Sunday, September 20, 2015
How many compromises was Turnbull prepared to make to get the keys to The Lodge? Plenty, as it turns out.
The first compromise, and perhaps the most surprising, was on climate policy. Turnbull has long been a vocal critic of Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt’s risible Direct Action policy. Yet no sooner had he taken the reins of national government than he was complementing Greg Hunt on the policy and vowing to keep it.
In Question Time yesterday, Turnbull went out of his way to praise Direct Action.
“We are talking about a very specific policy that was carefully put together by the Minister for the Environment, that was carefully considered by the Government, and it is working,” he told the House of Representatives.
Greg Hunt confirmed that Direct Action would stay, telling reporters that “the emissions reduction fund has been a spectacular success. So the policy is continuing.”
Endorsing Direct Action is a massive backflip for Turnbull.
Way back in 2010, Turnbull was savagely critical of Direct Action as a wasteful public subsidy for big polluters. “I've always believed the Liberals reject the idea that governments know best,” he said in a well-publicised speech in Parliament. “Doling out billions of taxpayers' money is neither economically efficient, nor will it be environmentally effective.”
Keeping Direct Action appears to be the first big compromise Turnbull was prepared to make, no doubt to win over some of the hardline climate denialists on the Liberal back bench. Let’s remember that Turnbull was rolled as Liberal leader in 2009 on precisely this issue, after he negotiated with Kevin Rudd and the Labor government to introduce a bipartisan emissions trading scheme.
It’s difficult to believe Turnbull really thinks Direct Action is a good policy. There is not a single independent expert in the land that thinks Direct Action can actually meet the Coalition’s 28 per cent emissions reduction target by 2025. The simple math tells us it will fail: the most recent Direct Action auction of emissions reduction bids bought around 15 per cent of the emissions reductions the government needs, but spent a quarter of the Direct Action budget.