Australian policy debates are so loaded with dreadful scenarios you would think it’s a drunken mob fighting over a spilt pint. Even before South Australia’s lights shine bright, the culture warriors are already putting blame on wind turbines for causing the raging storms.
Seems nobody cares that cyclonic winds brought down 20 unprecedented transmission towers, and politicians and experts from the energy industry have suggested renewables were at fault.
Adding fuel to the fire, the Coalition is right in the midst of an intense climate policy war with the Opposition. Considering Malcolm Turnbull once lost the Liberal leadership for his moderate views on climate policy, his opponents seemingly want to lead him down that route again. While the obvious signs that climate change is happening have embarrassed climate science sceptics, the same people who talked endlessly about solar energy flares while citing Lord Monkton are now talking endlessly about “grid stability”.
Malcolm Turnbull has once again found himself stuck in the middle of two conflicting opinions. On one side being pressured by the fossil fuel industry and on the other massive evidence that Australia needs more renewables, not less.
The PM understands well that carbon emissions cannot be reduced without more investment in renewable energy. If you think the “obsession” with renewables is merely left-wing hysteria, then the ACT Liberals’ claim that they are fully committed to ensuring 100 percent renewable energy target for Canberra may come as a surprise.
Coalition Stays Oddly Silent
With the ACT polls already here, it’s timely for the Prime Minister to put renewable energy on his campaign agenda. There’s no better time to share his thoughts on whether the ACT Liberal’s backing of the ALP idea for 100 percent renewable energy is vapid or just visionary. Of course, it is possible that the local Liberal isn’t genuinely committed to supporting the 100 percent target since they have been oddly mum from ever since the national debate flared up.
Renewables Not the Only Thing on the Agenda
However, renewable energy is not the only issue making the prime ministerial intervention in the ACT election difficult. The ACT Liberals have also set up several land mines too. In 2015 when Mr. Turnbull tried to lay all tax reform alternatives on the table, he talked so enthusiastically about scrapping inefficient “stamp duties” and introducing a more realistic land-tax regime.
The ACT Labor government took the same advice as Mr. Turnbull and introduced the scheme he had encouraged state leaders to embrace. Unfortunately, the local Liberals have senselessly fought tooth and nail all efforts to change this land tax. Notably, the Prime Minister is yet to either congratulate ACT Labor for effecting genuine tax reforms or recant his local branch’s populism.
In the year 2015, the PM was loud on the productivity of our economy and the livability of our cities. However in the ACT, the ALP government is already constructing light rail despite the local Liberals’ vow to chew up the contracts; and the Prime Minister is as visible on this one as his Liberal party’s coherent position.
The Classic Case of Conflicting Opinions
When politics becomes a contest of different opinions, democracy will have a chance at lifting itself up since any new political fight either helps to refine an old stand or create new challenges or opportunities. But when politics turns into a mere contest of tribal intonation in which consistency and evidence are ditched for short term advantage, then progress, whether democratic or economic, becomes totally coincidental. In other words, genuine political fights are constructive but phoney political fights become destructive.
So, what’s Malcolm Turnbull to do? Will he repudiate Canberra Liberal’s push for 100 percent renewable energy to appease the climate sceptics in his Federal Coalition? Will he abandon the ACT Liberals for their firm stance on public transport and land tax in order to legitimise his push for more of both across the nation? Or will he just keep his head in the sand until the present scuffles are over?
Pulling a country towards a completely new direction takes patience, strength and consistency. Strategic silence and flip flopping can be effective tactics for political survival but the worst approaches for political leadership. The remaining few days before the ACT election will tell which approach Mr. Turnbull is committed to.