalised”). This version is to be considered at COAG next month and it appears that it does not include the mechanism for setting the emission reduction target, which are (amazingly) to be set each year under federal legislation. The responsibility for meeting the so-called “reliability obligation” is unclear as to what variation in supply, and from what fuel source, would be “unreliable”. No mention is made in this report of what is expected to happen to electricity prices.
Today’s Australian runs a Letters section titled “Newspoll is not all bad news for the Prime Minister”. Indeed! Even though it includes eight leadership quality measures showing a quite sharp deterioration in Turnbull’s assessment (see yesterday’s Commentary on web), no Liberal Party MP comes forward to challenge Turnbull (partly because he or she realises the enormous task required to undo his decisions). This suggests we face with another year or so of Turnbullism.