The ALP has, predictably, started a major campaign against the Greens, trying to blame the party for the collapse of its appalling emissions trading scheme.
Lindsay Tanner, whose seat is vulnerable to the Greens’ Adam Bandt, has hit the airwaves across the country and used his regular spot on Fairfax online to attack the Greens. A parade of senior ministers, all the way up to the Prime Minister, has slavishly trotted out the “Greens are bad” talking point.* They have been joined by friendlies such as Bob Carr writing in The Australian and Paul Howes at every opportunity, as well as, extraordinarily, the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change, Dr Martin Parkinson, according to Saturday’s Canberra Times.**
That the Greens would not support the scheme without a few amendments to turn it from a barrier to action into at least a small step in the right direction has been turned into “making the perfect the enemy of the good” – a great irony when the unamended scheme was far from good and an amended one would certainly not have been perfect – and being “intractable” – a deeply frustrating attack when the Greens made every attempt to negotiate in good faith but were rebuffed each time, with every proposed amendment or negotiating point rejected out of hand.
The government’s hope of clinging to any remaining climate credibility relies on pretending that it was the Greens who were intractable, not them. This fits neatly with the Labor mythology of who the Greens are, but it contrasts dramatically with the actual behaviour of the Greens, as 12% of Australian voters now realise. The Greens’ positive approach to legislation such as the stimulus package and many other bills that would have been very different if the Greens were in power show this up as old Labor prejudice rather than fact.
Unfortunately, up to now it has only been Greens saying that Labor refused to negotiate and it is a next to impossible task to convince people with a “he-said she-said” argument, particularly up against the might of a government publicity machine and very strong party discipline.
But now, thanks to Paul Daley in the Fairfax Sundays, someone has squeaked and we have the smoking gun.
Daley quotes a Labor source saying “Kevin was crystal clear from the start – the Greens couldn’t be allowed any sort of ownership of the [emissions] trading scheme.”
This may not sound like much, but it entirely undermines the government’s claim to climate credibility. It was always Kevin Rudd’s political strategy to do a deal on an ETS with the opposition – whom he had consistently branded climate sceptics – so he could share any blame for higher prices with them and to shut the Greens out of any negotiations. The Greens would either have to sign up to a policy the party knew was completely unacceptable or vote against it and wear the orchestrated ALP attack.
This quote should now be put to ministers every time they trot out the anti-Greens lines. Is it or is it not the case, Minister, that your government deliberately shut the Greens out of the ETS negotiating process? It will certainly be used by every Greens candidate in every election debate.
The ALP can’t have it both ways – they can’t blame the Greens for rejecting the CPRS after having crafted a policy the Greens could not accept and refusing to let them in to any negotiations.
This debate has a long way to run, and we Greens have to convince more people of our position that Australia and the world is better off without this CPRS than with it. But the smoking gun will make it a much more interesting debate.
* Interestingly, it is worth noting that Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard are, I think, the only two senior ministers who have refused to follow the party line of attacking the Greens. These are probably the two ministers with whom the Greens have had the most positive relationships in this term.
** Sadly, this story is not online, but it reveals that the senior bureaucrat has been party political campaigning on behalf of the government, attacking the Greens at a recent public forum, misrepresenting the Greens’ position to belittle and undermine the party. The Greens will be pursuing this very serious misuse of Dr Parkinson’s position.
UPDATE: I’ve put a typed out version of the Canberra Times article on the GreensMPs website here.