26/11/2009 - 00:00

Turnbull has two bob each way

26/11/2009 - 00:00


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The Liberal leadership is creating a deep divide in the party.

AN often-ignored aspect of the steadily imploding Liberal Party is that it is constituted of two quite different types of politician.

The first, and perhaps the minority, includes conviction members – those who genuinely believe government should be smaller, limited rather than unlimited, less intrusive and less costly.

Such individuals, therefore, oppose big-taxing policies, and favour enhancement of all citizens’ abilities to help and look after themselves.

Contrary to what critics of this long-standing self-help tradition contend, these people don’t oppose provision of public assistance to anyone in genuine need.

Compassion, as opposed to rorting taxpayers’ funds, has always been integral to such conservative liberalism.

The other group – often called wets – is primarily oriented towards feel-good policies upon which its members build remunerative political careers.

Consider this dichotomy whichever way you wish, the Liberal Party at the parliamentary level today has more of the latter at the top, which is the major underlying reason for its inability to distinguish itself from Labor and the Greens, whose current aim is to create a super-nanny energy rationing pauperised nation.

That’s not being harsh or anti-Liberal. It’s simply stating it as it is, calling a spade a spade, not a digging utensil.

That said, the fact of the matter is that there are ever fewer in Liberal ranks at state and federal parliamentary levels who would wish to see, let alone fight for, a dramatic scaling back of government powers, and consequently significantly lower taxes.

That, unfortunately, is a fact of current Australian political life.

But Australian Liberal wets aren’t alone.

The US and Western Europe have an abundance of wet ostensibly right-of-centre politicians; people living off the reputations of once-great political parties that now enforce the opposite to the tenets those parties were founded upon.

That’s one reason why the entire Western world is so dominated by careerist-oriented office-seeking politicians who relish forever dipping into the public purse to bankroll crackpot jackpot programs that increasingly burden their hardworking citizenry.

But back to Australia’s floundering Liberal Party, or more specifically that party’s current parliamentary leadership.

What few within Liberal ranks have realised is that one of the reasons Western Europe and the US are slipping in the economic performance stakes is because of the growing burden of taxation – personal and corporate – upon economic life.

The same applies here except that crunch time has been able to be put aside for the time being because of growing south and east Asian demand for the iron ore, gold, coal, natural gas, and non-ferrous minerals that are so abundant across our continent and offshore seabeds.

But that crucial reprieve is now itself about to be gravely harmed because of the Rudd government’s determination to impose a tax upon mineral extraction and processing via its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Unfortunately for Australia, the Liberals, presently headed by former Sydney banker, Malcolm Turnbull, and one-time Perth lawyer, Julie Bishop, both ardently back the government’s big taxing anti-carbon crusade.

Little wonder so many regard Mr Turnbull – who several Labor MPs claim had sought a safe Labor seat – and Ms Bishop as admirably suited for middle rank Rudd government ministries.

Both these big-taxing wet Liberals have gathered around themselves a cohort of MPs to help ensure Mr Rudd’s anti-carbon crusade wins out.

But in the process they’ve lost the backing of the Nationals, whose support base is working families directly involved in the production of primary goods, namely life-sustaining grains, vegetables, fruit and meat.

Clearly Mr Turnbull’s and Ms Bishop’s fear that the Nationals could snap-up non-urban Liberal-held seats has meant they’ve opted for a two-track policy towards the application of the ETS.

Track one involves taxing, via the ETS regimen, all transport, electricity generation, industrial production, and mining and processing of minerals.

Track two proposes the very opposite for agricultural endeavour.

In other words there’s to be no direct ETS taxing regimen on Australian food production despite agriculture being our second biggest carbon emitter.

Thankfully the Nationals have taken the wiser path – no ETS taxing on anything ... mining, industrial production or home life – exactly what the conviction wing of the Liberal parliamentary wing also proposes.

Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop therefore stand at the head of a drastically split non-Labor entity, with both cuddling up to Labor against the Nationals and a sizeable segment of their own party.

That, to say the least, is a strange way of leading what’s allegedly an alternative government.

This amazing state of affairs can only mean further disaster and haemorrhaging of their party, the coalition, and Australia’s mining and industrial sectors, should they succeed in ensuring the Rudd anti-carbon crusade prevails.

What neither realises is that when one backs a costly policy like the ETS, one simply cannot isolate grain, vegetable, fruit and meat production from having a greater tax burden imposed.

No-one has put this crucial but elementary point better than Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell.

He did this in an October 20th letter to David Crombie, the National Farmers Federation president, who, amazingly, had begun urging his farmer membership to back the Turnbull-Bishop big taxing decision to promote Mr Rudd’s ETS.

That letter firstly reminded Mr Crombie that his pro-Rudd-Turnbull-Bishop stance had no support among Australian food producers.

“I wish to invite you to come with me to several properties and businesses in rural Australia and to attend a meeting of farmers to hear from them at first hand what they think of the ETS,” Senator Boswell wrote.

“As you would be fully aware, the business of agriculture in Australia is characterised by interdependency amongst its constituent members.

“Every part of the production chain, from the paddock to the plate, must work efficiently to produce a competitive product in a highly subsidised and unstable world market.

“If freight costs go up thanks to an ETS, if feed mills and cool rooms cost more to operate thanks to an ETS, if abattoirs have to pay carbon costs thanks to an ETS, if food processors’ power costs rise thanks to the ETS – then farmers will inevitably suffer whether excluded from an ETS or not.

“I have yet to meet a farmer who thinks they can be quarantined from the impact of all these costs.

“In addition, rural Australia understands better than most that once a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is established by the parliament, then its fate lies in the hands of whatever deal Labor wants to do with the Greens into the future.

“Country people do not want to see their future ransomed between power plays in the Senate or traded off for Greens preferences.”

With Senator Boswell’s incisive wording in mind the obvious question is why have Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop excluded so-called carbon polluting from Australia’s food-producing sectors but not from transportation, power generation and industrial and mining activity.

Surely, if it’s bad for the goose it’s also terrible for the gander.

Or are we seeing crude political opportunism at play?

Are Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop so scared of losing Liberal-held rural seats to Nationals candidates that they’ve opted, for reasons of pure electoral Realpolitik, to drop their alleged deep concern over life-nourishing carbon?

If that’s the rationale, their anti-carbon stance can hardly be portrayed as principled.

Carbon is either evil or it’s not. There’s no two bob each way.

Which is it Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop?



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