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smoke stack

Written by Hon. Larry Anthony, Chairman

Paul Keating once famously said ‘it was the recession we had to have’. That was back in 1990 when the Hawke-Keating partnership was at its zenith and prudent fiscal budgeting saved the day.

Fast forward 30 years to 2021 and we have miraculously avoided the pandemic recession we had to have, resorting to massive fiscal stimulus instead. So, the next question is: What will the nation’s finances look like in the next 30 years after signing up to the net zero emissions by 2050?

For the last fortnight, the climate debate in Canberra and across the nation has have been alive and kicking. Contentious climate policy wars have taken the scalp of the last five Prime Ministers and this week the issue proved just as perilous when an earthquake almost erupted on the fault lines between the Liberal National Party Coalition.  

Miraculously, détente was reached by a majority of elected National Party MPs and Senators agreeing to a net zero target by 2050 on the proviso of substantial unknown caveats and financial carrots to regional Australia. It was a difficult test for re-installed National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce who, to be frank, handled the issue with political adroitness.  

Thanks, must also go Minister Taylor’s Technological Roadmap which not only got the Government out of a political trap but put them firmly back on the emission-free freeway to 2050. 

Prime Minister Morrison now has a clear and united mandate to walk the talk and talk the walk at the Rome G20 and at COP 26 in Glasgow.

COP 26 is the UN global gathering of Nations, and this year will be hosted by the British Government. The aim at this global climate change summit is to endorse and set the next post-Paris targets to get the planet to the net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.  

It’s ironic that the COP is being held in Glasgow, a city at the forefront of the industrial revolution in the 18th Century; a place and period that invented the internal combustion motor and kicked-started the world’s voracious appetite for fossil fuel.

Glasgow not so many years ago was a poverty and pollution-stricken relic of a bygone smokestack era.  Today, Scotland’s second largest metropolis has reinvented itself as a vibrant post-industrialised city at the forefront of a renewable energy and technology revolution.

The politics for the Coalition Government and the PM is to not just to attend and participate in COP 26 but to showcase Australia’s technology plan. It must demonstrate that Australia can meet and beat its net zero target of 2050 to the world without sacrificing the resource and agricultural sectors that are critical to the Australian economy. 

Poignantly, these high carbon-emitting sectors that produce the wealth of the nation are located in key battleground seats that may determine the outcome of the next federal election

The continuing internal climate debate by the Coalition Government has cost it dearly as published in the latest Newspoll. Newspoll has the Government dropping to 35%, ALP rising to 38%, the Greens stable at 11%, One Nation steady at 3% and a whopping 13% to others - mainly a protest vote to the UAP.  

With an election likely in March or May next year, it is critical for the Government to move the discussion way from climate policy and back to its own political narrative about economic management. The PM will be relieved to see the back of this Parliamentary week so he can head to Glasgow and his marginal seat MPs can get back into their communities to win over the swinging voters. 

For the Opposition, the political risks on climate change policy are just as high. Anthony Albanese does not want to fight an election on climate change either after witnessing the folly of predecessor Bill Shorten’s overreach and the consequences for key central Queensland coal seats. 

The hard-head tacticians in both the Liberal National Government and the ALP know they need to move the debate on. For the Government, this will be about getting back on to the post-Covid recovery , borders, immigration and the bread-and-butter campaign issues of jobs, the economy and national security. 

For Labor, it's about adopting a small target strategy, say as little as possible and leave the new policies on health and education and so on to the last minute in the hope that the internal tensions within the Coalition prevail on climate change and the holy grail of net zero by 2050.  

What everyone will be trying to avoid is that recession ‘we had to have’ next year or within the next 30 years for that matter!

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