Unless Tony Abbott and his fellow conservatives recant their ‘carbon tax’ scare campaign, Australians may well be doomed to more blackouts and rising power prices.
The Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have all this week recommended a market mechanism to price carbon emissions as a solution to the nation’s energy crisis.
This follows a frank admission from Mr Abbott’s former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, now a commentator, that the Coalition’s fierce campaign against a carbon price was entirely political.
Mr Abbott forced Julia Gillard to admit the market mechanism introduced by Labor was a “carbon tax”, turning it into constituent hip-pocket fear.
“That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott six months to cut through and when he did cut through Gillard was gone,” Ms Credlin told Sky News on Sunday.
Within 100 days of winning the 2013 election, Mr Abbott abolished the Gillard/Rudd carbon tax and replaced it with Direct Action to buy carbon abatement for $3.2 billion over four years.
Now in 2017, the Malcolm Turnbull government is locked in a policy quandary of Mr Abbott’s making.
Late last year, a Turnbull government discussion paper to look again at a price mechanism for carbon emissions intensity was swiftly removed from the political agenda at the insistence of Abbott supporters within the Coalition party room.
Mr Turnbull must now reassure the nation that air conditioners will keep humming securely in 40-degree heat, with the industry-supported option of a ‘carbon tax’ off the table.
Mr Abbott might do well to listen to a conservative fellow traveller, Bob Inglis, who next week will address the National Press Club in Canberra.
Conservatives back a carbon tax
Mr Inglis is a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, said to be one of the reddest of the red states. A devout Christian, he instinctively rejected Al Gore’s prognosis about catastrophic climate change until one of his five children suggested he clean up his act.
A lawyer by training, he joined a congressional committee and visited Australia and Antarctica. In Antarctica he saw cores extracted from the depths of the ice and observed the increasingly infectious carbon dioxide bubbles from the past two centuries.
He established in his own objective mind that extreme weather events now experienced in North America and worldwide are the direct result of escalating concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
As a believer in God he accepted he had a responsibility to nurture all life on the planet, not threaten its survival.
The New Daily met Bob Inglis in Sydney on Monday. His visit is being sponsored by the Australia Institute and he is meeting free enterprise energy innovators, politicians and the business lobby.
Significantly, as a small-government, low-regulation Republican he believes the “environmental Left” has taken climate change only so far. The solution now rests with conservative leadership.
“We have to fight climate change with free enterprise instead of ineffective subsidies and regulations.”
Mr Inglis paid a high price for his conversion and lost his party’s endorsement for Congress.
But now with 2432 supporters he has established republicen.org to build momentum from the other side of the aisle.
They have been joined by veteran Republicans from what is called the Climate Leadership Council, including James Baker, Henry Paulson, George Shultz, Marty Feldstein and Greg Mankiw.
The council includes five who have either served as treasury secretary or as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
They are talking to the White House about replacing all Obama administration climate policies with a cumulative carbon tax starting at $US40 per ton, the revenue to be paid quarterly through social security to every American.
While this radical proposal is not expected to gain traction initially with President Trump, who has committed the US to withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and to refurbish the coal and shale gas industries, concern about climate change is now activating influential church leaders as well as business.
In ever-competitive America, China’s clear leadership in renewable technology is also galvanising the business lobby.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has also tweeted support.
Thought-provoking plan from highly respected conservatives to both strengthen the economy & confront climate risks: https://t.co/U6kmrQTPth
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 8, 2017
Even with Pope Francis declaring that human-induced climate change is a sin against God, there appears to be no way out for Australia … unless Mr Abbott has a Bob Inglis-style conversion on the Road to Damascus.