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Peace for our time ?

August 18, 2018 - 11:05 -- Admin

Amid the recent upsurge of leadership speculation, this time affecting the government, a crucial observation on the so-called National Energy Guarantee seems to have been missed.

No one thinks the NEG is a good policy: its selling point is the claim that it could resolve, once and for all, the political fight over climate and energy policy.  After the last few days, that claim has fallen in a heap. A few days after claiming the endorsement of his party room for the previous version of the NEG, Turnbull is doing an emergency rewrite of the NEG to stave off a rebellion and perhaps a challenge to his job.

This half-baked compromise, if it works at all, won’t resolve anything. There’s no target for emissions reductions, which might help get legislation through Parliament, but leaves the most important single issue for later. The already messy pricing system is to be complicated further by unspecified policies to reduce prices directly. And the denialists are still pushing for a publicly funded coal-fired power station.

Supposing this chimera somehow struggles into existence, it will last as long as the political stars with which it is aligned. If Turnbull loses to the right of his own party, the whole thing will be dumped in favor of policies driven by culture war concerns rather than economics, let alone climate. If Labor wins, they will need to dump this mess and start again, effectively from scratch.

I have in my mind a picture of Turnbull, descending the steps of a plane and waving a peace of paper while he announces “Peace for our Time”. I guess that can’t literally happen since the relevant meetings will all take place in Canberra and tarmac photo-ops are confined to state visits these days. But I doubt that Turnbull’s deal will last as long as Chamberlain’s did.