Barring any more sudden Ricky Muir-like surprises, it looks as if the Senate will repeal the carbon tax; so allow us a little gloating. When the Australian edition of The Spectator was created in 2008, we took a leaf out of Bill Buckley’s National Review in 1955 and stood athwart History, yelling Stop. We yelled because, like broadcaster Alan Jones, pundit Andrew Bolt and the Institute of Public Affairs, we hoped to be heard in a conformist climate. These were the days of Tim Flannery’s hysteria, the Garnaut Report’s hype and Kevin Rudd’s ‘greatest moral challenge’.
The orthodoxy held that even though average temperatures had barely changed in recent times we were headed for an environmental catastrophe in a few years, and only drastic changes to our way of life could possibly prevent it. With his poll numbers in the doldrums, Malcolm Turnbull looked like one of those doctors in Grey’s Anatomy who had observed the ailment but misdiagnosed it. Opposition to Labor’s plans for an ETS, he warned, would annihilate the federal Coalition, so Mr Turnbull fell over himself to accommodate Mr Rudd at every turn. But when his successor Tony Abbott challenged this cozy consensus, the political wind turned into Labor’s perfect storm. After Copenhagen, Mr Rudd imploded. Almost overnight, his stratospheric poll figures cratered. The very experts who only a few months earlier had predicted electoral oblivion for an anti-ETS Coalition — Paul Kelly, Laurie Oakes, Peter Hatcher, Michelle Grattan, Lenore Taylor, Mark Kenny — were forced to concede Mr Abbott’s tactical acumen.
Facing a changing (political) climate, Mr Rudd ditched the ETS. In June 2010 Labor’s factional warlords panicked, knifed him and installed Julia Gillard, who had recognised that the carbon tax was so unpopular that she promised not to enact one as a ploy to win votes at the election. After Labor joined with Greens to create a minority government, she went about legislating the very tax she pledged not to introduce. The effect of mounting mistrust had destroyed Ms Gillard’s authority in the lead-up to the 2013 election. She was subsequently knifed — by the very bloke she had backstabbed three years earlier. Back in office for only two months, Mr Rudd pretended he would scrap the hugely unpopular tax, again as a ploy to win votes. But Middle Australia was not to be fooled (again), voting for his much-maligned opponent in a landslide last September. With the new Senate this month, the scene has been set for the repeal of one of the most controversial laws in Australian history.
The lesson here is that voters are not easily deceived when politicians try to conceal the costs of their environmental ambitions. Nor do emissions restrictions grow more popular the more politicians try to sell them. Another lesson is that real leaders are not afraid to challenge a stifling political consensus. When global warming alarmism was dominant in late 2009, Mr Abbott — encouraged by people like us — had the political nerve and moral conviction to provoke people into questioning the religious fervour of carbon pricing. To wit, he has been able to pioneer a new direction in climate policy that has transformed Australian politics. Bring out the champagne!
More carbon follies
Apparently, Australia is about to destroy the world because Tony Abbott will end the carbon tax. Who brands Mr Abbott such a planetary vandal? None other than Lord Deben, a thermomaniac climate-change Cassandra from England. Lord Deben used to be a British cabinet minister, a job he did with little distinction. When minister of agriculture during the mad cow crisis he was so desperate to calm things down, and keep his job, he made his blameless little daughter eat a hamburger for a grotesque photo opportunity. Luckily, the girl survived.
Now he feathers his nest chairing and working for various businesses that exploit fears about man-made global warming to rake in cash. He has no scientific training, but makes up for it with an arresting line in alarmist self-righteousness. His po-faced doom-mongering has long made him a laughing stock in Britain, where not everyone is aware of his financial interest in lobbying for swingeing carbon taxes.
Now, his toxic brand has gone global. Mr Abbott reflects the growing consensus on the futility of carbon pricing. After all, prospects for a binding and enforceable global post-Kyoto deal at Paris next year are about as likely as England winning the soccer World Cup in 2018. Lord Deben is entitled to go money-grubbing at the expense of the gullible, but he should not include us among them. If we ever want his self-serving, propagandising opinions again — and it’s unlikely — we’ll ask for them.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 12 July 2014 Aus