Libs forgetful on ETS origins

15/10/2009 - 00:00


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Kevin Rudd may be leading the charge on the ETS, but another PM had the idea first.

THE undemocratic origins of the economic catastrophe set to befall Australian business, deceptively dubbed the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), are becoming clearer.

Readers may recall a recent column ('Liberals backed the wrong horse, September 10') that highlighted how the Liberals had lost their way by backing Labor and Greens moves to impose this mega-tax.

But growing numbers of Liberal MPs are belatedly realising that it paves the way for ever-bigger government, precisely what their party was created to thwart.

Put differently, Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop are transforming the 66-year-old Liberal Party into something indistinguishable from Labor and Bob Brown's Greens.

Many now see both as sideswiping Robert Menzies' life's work to build a level-headed conservatism that ensured Australians remained free of over-enthusiastic, hoax-driven bureaucratic and political controls.

The scheduled ETS mega-tax will, as Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce said, mean: "Everywhere there is a power point in your house; there is access to a new tax for the Labor government.

“A new tax on ironing, a new tax on watching television, a new tax on vacuuming. If you go to the super-market, Kevin (Rudd) will be in the shopping trolley with you because there will be a new tax on food.

“Want to go overseas, want to go to Cairns for a holiday? Don't worry; Kevin is on the plane with you because there is a new tax on aviation fuel."

It's taxing with a vengeance.

Senator Joyce's warnings have started resonating with Liberals and others across the nation.

Coal miners, for instance, have just launched an advertising campaign across key east coast mining regions warning that the Rudd-Brown-Turnbull ETS could lead to mine closures.

Australian Coal Association executive director, Ralph Hillman, warned: "The proposed plan would not cut carbon emissions while costing regional Queensland thousands of coal industry jobs."

Big employing Anglo-American's chief executive, Cynthia Carroll, said the ETS could cost Australia's coal industry $14 billion in its first decade of operation.

It's important to note the coal miners are only the first of what could be many to highlight this job-killing mega-tax.

Other miners and businesses will be similarly disadvantaged and all Australian working families will be slugged by the ongoing ETS's ripple effect whenever buying anything, travelling, or just relaxing at home.

But back to that question: how and when did the Liberals begin embracing the ETS?

How did a party that so doggedly combated, throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the dead hand of socialism, bank nationalisation, and greater centralism, then sought by Labor, get itself into such a predicament?

The first thing to note when seeking an answer to this crucial question is that neither Labor nor the Greens should be blamed, since they weren't in power when it happened.

The Greens, it must be stressed, emerged from a disparate group of fringe political activists from the 1980s, including varying shades of Communists. Their distinguishing feature was disregard for business and commercial endeavour - the lifeblood of all modern societies.

Greens are obsessed with instituting ever more controls and promoting impractical and costly pie-in-the-sky schemes about energy generation and usage - also the lifeblood of any modern economy.

Science and scientific reasoning and deduction certainly aren't their longest and strongest suits.

Here they are no different to Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop.

When was the last time either of those two highlighted the fact that more than 30,000 American scientists have urged their legislators by petitioning not to adopt the United Nations-devised Kyoto Protocol that's set to help de-industrialise Western economies, significantly boost taxation burdens and ensure ever greater power for numerically boosted central governing bureaucracies?

The answer is never. Both have followed Senator Brown's long-established proclivity for carping about unsubstantiated global catastrophes.

Alleged global warming will be remembered as the biggest hoax since Orson Welles' 1938 Martian invasion stunt.

But back to that question: what's the origin of the impending ETS?

Readers may be surprised to learn that it hails not from Labor or Greens ranks, but rather from policymakers from within the last Howard government.

Not widely known is the fact that coalition MPs were presented with the ETS mega-tax in October 2007.

Only in recent weeks have growing numbers of Liberal MPs understood how this happened.

And, as it's steadily dawned on more of them, some have been pressing Mr Turnbull and his ETS spokesman, Ian Macfarlane, to come clean and tell all.

Mr Macfarlane has consequently distributed the coalition's 22-page 2007 Clean Energy Plan, which was drawn up belatedly for the last federal election campaign, promising what many have now realised was, and remains, party policy.

Liberal MPs have also realised how easily they were snowed and who did the job - none other than Messrs Howard and Turnbull.

The way it happened was that Mr Howard had earlier arranged for his top bureaucrat, Peter Shergold, to get a roadmap on how to implement an ETS.

By June 2007, the Shergold Report was ready. Here's how one newspaper reported its release.

“Dr Shergold said work should begin now on setting targets, establishing emissions monitoring systems, creating legislation, setting up an independent regulator, allocating permits and engaging international partners.

“Dr Shergold added that the Kyoto Protocol was fundamentally flawed because it lacked a pathway for developing nations to cut emissions.

“'We need to move beyond Kyoto,' he said.

“But he said Australia needed to commit to reducing emissions ahead of any comprehensive global response."

So Mr Howard, with Dr Shergold, created precisely what Mr Rudd now wants imposed, that is, "reducing emissions ahead of any comprehensive global response".

That's big and tough talk indeed.

Step two came in October 2007, just before the federal election.

Mr Howard and his environment minister, Mr Turnbull, decided the Shergold Report would become coalition policy.

The 22-page Clean Energy Plan for Australia was a lift from that report.

Because non-Labor MPs were desperately scampering about trying to hold their seats in the face of the coming Rudd landslide, few gave the Shergold-devised Howard-Turnbull policy close inspection.

Most failed to recognise they'd been landed with a new policy, lock-stock-and-barrel, that Mr Rudd would so totally embrace.

However, now that the full taxing and job-killing implications of their Shergold-Howard-Turnbull program are coming to be understood and fully appreciated, most want another bite at that cherry.

But they're now in opposition and Mr Rudd is determined to make the big taxing plan law.

Not surprisingly, Nationals Senator Ron Boswell insists he can't recall an ETS proposal ever reaching the coalition party room for debate.

“I think it's one of those things which has slipped through ... I am sure we didn't go to an election with a strong policy that would have disadvantaged mining and primary industry," he said.

Wrong, Senator Boswell.

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi also says he doesn't believe the policy ever reached the party room.

“I understand there was an agreement between the prime minister and Mr Turnbull," he said. "It was announced unilaterally just prior to the election."

So two wealthy Sydney lawyers who qualify for lifelong indexed pensions decide unilaterally for 21 million people and have the audacity to claim that's democracy.


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