Pity poor Greg Hunt. Abbott’s Minister for the Environment, aka the work experience boy, may well be chuffed to have the PUP on board his DAP (Direct Action Policy) but there is precious little to make anyone else happy. Unless you count Hunt’s certain political oblivion as cause to throw a party. Some unkind souls might. Here at the Wronski institute we are more charitable. We feel for the man. But we feel for our country and our planet and our children’s children rather more.
Hunt is on a hiding to nothing. He’s the fall guy, the unwary lightweight apprentice hoop saddled up with the donkey. It is a dark horse. Direct Action, a dodgy nag out of Do Nothing and Deny You Need To, is a donkey out of IPA’s stable of mystery imports with shadowy connections rumoured to be worth squillions. The nag has no form whatsoever and is completely untested over the distance. The most likely result will be that the gelding will break poorly, pull up at the first hurdle and break down well before the end of the race. A few punters think it will run backwards given the jockey’s previous form on ETS.
In another bizarre twist in the tale, trackside touts report recent workouts in which jockey Hunt appeared to be attempting to ride while be facing the rear of his mount. He’s a brave boy. Turning mid race is extremely hazardous to say nothing of what it does to your chances of finishing the race.
Justice will be done and seen on TV starring men with hats several sizes too small. There’ll be a steward’s inquiry as to why the horse did not run on its merits. Metabolite of testosterone test results will be instanced. A strikingly smaller man out of the saddle, jockey Hunt will appear, completely buggered, on camera squeaking up in defence of his riding but the result will be a foregone conclusion. Finito. He’ll be sent packing. A disqualified person.
It won’t be easy. Hunt’s put everything on his riding a winner. It won’t be any small step down. Never short of a word, or shy of a wager, he’s wind-bagged to journalists that he’ s staking his reputation on DAP giving a good account of itself. True enough. In fact, in the event, he’ll be lucky to get a job riding track work. Or in the knackery.
Direct action is a dud. It has no body of evidence to support it and a Melbourne Cup field of experts who warn us it’s a fraud. It’s a handout to polluters, and a nag that failed in the past, when it pulled up lame and had to be put down when it ran for the Gillard stable.
The $5.5 billion Contracts for Closure fund under the Gillard Government’s Clean Energy Futures legislation failed to bring about any reduction in Victoria’s polluting brown coal fired power generation and was abandoned by the government. Moreover, it is an expensive fraud. It is unlikely to meet the emissions reduction target, and it will cost billions of dollars. Indeed, experts predict an ever expanding cost as it fails to deliver.
A key part of the DAP involves burying carbon. ‘Dappers’ claim that soil carbon storage and $3 billion in funding for emissions reduction projects will achieve a 5 per cent reduction in emissions. It is a long shot. No scientific evidence exists to show it could reduce Australia’s carbon emissions at all, as the CSIRO’s review into soil carbon storage concludes. CSIRO warns that despite its theoretical potential, storing carbon in agricultural soils is untried, un-researched and impossible to measure.
Even if it did reduce emissions, 5% by 2020 is far too low a target to do us any good. As the Climate Change Authority concluded in its Final Report in February, we need to aim much higher. 15% below 2000 levels should be our the minimum target. We could get 5% by doing nothing, as the economic slowdown and the rising price of electricity and gas curbs output. Some sceptics suggest that the very modest 5% target is a cunning ploy, a figure that its authors know will be reached without doing anything and then used to justify the DAP.
The DAP has no teeth. They say that if you are a polluter and you put your hand up for the money, that’s it. You don’t even have to prove you have cut emissions at the end of your five years. In a process Abbott and Hunt poetically describe as a ‘reverse auction’, (in reality polluters are chosen by the government), you won’t have any penalty if you don’t make your target. You can take the money and run. The taxpayer’s money. A look at the fine print suggests that this is not strictly true but two thirds of industries are exempt from any expectation to show results.
Not only is direct action on the nose in the real world; in the world of those who know and care about climate change, it has its open critics even within Liberal ranks.
In 2009, Malcolm Turnbull described the policy as bullshit:
…the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change. They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion “climate change is crap” or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, it’s cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to de-industrialise the world.
The Liberal Party is currently led by people whose conviction on climate change is that it is ‘crap’ and you don’t need to do anything about it. Any policy that is announced will simply be a con, an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing.
Direct action was dreamed up by Alan Moran director of the Deregulation unit in the Institute of Public Affairs as part of IPA’s standing brief to lobby for traditional industries and generally keeping things as they are. Direct action was invented by elements of the far-right and is backed financially by those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo. It is designed to buy time. No one really expects it work. It is and always was a ‘Clayton’s’ policy. And it was eagerly embraced by an expedient Tony Abbott as the policy you have when you are not having a climate change policy. Abbott doesn’t believe in it. He has thrown Hunt 3.2 billion and told him to go away and play with his model. There won’t be any more money. Get back to me when you can show it works.
Greg Hunt is a dead man walking with his DAP. His integrity has already been seriously compromised by his flip flop conversion from passionate ETS advocate in Howard’s government to the mouthpiece of direct action under Abbott. Now he is headed for ignominy and almost certain political oblivion. He has staked his reputation on proving a type of alchemy. And his cynical boss, Abbott, has been happy to send him on this fool’s errand.
Greg Hunt can look to his ambition to work out what went wrong.. For all other Australians, Direct Action will cost us dear in the billions we pay polluters and the damage it will permit to be caused to our environment. And if it seems cruel of Abbott to exploit the callow Hunt, what are we to make of a government that is prepared not only to shirk its obligations to the rest of the world but which is prepared to trade its children’s futures for its own selfish short term gain?