Green Suicide Down Under: Turnbull’s Energy Policy An Election Death Warrant

  • Date: 21/10/17
  • Peta Credlin, Daily Telegraph

Malcolm Turnbull had one shot left in the leadership locker and he blew it.

The mere fact that Labor say they’ll support his new energy policy is enough for ordinary Australians to know it’s more about his personal climate change obsessions than them, their power bills and making ends meet. Recasting Australia’s energy future with a return to reliable, affordable baseload power was the Prime Minister’s last opportunity to take the fight up to Bill Shorten and get back in the game.

Instead, the policy announced this week will be his death warrant.

While government conservatives were busy congratulating themselves on their win in getting Turnbull to dump his preferred clean energy target as well as subsidies for renewables by 2020, the Prime Minister used the complexity of the issue, and a damning lack of detail, to ram through what amounts to an emissions trading scheme via a secondary market amongst energy retailers.

How did they get it so wrong?

It was obvious last Monday night that the fix was on. Prime ministers never turn up to backbench policy committees but it wasn’t just Malcolm Turnbull at the energy policy meeting but the heads of the Australian Energy Market Operator and the Australian Energy Market Commission to present a policy that was said to have been produced by the Energy Security Council. Outgunned and overawed, with a mere two-page document on which to base the most important policy decision of all, backbenchers rubber stamped it after barely an hour.

The following day, at the start of Tuesday’s Coalition party room meeting, the Prime Minister told his MPs there’d be an energy policy presentation from the minister, questions and answers with the same energy policy experts and, then, a political discussion. No policy papers at all were available and the political discussion never happened. A prime minister who often boasts about “due process” completely failed to give his MPs a chance to ventilate the politics of the most political issue of all — and isn’t the job of the backbencher to ensure retail politics is injected into big decisions?

The masterminds of the new energy policy, Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg and PM Malcolm Turnbull. (Pic: Kym Smith.)

The whole thing was a stitch up from the start. When Tony Abbott rose at 11.15am to begin the promised political discussion, he was not “howled down” by colleagues, as Turnbull media acolytes claimed; he was sat down by the Prime Minister who simply announced that the policy had been approved. Shortly afterwards, at the media conference scheduled just before Question Time, the PM himself was barely across the detail and regularly deferred to his bureaucrats. A glossy brochure was handed out that had obviously been printed days earlier.

Malcolm Turnbull will live to regret this tick-and-flick exercise and his party room will pay for their cowardice at the next election. Most of them don’t understand the complexity of what they signed Australia up to. Some have worked it out and are now angry at being treated with contempt especially as more start to understand Mr Turnbull’s “captain’s pick” commits them to a de facto emissions trading scheme.

By the end of Wednesday, Labor frontbenchers were saying that this was a policy they could live with. And why wouldn’t they? The reliability guarantee means the lights will stay on; and the emissions reduction guarantee means that the percentage of renewable power will keep rising. When prices keep going through the roof, and they will, Bill Shorten will just say it’s all the Coalition’s fault because this is their policy. The chance to make the next election a referendum on power prices has been lost.

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