If we were in any doubt about how politicians often put politics ahead of principle, the back flip by the Prime Minister on the ETS should remove all doubts. In what appears to be a purely political move in an election year, Mr Rudd told us yesterday that his emissions trading scheme would be shelved for at least three years.
What was until recently the most pressing issue of our time is now being put on the back burner until 2013. Evidently Mr Rudd does not believe there will be many votes in this, and he wants to go to the next federal election pushing health care policies instead.
Pure politics, in other words. Recall that just recently he was insisting that “climate change is the great moral challenge of our generation” and that it is “the great moral dilemma of our time”. Indeed, it was the very centrepiece of the Federal Government’s election strategy, an issue that could not be ignored or compromised on.
It does not take great intelligence to ask a few hard questions here. If climate change is indeed the great moral challenge of our day, then how in the world can it be put off for years to come? And if it can be postponed a full three years at least, then how can it be such a vital and imperative issue?
Of course Mr Rudd has already shot himself in the foot big time with the home ceiling insulation scandal. Battgate has proven to be a hugely expensive debacle, with lives lost, homes burned down, many more at risk, and an entire industry reeling. All because we ‘had to act’ and deal with climate change, according to Mr Rudd.
Other political commentators have not been slow to see through all this as well. Andrew Bolt for example speaks of “Kevin Rudd’s great ETS fraud found out”. He asks us if Mr Rudd was lying in the past or if he is lying now. Good question.
Says Bolt, “Yet only last year this same Government claimed ‘delay was denial’, and we could not wait to save ‘our jobs, our houses, our farms, our reefs, our economy and our future’. To stop ‘700,000 homes and businesses’ on our coast from drowning. (Another lie.)”
He continues, “For years he’s mocked warnings from sceptics and some Liberals that it was reckless for small Australia to make cuts that almost no other country would make. As I’ve often argued, we’d just export jobs overseas without making a scrap of difference to any warming, which seems to have halted since 2001 anyway. Rudd pretended then that such arguments were mad. Almost criminal.
“‘The clock is ticking for the planet,’ he said six months ago. ‘The resolve of the Australian Government is clear – we choose action, and we do so because Australia’s fundamental economic and environmental interests lie in action. Action now. Not action delayed.’ The costs of delay would be ‘severe’.”
But how can something be so urgent one day and simply ho-hum the next? If this really is the defining issue of our time, he should go down fighting. “If Rudd truly believed his ETS was so desperately needed to meet the world’s ‘biggest challenge’, why didn’t he fight like sin to get it through the Senate, as President Barack Obama fought to get his health reforms through his Senate? Why didn’t he throw everything into cutting a deal with the Greens and the two independent Senators to vote through an ETS to ‘save’ the planet?”
Of course Rudd may yet decide that this is once again the moral crisis of our age, and resurrect it without warning: “Rudd’s ETS is not yet a corpse but a zombie, and with an election looming, Rudd wants that zombie down in the crypt, so timid voters won’t tremble.”
But maybe critics are being a bit too strong here. Perhaps Rudd really does mean well. Well, past words of Rudd seem to clearly condemn him. As Bolt concludes, “You may think I’m harsh on Rudd, but I say little that he hasn’t said himself – and of delayers just like him.
“I remember his speech last November to the Lowy Institute in which he vilified me and a few other sceptics he named: ‘The third group of climate deniers are those who pretend to accept the science but then urge delay because they don’t want their country to be the first to act. What absolute political cowardice. What an absolute failure of leadership. What an absolute failure of logic.’ You said it, Prime Minister. Or were you just spinning then, too?”
All politicians can easily put politics ahead of principle, and spin ahead of reality. But it seems we are getting more than our fair share from the current Prime Minister. Funny isn’t it, what an election year can do?