Liberal party compromise

For political junkies the talk of the last week has been about the Liberal party split on whether or not to support the ALP’s Emissions Trading System (ETS). On one side is Turnbull/Hockey/Pyne and the moderate wing of the party who support an ETS… and on the other side is Abbott/Robb/Minchin and the conservative wing of the party who are desperately trying to stop the legislation from passing.

It’s difficult to see a good outcome for the Liberals.

Abbott has said he will challenge for the leadership on Tuesday. Turnbull responded by throwing a hand grenade into the party, insulting the anti-ETS crowd and insisting that people back him or the Liberals will be destroyed. If Turnbull wins then we are stuck with bad climate policy, angry conservatives deserting the party (which is probably good for the LDP), and a divided parliamentary party with prominent figures on the backbench. But if he loses and quits politics then the Liberals could potentially face a Wentworth by-election (which they may well lose), angry moderates, lots of Turnbull quotes to use in the next election, another unhappy ex-leader, and then we may still get stuck with the ETS anyway.

Delaying the vote until February won’t fix the problem. That just means that the debate goes on for another three months and then the Liberals face the same problem again.

The best compromise might be for the Liberals to consider backing a carbon tax, linked to tax cuts and with a McKitrick clause. This would allow the party to unambiguously oppose all types of ETS, it would be a better policy with a wide range of support from economists and some green groups, the associated tax cuts and McKitrick clause should help to placate some conservatives, and the the moderates can be happy that the party is going to “do something”.

Turnbull and Hockey are unlikely to support this position, but Abbott has shown some interest in the idea of a carbon tax.

7 thoughts on “Liberal party compromise

  1. Dead right. A carbon tax/tax cut – Fee & Rebate, should be saleable to the electorate and the party members.

    On a related matter, whats the practicability of replacing an ETS with a carbon tax once an ETS is introduced?


  2. Canadian statistician Ross McKitrick suggested linking the size of a carbon tax to the amount of warming in the tropical troposphere, which is supposed to be a lead indicator of global warming caused by greenhouse gases.

    You wouldn’t want the tax changing too often, but there could be a bi-annual review (or something like that) which then adjusted the tax according to the temperature. This should please both the alarmists (they would assume the tax would keep increasing) and the AGW skeptics (they would assume the tax would stay low and maybe even disappear).

    Another version would be a “sunset clause” for the tax, where it’s continued existence was dependent on a continued consensus that greenhouse gases were causing a negative externality.

  3. If the Liberals oppose the ETS then politically they need an alternative. The most sane technical alternative in terms of making a difference to emissions is to end the prohibition on nuclear power, however politically that won’t wash. A carbon tax is a real politically viable alternative but it isn’t very viable if you want to run an ETS scare campaign.

    Some will say they should run on the science but given a choice between trusting scientists and trusting politicians I think the general public will pick the former nearly every time.

    Strategically I think the Liberals are at this point a bit screwed either way. They should have opted for a carbon tax (with appropriate cuts elsewhere) 18 months ago. Now I think the best they can do is to oppose the ETS and weather the storm.

  4. I hope Minchin continues to oppose, although I wish he’d make more effort to make some loud public statements.

    My opinion is that the ETS has demonstrated that some Liberal politicians care about being a career politician much more that actually doing a good job. How else could they continue to be a member of a party that stands for bugger all and promotes policies that they know are destructive? Ultimately this is not helping the party’s popularity anyway and I can’t see how it could be good for certain Liberal MP’s psyches either.

    Considering the Liberals aren’t popular anyway, I would still say their best course of action would be to end the prohibition on nuclear power and to condemn the state government restrictions against uranium mining. They may be surprised to find out this position will gain them fans because most sane people are no longer anti-nuclear power. It’s not the 70s anymore. But the Liberals are too gutless and stupid to do this. And hence they won’t considerably gain any popularity any time soon. Their only hope is Labour’s continuing poor performance.

    The Liberals should definitely oppose the ETS – what do they gain by supporting it anyway?
    They have the ability to explain that there will be no change in CO2 levels and no change in average global temp due to the ETS. They have the 2nd strongest media voice in the country. The first few pages of the paper is almost always politics. You can’t escape politics – it’s really annoying how it dominates the media.
    It is impossible to satisfy the greenies because their ideology is effectively nihlism. If anything, a compromised ETS will probably cause the Liberals to be less popular.
    Only Fielding has had any balls so far, and when Family First Fielding is leading the charge for economic freedom, things are very very bad indeed.

    Considering the general populace is fairly undecided on the ETS, then why is it a big deal that the Liberal party is undergoing internal debate? Once again the Liberal’s are letting the media paint them in a negative light for no reason. Either the media is involved in a pro-Labour conspiracy or the Liberal party and their press are made up of idiots. It’s the latter. The media print what the political press releases tell them to print.

    I’m very pissed off at the Liberal party (can you tell?) since Labour’s term began. A party full of anti-principle, compromising, uncertain, ignoramuses. Weak – certainly not leadership material. They’re acting like a needy little dog that yaps at your heels desperate for affection. If you’re going to play populism games (their continual pussyfooting demonstrates this is their intent), you should learn a little about human psychology ie: being overly eager to please and needy turns people off – very basic stuff.
    They have missed multiple easy opportunities to expose Labour’s ignorance and harmful economic policies eg/ short selling ban, stimulus, grocerywatch etc etc. Additionally they could oppose other anti-freedom policies such as internet filter. That type of issue will really hit home amongst Labour supporters who surely wouldn’t have expected Labour to be so quick to default on protecting free speech and privacy rights.

    But the Liberals are almost a carbon copy of the Labour party.
    Australian politics is particularly disgusting and uninspiring at the moment.
    At the moment, my next vote is almost certainly for the donkeys. My only comfort is to note that at least Liberal MPs are suffering. As long as they continue on their current path, I hope their pain continues – and intensifies 1000 fold.

  5. They don’t need an ‘alternative’. Australia is not responsible for the worlds carbon output. Australia is a net carbon dioxide comsumer, due to our massive amount of vegetation and rather small population. Infact there is not one country in the southern hemisphere that is a net carbon dioxide polluter – this is due to our winter being mild and having green vegitation year round.

    Australia should be one of the last counteries in the world to have to worry about its carbon footprint.

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