Re: [asa] 'Mad Monk' Tony Abbott dooms Kevin Rudd's Australian climate change bill

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Tue Dec 01 2009 - 21:27:04 EST

Hi John,

It's actually a bit complex - involving everything from plain old political ambition right through to issues concerning the Australian Constitution.

The short story is...

1) Labour needed the support of either the Liberal/National party coalition OR the Greens (as in "environmental activists")/Independents to pass the climate change bill through the Senate (Upper House) which must approve ALL legislation before it becomes law.

2) The Libs/Nats Senators wanted Labour to make the bill less strenuous (or wait until after Copenhagen before acting) whilst the Greens Senators wanted Labour to make the bill more so.

3) Thus the entire affair - in really simple terms - became a question of who blinks first: the Libs/Nats or the Greens - with the "prize" being a climate change bill closer to the "winning" party's policy agenda.

Enter the Constitutional difficulty...

4) The only opposition that Libs/Nats or the Greens/independents could raise to the bill is in the Senate (Upper House) is important because Constitutionally speaking (1) they don't get forever to make a decision; and (2) if they reject the bill the Government can return it unchanged to the Senate with instructions to "try again"; and (3) if they reject it a second time, the government can dissolve both houses of parliament (a double dissolution) and hold a "double dissolution election" - thus allowing the public to pass judgement on the issue directly.

Enter the political difficulty...

5) Both Libs/Nats and the Greens know that the Labour party was elected on (amongst other things) a promise to "do something" about climate change - hence the climate change bill. SO - if they failed to support the bill in some form, and a double dissolution election were held, they would most likely suffer greatly at the ballot box (not the least simply from pique - many Australians would vote against them just for the inconvenience and expense of an unnecessary election).

6) is in the interests of both the Libs/Nats and the Greens/independents to "play nice," take a moderate position, and not insist on too many alterations to the bill.

Enter the problem for the Liberal party...

7) BUT having taken a hammering in the last Federal election the Libs/Nats were left in a shambles. In particular the have really struggled to find a viable party leader (in large part due to John Howard's failure to implement any sort of managed leadership transition - he lost his seat at the last Federal election leaving a MASSIVE power vacuum in the Liberal Party). The last two years have seen four changes in party leadership with constant rumour mongering about fresh leadership challenges

And the advantage for the Greens...

8) Who can see which way the wind is blowing on climate change - they don't really feel the need to compromise their extreme position given that all the flak is being launched at climate change sceptics. There's simply more pressure on the Lib/Nats to blink first.

And the reason why the Greens can afford to dig their heels in and the Lib/Nats can't...

9) For the last decade Australia has been in the grip of an ongoing drought, way below minimum average rainfall, and well above average temperatures. Included amongst this is the disastrous impact upon Australian agriculture - important because the National Party represent primarily a rural constitutency.


10) You have an Australian public who are very concerned about climate change issues, an incumbent Labour government with a clear mandate to act on the matter, and a Liberal/National party coalition trying to resolve a leadership issue whilst dealing with a deeply divisive issue with enormous stakes.

What this lead to was...

11) Malcolm Turnbull (the outgoing Liberal leader) trying to play the part of decisive leader - attempting to galvanise the Liberal/National coalition by supporting the climate change bill - but finding that he'd overplayed his hand and loosing all leadership credibility.

Followed by...

12) Tony Abbott's appointment following a stark choice between two equally unpopular candidates: (a) Malcolm Turnbull with his uncompromising support for the Gov't bill; or (b) Tony Abott with his uncompromising opposition to the Gov't bill.

Where we go from here is anybody's guess - that a climate change bill WILL be passed in some form is inevitable - there's too much support from the public AND the Labour government can always court the Greens to by-pass the Liberal/National opposition - with the result that the bill will be MORE RADICAL than the Liberals actually want.

So whilst Abbott soundly scuppered the government's attempt to pass the climate change bill before Copenhagen - it's nowhere near clear who's going to get the last laugh.

Hope that kinda helps.


> Murray,
> Please give us your perspective on this.
> John
> 'Mad Monk' Tony Abbott dooms Kevin Rudd's Australian climate change bill
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Received on Tue Dec 1 21:27:45 2009

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