By Tim Montgomerie
It is still not clear who will be Australia's next Prime Minister. Conservative Tony Abbott looks likely to win one more MP than Australian Labor's Julia Gillard (73 to 72 in the 150 member chamber) but the balance of power is held by a maverick handful of independent-minded MPs. It is difficult to predict who they will choose to support and if their support will endure.
In a previous blog I noted that the overturning of Australian Labor's majority was:
(1) a huge upset (no first term, post-WW2 Australian government has lost its majority before); and
(2) a sign of the strength of Australia's conservatism (even Labor tacked markedly to the right on immigration, tax and family but still lost many seats).
We should not forget a third lesson; this was another defeat for climate change. Tom Switzer, Editor of The Spectator in Australia, reflects on this in the latest edition of the UK Spectator (not yet online):
"For years, the Aussie debate had been conducted in a heretic hunting environment: it was deemed blasphemy to dare question Labor’s grand ambitions to implement an economy-wide cap and trade scheme. Even many Cameron-style Liberals wanted to bow to Labor’s agenda. But Abbott bravely challenged this cozy consensus, reportedly describ- ing man-made global warming as ‘absolute crap’ and an emissions trading scheme (ETS) as ‘a great big tax to create a great big slush fund to provide politicised handouts, run by a giant bureaucracy’. At the time, commentators predicted that his ‘ill-judged’ opposition to the ETS would amount to ‘electoral oblivion’, a ‘politi- cal suicide mission’ and ‘the road to ruin’. If anything, it was a political godsend for con- servatives. Following the Copenhagen fiasco, and with the ETS beginning to look like an electoral liability, Labor apparatchiks went to water and postponed its introduction to 2013."
This is only the latest setback for climate change policy in the developed world…
CANADA: The biggest previous electoral defeat was in Canada where the opposition Liberal Party was heavily punished for its green taxes plan.
USA: Barack Obama has had to abandon plans for a cap and trade scheme despite his party controlling both houses of Congress. This means the reform is effectively dead in the water given the more sceptical Republicans are expected to make big gains in November's mid-term elections.
UK: In Britain the environment played almost no role in May's General Election and the Coalition has sent mixed signals on climate change since coming to power. The Telegraph blogged that George Osborne's Budget hardly contained any green measures and The Guardian recently reported a likely U-turn from Chris Huhne, Climate change minister, on "dirty" coal-fired power.
FRANCE, ITALY AND SPAIN: Outside of the Anglosphere – as summarised here – we've seen France cancel its carbon tax and Italy and Spain end financial guarantees for the expensive renewables industry.
If the 'rich' world won't make sacrifices for climate change (and we must not forget that Kyoto targets were repeatedly missed during the long years of economic boom and despite the export of industrial capacity) it is unreasonable to expect the energy-poor developing world to do so.
The environment can and should still be an important party of global conservatism. Protection of endangered species, recycling, energy conservation, planting of trees, cleaning rivers and limiting air pollution have all been championed by right-of-centre parties over the decades. It is these micro-environmental measures rather than economically destructive, unilateral and ineffective climate change legislation that must be the core of 'blue environmentalism'.