Anyone who puts up their hand for election has a duty to state how they would vote on crucial legislation, and why. So in this final week of the ETS debate I’ll make my position absolutely clear, starting with its basis:
1. The only uncertainty about climate change is its exact extent and timing. Few of us are experts, but any reasonably serious person who reads widely and seeks good information will reach the conclusion that it presents an unparalleled danger. It is deceptively slow-moving on a human time-scale, but imminent in the context of natural processes, and slow to turn around.
2. Superimposed on a period of continuing global population increase, massive industrialisation of emerging economies and projected challenges to the world food supply, only the most politically partisan, the most myopic, or the most disinterested will dismiss the need for a serious and rapid policy response.
3. The policy response on offer from this government, the ETS, is thoroughly inadequate. In some respects it is worse than nothing, because it will be used as a political sop while achieving little or nothing in the way of the required emissions reductions. Worse yet, by relying solely on the market response to an arbitrary and feeble reductions target – in an unproven, loop-hole ridden carbon-trading system, it disempowers individuals, discourages collective efforts, and eviscerates other more potent legislative options. I have some sympathy with Bernard Keane’s venting in Monday’s Crikey.com
4. The one redeeming feature of the scheme is that it presents a possible mechanism for linking Australian efforts to those of other countries.
So if I’d been voting in the Reps last week, or in the Senate this coming week, my vote would be NO on the ETS, unless a crucial amendment were accepted - that any other legislated actions, or properly registered voluntary actions by individuals, groups and organisations that lead to actual and verifiable emissions reductions would BE IN ADDITION to the ETS targets.
Beyond this vote, I would be supporting specific legislation to wind back our dependence on coal-fired power, encourage renewables, and completely overhaul planning laws and construction standards. This also means not hiding the costs, but explaining and justifying them while seeking to mitigate their effects.
Our Ryan LNP MP Michael Johnson isn’t a climate change sceptic, but he is part of a thoroughly divided Coalition. He shouldn’t be hiding behind calls for a plebiscite, he should be clearly articulating his own position. So should each one of Queensland’s Senators, from whom we have Barnaby Joyce’s crass populism and Ron Boswell’s amnesia regarding his own party’s policy. What a tragedy it is that Larissa Waters of the Greens missed out on a Senate spot so narrowly two years ago. Senator Fielding’s equivocation would have been irrelevant and the ALP could have negotiated a more respectable legislative approach with Senator Nick Xenophon and the Greens, whose positions since the election look ever more like those of a mature and principled party.