The climate change policies of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition have more in common than you might think.
For a start, both studiously ignore the need for the Australian economy to make any sort of transition, despite the clear global trend. If you are in any doubt about that, check out the Obama budget, overnight.
Rudd’s policy achieved this omission through a staggering amount of compensation to industry and because his policy was all about creating division in the Coalition. It wasn’t until Turnbull had been condemned to execution that it suddenly dawned on the government that it had skewered an ally. Or maybe it wasn’t in search of one.
Abbott’s policy avoids transformation by ignoring the subject altogether – plant more trees, bury a bit of charcoal, take care on how you cut the grass and keep the plough in the shed.
He said: “One of the large power companies has provided us with their advice. Because it’s commercial-in-confidence, they didn’t want it released – but they provided us with their advice that they could convert from coal to gas for $13 per tonne under this system.
“Now we want to check that, but … the oldest and least efficient of the power providers has said to us that under the government’s ETS we’re just not going to be able to afford the capital to transition because we will be struggling just to survive… Under this they’ve said that if our balance sheets are clear and there’s an incentive to change from coal to gas, this is very attractive and we are more likely rather than less likely to change under this system.”
Australia’s oldest and least efficient power station is Hazelwood in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, owned by International Power of the UK and the Commonwealth Bank (8.2 per cent). In fact, in 2005 it was nominated the least efficient power station in the world.
Yallourn, owned by China Light & Power subsidiary, Truenergy, is next. If Hazelwood and Yallourn convert from brown coal to gas, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions would drop by 5 per cent, as required. Job done.