A Few Things Ill Considered

Kevin Rudd is gone

Kevin Rudd is quite suddenly not the Prime Minister of Australia anymore.

I know we have a high proportion of Aussie regulars here, so I’ll just ask: what does this mean for Australia’s climate change policy? I travel to Australia regularily but did not know that was coming, is that just because I don’t pay attention?

Comments

  1. #1 JG
    June 24, 2010

    There’s an Oz blog post on almost exactly this issue at http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/1611/.

  2. #2 Byron Smith
    June 24, 2010

    The Guardian has an article on the implications for the ETS:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/24/julia-gillard-australia-carbon-trading.

    As for not seeing it coming, I don’t think Julia Gillard even saw it coming! It was all very fast. A number of factors came together in a short space of time: diving poll numbers (over the ETS backflip and the war with the mining industry, which they were winning, spending over AUS$100 million on advertising. Rudd fought back with government ads, but that broke a promise he’d made in his campaign that he wouldn’t use govt money for political ads as John Howard had consistently done), Rudd’s failure to secure support from his backbench (based on a micromanaging leadership style only held at bay by his very high popularity ratings), an election approaching (this week was the latest any leadership challenge could occur), allegedly disastrous internal ALP polling in marginal seats, and then the final straw was the revelation that Rudd had his secretary canvass his own MPs for whether they would support him or Gillard, despite her many assurances that she wasn’t going to take him down. I believe her, though could be wrong. But it showed that Rudd didn’t trust her and she broke rank, either because of the breach of trust or justifying Rudd’s worries. A quick decision was needed since Parliament was about to go into recess and Rudd’s support evaporated from the right faction (traditionally the stronger and more ruthlessly pragmatic faction, his own faction BTW). Gillard was the only serious contender at short notice (despite the fact that she is from the left of the party). Eventually, when it was clear that he was going to lose badly, Rudd stepped aside and Gillard rolled in unanimously.

  3. #3 klem
    June 24, 2010

    This new PM will need to get elected in the fall. The only thing she has spoken about so far has to do with raising taxes, not a good way to get elected. A vote for her is a vote for a tax increase, I think she is making an amateur mistake. This is a one term government no doubt about it.

  4. #4 mandas
    June 24, 2010

    Back to the original question… I think it means very little for our climate change policy. The Government had shelved further consideration of the ETS until 2013, and the reason given was that it was too difficult to pass through a hostile senate. That is still true, and might be more so after the election – even if Labor is returned – because the Senate may be more hostile, not less.

    It is likely that the balance of the Senate will shift slightly, with the Greens possibly picking up more seats, probably at the expense of the Government. That means Labor will still be in the same position it is now, and even if the Greens do pick up more seats, they will not completely hold the balance of power. Labor will still have to negotiate with the Coalition, which has demonstrated that it really has no policies of its own and has a principal strategy of blocking everything to make the Government appear weak – very much along the lines of the Republican party in the US.

    Labor under Gillard may bring forward consideration of the ETS to the early stages of its next term, but it still is unlikely to pass the Senate unless there are major changes which please the Greens and the other cross bench Senators like Xenophon (Field is a denier and a complete moron). But even that may not be enough unless some Libs cross the floor (possible).

    So all in all – the change in Labor leadership is unlikely to significantly effect our climate change policy. That MAY change after the election if the Libs do poorly – they have a habit of dumping leaders who lose elections. If they win, then I really think I will move somewhere – anywhere – else. Abbott is a really scarey fundie.

  5. #5 crakar24
    June 24, 2010

    Coby,

    You need to understand the magnitude of what has transpired here. Firstly Australians usually give governments two terms to get all their ducks in a row the only time this has not happened was in 1929. However the KRudd labor government was staring down the barrel of defeat in its first term.

    Secondly no leader from either party has been ousted by the party in its first term, i have heard one journalist say “this is the greatest betrayal since Brutus knifed Ceaser”.

    Thirdly we have never had a female PM in fact we have never had the opportunity to vote for a female PM.

    To answer your question i would have to say “it depends”. It depends on how the public react to what Labor have done, for example (as Mandas has pointed out) Labor were losing votes to the Greens more so than Liberal if this trend continues then Liberal will win the next election comfortably and any labor like ETS will be nothing but a pipe dream.

    If Labor recovers from this in time then an ETS in its present form is still possible during its second term, as Mandas has said it all depends on the numbers in the senate.

    However the Greens may be the wild card here, if the greens continue to gain support and take votes from Labor then the Greens could hold the balance of power in the senate no matter who gets elected. If this happens then the ETS could be vastly different than how it is seen now.

    The Greens are proposing an ETS that would incur the highest emission cuts in the world (i believe) something like 25 to 40% compared with Labors 5%.

    It is only early but it would appear Gillard will persist with the same policies that killed KRudd, therefore i expect a Liberal win with a higher Green content at the next election. How much Green content is the big question as their higher opinion polling has never translated into a larger % of the vote.

    Oh by the way dont forget we use the preferential style voting not the first past the post style so it all comes down to preferences in most cases.

    Cheers

  6. #6 Pants
    June 24, 2010

    A hint might be in the language she is now using re climate change. Yesterday she referred to ‘a price on carbon’ but not an ETS, echoing Barack Obama’s shift in terminology. Understandably she has not used the word ‘tax’ but it is an indication that she may be considering moving towards the Green’s policy of a carbon tax.

  7. #7 Matt
    June 25, 2010

    I think mandas summed up the situation very well, right down to the strong need to consider moving to another country if Abbott wins the election.

  8. #8 skip
    June 25, 2010

    I guess I never fell into the standard lamentation, “If X wins I’m moving to Y.” Stick it out and make your country better, or at least try. I’m not claiming my ilk are any more successful at it here in the states, but go out guns blazing, I figure.

  9. #9 Chris McGrath
    June 25, 2010

    If you think about the political situation for meaningful climate change policy in Australia, you need to keep in mind that the alternative to Julia Gillard as PM in Australia is the current opposition leader in Australia, Tony Abbott. He toppled the previous opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, because of Turnbull’s support for an ETS.

    Abbott is a climate sceptic/denier. You get some idea of the basis of his views and where Australia would head on climate policy if he wins office from comments where he “urged primary school students to be sceptical about man-made climate change, saying it was warmer during the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus than it is now”. I’m not kidding: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/politics/abbott-evokes-jesus-to-teach-pupils-all-about-natural-climate-change/story-e6frgczf-1225863817949?from=public_rss

  10. #10 Matt Andrews
    June 25, 2010

    Two quick points: first, the private polling which led to the Labor Party factional heavies dumping Rudd were showing a steady fall in approval – he had record high approval just a few months ago, but since the end of last year his approval fell substantially. One key point noted by said numbers men was that the fall accelerated markedly on Rudd’s backflip on the ETS. That’s partly a question of character – just weeks earlier he’d said that climate action was crucial and that if there was one he’d want his grandchildren to remember him for, it was that; but also, climate remains a big issue for voters. That Gillard was so keen to point out that she was not a denier, and to focus so much on a carbon price in her first media conference as PM, is promising.

    Secondly it looks likely on current polling that the Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate after mid next year. That changes the whole game.

  11. #11 crakar24
    June 27, 2010

    Matt,

    Current polling shows the Greens have slumped from 15 to 10% and Labor now have a norrow lead over the coalition will be interesting to see if the trend continues re the senate.

    In regards to the ETS i am not sure i agree totally, i say this because if KRudds demise can be traced back to the ETS dumping therfore the best thing Gillard could do is revive it and make it an election issue. If so then why did she shelve it till after the election?

    She said something along the lines of wanting to build a consensus on climate change amongst the public.

    Why would she say this? I suspect there is no defining consensus on AGW out there in the public and not merely with warmer/skeptic debate but probably more to do with “how much is this going to cost me” and “what are the benefits” type questions.

    I am not sure how old you are but i remember Hewson (Liberal) wanting to bring in a GST, Keating hammered him over it and won the election. The Liberals were asked all sorts of questions like how much would washed potatoes cost compared to unwashed, how much for a cake with and without icing and the list goes on. KRudd/Labor refused to debate the ETS on this level so even now we have no idea how much an ETS will cost us.

    This type of governing was his real demise and by dropping the ETS he killed off the rest of his support from those that did not care what the ETS will cost but just wanted to get rid of the “carbon pollution”.

  12. #12 Robbo
    June 27, 2010

    crakar24,

    You’re half right when you say it’s unpredecented. First female Australian PM? Yes. First time a first term PM has not seen out the first term? No. Billy McMahon deposed John Gorton in ’71 – in a coalition government.

    I concur with what Chris and Mandas have said with regard to the numbers in the senate and the wording Gillard has used such as, “re-prosecute the case for a carbon price.” I do think however, that if she wins the next election, it’s possible she might have more options in negotiating leglative passage through the senate than Rudd did. We’ll find out soon enough.

  13. #13 mandas
    June 27, 2010

    robbo

    Not quite true there re Gorton. Although he was deposed during his first ELECTED term as PM, he was PM before the election because of the death of Holt and the short term ascendancy of McEwen. Therefore he was deposed during his second term – and he served for a period of just over 3 years (Jan 68 – Mar 71).

  14. #14 Robbo
    June 28, 2010

    mandas,

    OK, you’ve got me there. I guess what I was getting at was that he didn’t see out his first FULL term. One would have to say that both scenarios were unprecedented when viewed in a certain political context. But in terms of environmental policy from the perspective of someone such as Coby, the cabinet is mostly unchanged. For the time being, Peter Garrett and Penny Wong are still the environment and climate change ministers, the notable difference being how they’ll be led by Gillard.

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