TONY ABBOTT has set the scene for a bare-knuckle fight with the Government after a frontbench reshuffle that purged moderates from the Liberal Party’s senior ranks and promoted a swag of hardline conservatives who had helped to bring down Malcolm Turnbull.
Declaring he wanted ”a fair dinkum Opposition” and not ”a government in exile, unsure of its role”, Mr Abbott made changes that ensured climate change, industrial relations, debt and immigration would be battlegrounds at the federal election next year.
He tightened the conservative grip on the party by bringing back to the fold the former Howard government warriors Philip Ruddock, Bronwyn Bishop and Kevin Andrews.
The Government pounced, saying that ”extremists and climate change deniers” had taken over.
”John Howard and Peter Costello would have struggled to be promoted in Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party,” a senior minister, Anthony Albanese, said.
Mr Abbott had promised not to settle scores after becoming leader, but yesterday he rewarded those who had opposed the emissions trading scheme and toppled Mr Turnbull.
The coup organiser, Nick Minchin, who believes climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to de-industrialise the West, took Ian Macfarlane’s job in energy and resources. His deputy as Opposition leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, took over industrial relations.
TONY Abbott’s stated intention to have ”a strong and effective climate change policy” that doesn’t involve either an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax is rife with internal contradictions.
For a start, it’s strange for a party of the right to reject the pro-market solution to climate change in favour of a much more intrusive, regulatory approach.
For another thing, it’s strange to reject ”a big new tax” in favour of an approach that, if it were to work, would require a huge increase in government spending on subsidies and incentives. If such an approach wasn’t to involve huge deficits and debt, or cuts in other government spending, it would require huge increases in ”old” taxes.
Gittins goes on to lay down a classic Keynesian line of how government needs to step in to redress market failures, since market failure is exactly what we are seeing in terms of redressing pollutants from industry generally, not just with respect to greenhouse gas emissions (and I’ll just add here that politicians who fail to realise that, for many people, the arguments for addressing climate change merely put the cherry on top of general uneasiness about their polluted surroundings, are missing a huge component of people’s emotional reaction to the whole issue. People are keen for stronger regulations on industry as a basic principle, not only because it’s needed to combat/ameliorate climate change).
Mr Abbott has been quoted all over the TV news this morning for his statement on ABC TV last night:
“If we win the election I’ll be regarded as a genius. If we don’t win I’ll probably be political roadkill at some point in time.”
It’s typical Abbott bravado, but it’s typical Abbott blurt of something he would better have left unsaid as well. He’s just written his own political epitaph and the election’s still nearly a year away.