Labor’s new man the affable Albo, the faithful old St. Bernard dog laying in a coma by the fireplace, the one that never romped through the snowbound Alps with a whiskey keg around its neck saving lost souls. The same friendly fur-ball with those huge jowls sodden with drool that flies around the room when the beast’s head is violently shaken. The owner laughs and offers a tissue to mop up three litres of slobber running off your lapel and into your lap. But you still love the dog—although you’d like to kill it—metaphorically, of course.
Good-old St. Albo Labor’s stalwart pet is still in a coma like the dog by the fireplace more than six months after that shock-horror election result. Review after reviews Labor is having, disbelieving what the majority of Australians already knew when they walked into the polling booths—Labor was political poison and the brew-master was Bill Shorten—Mr wobble-tits who runs like sheila with flat feet. And he’s now talking about a comeback? Back in the kennel for you Albo and here’s a treat for you, it’s Whitlam’s old thigh bone.
Source: Chris Kenny, News Corp
Labor lost in climate fog
Most of the fatal flaws exposed by the internal review of Labor’s emphatic electoral repudiation were so obvious that many of us had been pointing them out before, during and after the campaign. None of which detracts from the hilarity of watching the majority of players and commentators who argued Labor had a plausible agenda, campaigned well and would easily win the election now also say the findings are obvious.
Still, there is one glaring exception — a planet-sized blind spot — wilfully ignored by the review and much of the analysis. Yet even this hopeless oversight was predictable, simply because of who the ALP chose to conduct its review.
It was dubbed the climate election by many in Labor who were eager to accentuate the choice between targets and plans, yet the ALP chose as one of two reviewers Jay Weatherill — he was the premier of South Australia who pushed his state to a 50 per cent renewable energy share and allowed coal and gas-fired generators to close, delivering some of the world’s highest electricity prices but leading to the lights going out in the first statewide blackout.
When one of the most contentious policy choices in the campaign was about whether to embrace Labor’s plan to more than double the national renewable energy target (to the same level that created chaos in SA) and almost double the national emissions reduction goal, how could a renewables zealot such as Weatherill give an objective assessment? For him to call out the recklessness of Labor’s federal climate policy would be for him to admit his own costly legacy.
Labor has twice gone to a national election with radically more ambitious emissions reductions plans than the Coalition — in 2013 and this year — and the results speak for themselves. But Weatherill is deaf and blind to this reality; if he and others have their way, the next election will offer a similar choice.
On Thursday, delivering the review he conducted along with the pedestrian former trade minister Craig Emerson, Weatherill said it was clear Labor must continue to “stand for strong action on climate change” and that this was a “bedrock principle” for the party.
Yet elsewhere in the review there is clear evidence that its anti-coal rhetoric and climate evangelism contributed strongly to the party’s abysmal performance in Queensland, NSW’s Hunter Valley and elsewhere in regional Australia.
To be fair, sensible people might argue this nation had long been engaged in “strong action” on climate change, so Weatherill’s aim could easily be satisfied by offering bipartisan support for the Paris emissions reductions targets. But we know this is not what Weatherill and other members of Labor’s Socialist Left want.
The policy “bedrock” will be interpreted as something close to the extreme and uncosted policies Labor put to the people on May 18, which means one of the most obvious lessons from the election will be rejected by large elements of the party. Only Hunter Valley MP and Labor resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon seems willing to urge his colleagues to see sense.
Labor has made itself a victim to its own straw-man strategy. The review finds: “A modern Labor Party cannot deny or neglect human-induced climate change. To do so would be wrong, it would cause enormous internal instability and it would be a massive electoral liability.” This is true but pointless because no major party argues this position.
By pretending its opponents proffer denial and inaction, Labor locks itself into reckless policies and indefensible arguments. It is conned by its own hyperbole, hemmed in by its own hype.
The review goes on to say that the way forward for Labor is to focus on jobs from renewable energy and on the “costs of inaction”. But this is exactly what Bill Shorten and others did during the campaign, especially to avoid talking about the costs of their policies.
And the reality is that renewable energy jobs have not materialised to the extent promised anywhere, and voters are wise enough to understand the costs of climate inaction in Australia are approximately zero. No matter how dramatic Australia’s cuts, they cannot improve the global environment while global emissions continue to grow substantially — our costly policies will not stop a single storm, ease a drought or avoid a flood.
The only benefit they deliver is a down payment on international action. Obviously, then, there can be no financial or economic cost to inaction.
While the climate cannot be altered by anything we do alone, the only price to pay for inaction would be possible diplomatic repercussions for rejecting multilateral climate gestures. The “cost of inaction” argument is an exercise in stupidity and, as the election demonstrated yet again, mainstream voters tend to be smarter than that.
On climate, the ALP review is alarmingly myopic; it effectively recommends Labor sticks with the same extreme policies and inane arguments. It is unclear how it expects voters, who have repeatedly seen through this, to suddenly fall under its virtue-signalling spell.
Yet Anthony Albanese is sticking with this rhetoric; at the National Press Club on Friday the Opposition Leader continued with the pretence that additional climate action will create jobs rather than cost them. And he regurgitated Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s line from the day before about how the government’s drought response failed to mention climate change — does Labor argue a higher renewable energy target can end the drought? This is absurd stuff.
Labor’s review was more clear-eyed but still defensive about the other central policy failing — its raft of increased taxes. It recognised but did not criticise the flawed rationale for Labor’s tax measures; the party leadership came up with an ambitious spending plan, then set about crafting taxation plans to pay for it.
“Constant attacks on ‘the big end of town’ ignored the reality that big businesses employ lots of workers,” the review found. “These attacks amplified perceptions Labor was a risk to the economy and jobs.”
Statements of the bleeding obvious such as these ring hollow after the event. All of this was clear in the class-warfare rhetoric Labor employed for years before the May election. But it also dodges the reality in a way that insults voters; this was not about “perceptions” of risk but real calculations. Voters got it right. Given concerns about our sluggish economy in the here and now, imagine if Labor’s taxes on investment and earnings had been added to the mix.
The tactical criticisms of the review make sense: messaging was unclear; there was no central campaign body; and hubris tainted everything. Again, all this was clear all along.
Still there must be lessons for both sides. My column on election day forecast possible repercussions: “Defeat would be shattering for Shorten and force deep self-reflection by Labor. The ALP needs to become more centrist but a loss could see it venture further left.”
I am happy to stand by that shorthand prediction and reckon the election review does nothing to guard against this danger. Labor now has a Socialist Left leader and there is yet to be any recalibration to the middle ground.
But what of the Coalition? In the same column I wrote: “If Morrison were to pull off a miracle victory, the worry would be that the Coalition might be tempted to think everything is fine, avoiding vital self-examination. Apart from keeping the nation on a steady course, a re-elected Morrison would need to guide reform in his party, so that it can coalesce around core values and arrest the warfare between moderates and conservatives.”
This weekend will provide a test on this score, with the NSW Liberals holding their annual general meeting on Saturday and the Senate preselection to replace Arthur Sinodinos on Sunday. There needs to be more democracy to break up the factionalism of the NSW Liberals, dominated by the Moderates, and if Scott Morrison’s choice (Jim Molan) is defeated it will be an ominous sign about those factional powerplays.
At Tony Abbott’s farewell dinner on Thursday there was some well-received triumphalism from conservative forces, especially from Peter Dutton, who was received as a hero for bringing on the move to take down Malcolm Turnbull. But Abbott made the most incisive point; he said that without Morrison’s victory this period of Coalition government would have gone down in history as an “embarrassing failure”.
Abbott then pointed out that both he and Turnbull owed Morrison a debt of gratitude. Yes, the Morrison win means all three can bathe in some of the success of a tumultuous period that has restored border integrity, rescued the budget, axed onerous taxes, struck significant free-trade deals and ushered in same-sex marriage.
Climate is the issue that repeatedly has divided the Liberal Party and is always a chance to do so again. This is where the Prime Minister has been proven right and others, including me, got it wrong. The proposition that he should abandon Paris as a means of accentuating policy difference has been proven unnecessary. His pitch of “Paris and no more” has seen him pick the economic, environmental and political sweet spot where Australia is doing enough but not too much, in a cautious but prudent response.
Taking extreme action on climate is to impose certain economic harm for dubious or non-existent benefits. Best leave that to Weatherill and Labor.