02/06/2011 - 00:00

Bad policy will exact a heavy political toll

02/06/2011 - 00:00


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Some big political calls are to be made as we rush towards a carbon tax.

HIGH-PROFILE union leader and Labor Party powerbroker, Paul Howes, has said he’ll oppose the Gillard/Greens CO2 tax if even one job is threatened.

Great call, Paul.

State Scene becomes a little familiar here because I, with several other Perth journalists, had an opportunity to meet-and-speak to Paul Howes some years back, courtesy of Brian Burke.

Mr Howes, with his AWU predecessor and now Gillard government minister and former GetUp board member, Bill Shorten, were guests at the first of Mr Burke’s later much publicised dinners at Perugino restaurant.

For those who have forgotten, the guest of honour at the second dinner was then Labor frontbencher, Kevin Rudd, during one of his three low-key whistlestop visits to Perth seeking Mr Burke’s advice on how he could become Labor leader.

Soon after his third trip, Labor leader Kim Beazley was ousted by Mr Rudd who pulled off the unexpected with a deal involving long-time leftist Julia Gillard, which involved cobbling together the needed numbers for their joint right-left coup.

Was it a coincidence the Rudd-Gillard manoeuvre was identical to Mr Burke’s in 1981 when he teamed-up with left-of-centre Mal Bryce, who became his deputy after they’d toppled then Labor leader, Ron Davies?

But back to Paul.

Unless I’m a bad judge of political maestros, Mr Howes is someone who says what he means and means what he says.

That’s certainly the impression I gained from a 10-or so minute private chat we had in Perugino’s foyer.

But only time will tell if he’s prepared to also walk the talk over the coming Gillard/Greens CO2 tax.

However, what he’s probably not realised is just how close he’s already been to confronting such a situation.

I say this because a very sharp-eyed informant last week drew the following press report to my attention, carried by AAPNewsWire Service on August 21 2009.

Headlined, ‘Qld cement firm blames ETS for plant closure decision’, it reads: “A cement company has blamed the Rudd government’s planned emissions trading scheme for its decision to close down a Queensland plant.

“Cement Australia says its 31 employees at its Rockhampton site will be given alternative jobs within the company.

“But the Sydney-based firm blamed Labor’s carbon pollution reduction scheme, even though the scheme has been rejected by parliament.

“‘The introduction of the federal government’s carbon pollution reduction scheme has meant the long-term prospects for the plant have been undermined so the business has taken a decision to resolve the matter in fairness to our employees,’ Cement Australia said in a statement on Thursday.

“The company also blamed Queensland government taxes and the global financial crisis.

“When asked about the Rockhampton cement plant closure by Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said a fall in demand for cement played a bigger part in the business decision.

“‘Rather than rushing to use this business decision for political gain I think that we get the facts clear,” she told the Senate on Thursday.

“The global economic conditions had been a factor in demand for cement falling by 25 per cent, Senator Wong added.

“‘Any business operating in that kind of environment obviously has had to manage that fact’.”

That was a close shave for Messrs Howes and Rudd, as well as Senator Wong.


Because Cement Australia was able to offer those 31 workers alternative jobs, something companies in future may not be able to repeat.

And secondly, Cement Australia also blamed the Queensland government and the global financial crisis for its decision to shut down its Rockhampton plant.

This meant Senator Wong could shift the entire blame for the Rockhampton shutdown on to what politicians like to call, market forces.

But will Labor’s front and backbencher politicians be so lucky in the future?

Will they be able to explain away closures, or even threats of closures, when the situation is no longer ambiguous as in the 2009 Cement Australia case?

The latest Newspoll shows the party line-up to be: Coalition, 46 per cent; Labor 33; Greens, 10 (down from 15 in March); with ‘Others’ at 11.

This suggests the Greens are negated by ‘Others’.

On two-party preferred it’s 56 per cent Coalition to 44 Labor, meaning Ms Gillard is heading towards the zone former NSW Labor leader Kristina Keneally inherited.

Now, whether Ms Gillard likes it or not, she too hastily entered into a binding coalition with the uncompromising Greens after last year’s poll and resulting hung parliament.

Among other things, that locks her in with no wriggle room to honourably back out. She must now simply proceed with imposing her and the Greens suicidal CO2 tax.

Nor has Mr Howes any wriggle room.

Since there’s little more one can say at this stage about their stand-off, consider similar developments elsewhere.

That means looking at the US, Ireland and Canada.

Let’s takes them one at a time.

Was it a coincidence President Obama not once uttered the word ‘climate’ during his 6,803-word State of the Union Address on January 25?

The reason he avoided and evaded that word was because the citizens’ Tea Party Movement helped the generally spineless Republicans snatch control of the House of Representatives from the gullible Democrats, then being led by Californian Nancy Pelosi.

Tea Party backers rightly regard all the Hollywood-driven ballyhoo about global heating that Greenpeacers, United Nations bureaucrats, and government employed scientists and economists so ardently pedal as a whopping global hoax.

Something similar occurred in Ireland’s February 25 election, with the Greens there losing all six seats, including that of party leader and cabinet member John Gormley.

Their share of the vote slumped below 2 per cent, meaning election expenses weren’t refunded.

Ireland’s economy, for those who have forgotten, went into meltdown over 2009-10.

On Canada here’s what The Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Gerard Henderson, reported.

“In a surprise result Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of the incumbent minority government led by the Conservative Party, has been returned to office with an absolute majority of seats,” he wrote.

“This was not on the agenda just a few months ago. The Conservatives won a majority in their own right for the first time since 1988.

“But that’s not all.

“The Liberal Party (in Canada a social-democratic party, a bit like the ALP) has dominated Canadian politics for over a century.

“Last week, the intellectual-turned-politician Michael Ignatieff led the Liberals to a dreadful drubbing, losing his own seat in Toronto in the process.

“The Liberals did not even finish second.

“They came in third behind the New Democratic Party, which has a socialist background but whose foreign and economic policies have moved towards the centre in recent years.”

And Canada’s environment minister Peter Kent has kyboshed a C02 tax, saying it’s “off the table”.

And just for good measure, three years ago, now Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich teamed-up with Ms Pelosi to shoot a TV advertisement for Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection.

That’s packed lead into his saddlebag. Good-bye Newt. Pull out. You haven’t a chance.

That Abraham Lincoln one-liner about not being able to fool all of the people all the time is set to be confirmed yet again.



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