Thursday, 21 July 2011

Full Steam Into Disaster

Despite faltering popularity in the polls, Prime Minister Julia Gillard is continuing with the carbon tax.

(Link viable as of 4:54am ACST: UTC +9.5)

Transcript as follows, my comments in bold.

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Day and night for a week, the Prime Minister's stormed the airwaves, stalked the malls and dropped into homes and workplaces to spruik her carbon-cutting plan.

But if today's Fairfax-Nielsen poll is any guide, it's all done nothing to lift her government or turn the climate argument.

With an election two years away, Julia Gillard has every reason to hope that time might restore her fortunes. But there's no escaping that right now Labor's plumbing historic depths in all the major opinion polls and it's worrying the Prime Minister's colleagues.

And rightly so.

Political editor Chris Uhlmann reports.

CHRIS UHLMANN, REPORTER: The long, long carbon journey continues, and with an election two years off, it's a campaign without consummation.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: I think everybody's determined to be out there explaining our policy to the community and we'll continue to do just that.

CHRIS UHLMANN: After a week selling her carbon plan in every available forum, the Prime Minister's early reviews are appalling. The Fairfax-Nielsen poll has Julia Gillard's Labor on a primary vote of just 26 per cent. Tony Abbott's Coalition is on 51. It's the latest in a long line of bad polls

the direction of which, it must be stressed is continually downwards...

and each prompts a standard reply.

JULIA GILLARD: As I've said before, democracy isn't one long opinion poll. And as I've said before, I always expected this to be tough and to get tougher.

Ms Prime Minister should, however, note that democracy IS one very important opinion poll every three years at the most, and the ones in between display an indication of which way that big one is going to go.

CHRIS UHLMANN: It's perfectly reasonable for the Prime Minister to look to the horizon and say these poll numbers don't matter, because the election's two years off and that's an eternity in politics. But Labor is plumbing unprecedented depths and her colleagues are deeply worried.

To get a sense of why, let's convert the polls into politicians. Labor has 72 seats in the House of Representatives. An 11 per cent fall on the 2010 election result would cut that to 30. So there are 42 sitting Labor MPs staring into oblivion whose minds will be focused by this poll. That includes every single Labor member in Queensland and Western Australia. And eight ministers would lose their seats, including the Treasurer. In short, a repeat of these numbers at a general election would deliver Labor's worst federal result since 1931, when it faced the dual challenges of the Great Depression and a party split. There's plenty of blame to go around and the mildest of it is aimed at the carbon price sales pitch.

I wonder who the other seven ministers are. We can hope that Climate Change will be among the casualties (unfortunately Finance - the previous Climate Change Minister - is immune to this, thanks to her position in the Senate - but she should go as well, because she owns this as much as her successor does.

PAUL HOWES, NATIONAL SECRETARY, AWU: Well, look, it hasn't been perfect, has it?

The understatement of the century!

I mean, you know, blind Freddy can tell ya that. But, that's their job and they'll work it out.

They haven't done a very good job so far - the unintended consequences flow like water, and the "compensation" is bound to stop when the damage to the economy makes paying it unsustainable. In addition, I have real concerns about the delivery. How will it be paid - regular lump sums? refund at tax time? - and will its delivery be flexible enough to deal with life's little unplanned expenses?

We've already seen how this government delivers programs: BER hideously overblown with shoddy workmanship and overpriced buildings not matched to the declared needs of the schools; refugee policy bringing in (and drowning) more illegals than we ever saw under anyone else's watch (whereas IIRC Julia Gillard when in opposition declared every boat that came under Howard "another policy failure"); Fuel Watch adn Grocery Watch under Rudd complete flops; Pink Batts program under Rudd a disaster, with much of the work overpriced, shoddily done and needing redoing, plus the destruction of the industry, 100+ homes burned down and four deaths, etc. The signs aren't good for getting this right.

CHRIS UHLMANN: You can't fault the effort. Since the carbon plan was released Julia Gillard and Team Labor have carpet-bombed Australia with talk. That's now being supported by a $12 million Government-funded advertising campaign.

But recall that Labor once predicted its fortunes would turn when people saw the detail of its plan.

That would seem to be a sharp turn downwards.

JULIA GILLARD: The best thing will be for people to judge when we announce all of the details in the middle of the year.

And from the look of those polls, the judgement is harsh.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The detail's out and the date for the change in Labor's fortunes has blown out. Now the Prime Minister is telling her caucus that people will have to live with the tax before they're convinced. That's some unspecified time after the middle of next year.

This is the mark of the "climate change" (for which read "anthropogenic CO2-forced") supporter; as soon as the goalposts are approached, they move to some arbitrary point in the future.

STEPHEN CONROY, COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Yes, we're taking a short-term political hit and it's a painful short-term political hit. But this is a reform the country needs.

Here is another minister I hope takes a trip into retirement - IMHO his internet filter is an affront to a free and democratic society, especially the way he intends to run it, and his hideously expensive National Broadband Network - which relies on legislative stifling of competition and destruction of existing copper-wire infrastructure to be successful as a business model - is an abomination and an affront to the concept of responsible government.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The whispered fear in Labor is that the policy isn't the problem. That the problem might be the relationship between the Prime Minister and her people; that they don't trust her and that they've lost respect for her. As one Labor MP said today, you can't get that back. And it's never a good sign when people start speculating about leadership.

The policy IS the problem, but only inasmuch as the Prime Minister swore up and down that she would not introduce it if re-elected and the Treasurer (if memory serves me correctly) swore up and down that Coalition claims to the contrary constituted "scaremongering". Well, she's trying to introduce it... and the "scaremongering" turned out to be "scarily accurate".

JULIA GILLARD: I'll very much look forward to the 2013 campaign where I will be there as Prime Minister.

I think she'll be lucky if she's Prime Minister at the end of 2011.

PAUL HOWES: Of course she'll survive. She'll be the leader of the Labor Party tomorrow and she'll be the leader of the Labor Party at the next federal election. I've already bet my house on it.

I hope Mr Howes has alternative lodgings. I wonder who the winner will be.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Happily for Paul Howes, Tony Abbott says he doesn't think the Prime Minister is the issue, and people clearly are listening to him.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: Look, I don't comment on opinion polls, but it's pretty clear that the problem is not the leader of the Labor Party, the problem is the policy of the Labor Party. And I know that a lot of Labor people are now thinking that they've gotta dump the leader. Well, frankly, they've got to dump the policy.

I suspect Mr Uhlmann has misread the situation. The policy clearly has to go, before the poll numbers go so low that this government loses legitimacy. The problem with that is, Policy and Prime Minister have become so inextricably linked that to get rid of the one is quite probably to get rid of the other. Having come this far and gotten so close, for her to backflip on this now would probably cause an automatic loss of support from the Greens and bring on the election which would wipe Labor out - certainly in the House of Representatives, and possibly even enough in the Senate that the Greens would count for naught there.

What follows is all mine; bold ends to save your eyes.

Even if climate change is entirely anthropogenically forced by industrial CO2 emissions - which I doubt - I cannot help but think that the course this government is on is the WORST possible way to fix it. Australia's economy is at present tied to cheap electrical power from significant reserves of coal and refining of raw elements, with a separate contribution from manufacturing involving those elements. If all that is undone, with nothing to replace it on a 24/7 kilowatt-for-kilowatt basis, the result will be disaster - disaster for our balance of trade, disaster for our foreign debt, disaster for the cost of living (and worse for the poor) and possibly even disaster for our sovereignty as more and more of our resources go directly overseas and we are condemned to buy the finished product back at hideous disadvantage.

This has to stop. Especially what has to stop is the supercilious bullshit reasoning that the market will sort out the energy-efficient from the energy-inefficient and the glib statement that "carbon-intensive activities" will naturally be weeded out. It fails to recognise that some of those "carbon-intensive activities" ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF ORDINARY AUSTRALIANS, and cannot rely on the intermittent nature of power that is supplied from the wind (which doesn't always blow) and the sun (which doesn't always shine).

If the government were building hydro and nuclear powerplants hand over fist, I could live with it - there's quite a bit of that which could have been built from the $200bn this government has wasted - because there would be enough "non-carbon" energy to go around. Such things are national infrastructure, built by the government and delivered in the public trust, but these people who couldn't run a simple project to save themselves are now trying to tell us they can arbitrarily shut down a quarter of a state's electrical power JUST LIKE THAT and somehow (no details are given) not throw the consequences back on the people of that state.

But this Government is pathologically opposed to nuclear power, and the Greens tail which wags the Labor dog (no allusion to PM Gillard is intended or should be inferred) is even more so, with an equally passionate ideological opposition to hydroelectricity. That leaves wind, solar and tidal - and we're hearing precious little about tidal - plus geothermal (a flat failure in Australia thus far). And that leaves Australia... in a very dark place, frankly.

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