Carbon Politics in Oz: A Peek Behind The Curtain
Australia's action to put a price on carbon cheered me up a bit. A brief study of the political tea leaves quickly destroyed the feeling.
Consider this aggregation of Oz political poll data plotted over the time period since the government that is proposing this climate action now was elected:
The people who are pushing this carbon tax through are the ones represented by the red line. Support for this government has been sliding downward since it was elected in September 2010. By mid February 2011, the slide started looking more like the accelerating disintegration of Greenland's ice.
Prime Minister Gillard’s Labour Party, which governs on the basis that it can control the House with the help of the Greens and some Independents, has 76 votes. The Opposition Liberal/National coalition has 74 votes. One death or resignation could end this government. The non-Labour members of the governing coalition can jump ship any time
The Nielsen polling group describes the situation in starker terms. Vagaries of the proportional electoral system in Oz mean that the aggregation of polls chart I started this post with includes as supporters for Labour some voters who prefer and will vote for other parties. Only 27% of the electorate told Nielsen in late June that they support Labour as their primary choice. According to the Nielsen website, this “is the lowest for any major party in the 39 year history of the Federal Nielsen Poll".
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard:
Things recently got worse: a June 28 Newspoll has it that Prime Minister Gillard “has sunk below Tony Abbott as preferred Prime Minister for the first time”. Discussion of Gillard's general prospects at that time in The Economist is here.
“Her satisfaction rating has now dropped by 22 points since she announced a carbon tax”
Gillard is being publicly roasted by the herds who support her opposition, as a "liar", for saying she would not introduce a measure like this back when she was asking Oz to vote her in. She appeared, close to tears, at the Oz National Press Club saying she's decided ''to do right for the country'', adding: ''if you don't do what is right for the nation, then you shouldn't be Prime Minister''.
Because her party failed to win enough seats to form a government without the support of the Green Party, its ram a carbon price through and/or die, or die.
(The politicians out selling this are emphasizing renewables even though the targets are a daunting 80% CO2 reduction by 2050 combined with a vigorous expansion of general economic activity. No one, in the hours of political interviews on Australian radio I tuned into yesterday, was attempting to sell nukes. Carbon capture was mentioned once. Government studies assume 30% of Oz electric power will still be provided by coal in 2050, using carbon capture. Some business types are complaining too much revenue from this tax is going to be wasted on proving the Green renewables dream is too expensive to work. This discussion, recorded in early June, has utility executives in Oz claim their cost data supports nukes over carbon capture. One stated his Chinese contacts are saying it is getting realistic to believe that all Oz will have to do is call China to order Western designed Chinese built turnkey nukes for 30 month delivery.)
This carbon price news is merely an announcement of intent to pass a specific piece of legislation. The far more popular Opposition coalition has said they will oppose it every step of the way. If no one bolts, dies or resigns in a seat the Opposition can win and the Prime Minister persists in ramming it through in the face of polling like the proposal will become law.
The Opposition is promising to make the next election campaign a referendum on this tax.
Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition
Abbot is one of those climate deniers who pretends he would support action if only the rest of the world would do so, or if action was taken in some way other than what any proposal for action on the table in front of him is, etc. This Youtube clip captures his position. A brief history of his climate positions is maintained here.
Although putting a price on carbon has been tried in Oz once before and the possibility was suspected to be in the cards if Gillard was elected Prime Minister to govern the country, here's what Nielsen polling shows about how support for such policy has held up since the election:
Extensive discussion of how support for the general idea of doing something about climate change crumbled away once a specific proposal was put on the table in Oz last time is here.
Among geezers 60 years old and over, the “Not prepared to pay anything” was 43% by 2010. Something like this almost makes you feel like supporting US Republican Party proposals to adamantly refuse to pay the level of taxes our parents did when they supported their parents in their old age even as it becomes crystal clear this means shovelling "there but for fortune go you or I" geezers out onto the streets to die in some numbers. And I'm 61 years old.
David Lewis: I made pottery in rural Canada for a number of years starting in the early 1970s. When scientists confirmed what the Antarctic ozone hole was in 1987 I felt a call to understand what was happening to the atmosphere. I was a delegate to the Toronto Changing Atmosphere conference of 1988. I told the scientists I met there that I was an artist, but I could read their journals, ...
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