2008 to 2012 period

Purpose of this section

  • Enable people who want to help me out to get up-to-speed without having to read insane amounts of material. (Therefore need a very quick “overview” page that let’s me link to deeper stuff (will put [link] in quote marks.)
  • Enable me to ‘dump’ material (references, material) into specific pages that can then be a scratch pad/resource for further work.

A very very short chronology of the whole sorry mess.  I include [link] to remind myself that stuff needs a page of its own.

Before 2008 – the issue contained, but beginning to break free

After a brief burst of interest/concern about climate change from 1988 to 1991/2,the issue was successfully contained, thanks to the power and skill of the minerals industry, and extremely sympathetic political leaders.  However, from 2005 the ability of those groups to prevent climate change getting to the top of the political agenda began to weaken, thanks to a long-running drought, renewed international action (e.g. Russia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol brought it into effect; the EU Emissions Trading Scheme began; Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” came out and  Nick Stern released his report on the economics of climate change).  Prime Minister John Howard (Liberal Party) tried to react, with nuclear power discussions and a proposed technology-sharing scheme, the “AP6”, to counter to the Kyoto Protocol. This convinced hardly anyone;  the “AP6” was widely perceived as a ‘spoiler’ attempt by the Bush and Howard governments, both of which had refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. At one point an Australian minister referred to it as an ‘alternative’ and was slapped down.

In December 2006, Labor replaced its leadership, and brought in Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard as leader and deputy leader.  Rudd declared climate change to be “the great moral challenge of our generation,” held a symbolic conference in March 2007 at Parliament House [link].  By mid-2007 both Howard and Rudd declared their support for (slightly differing) emissions trading schemes.  In April, Rudd commissioned a prominent Australian economist, Ross Garnaut [link] to produce a report (“The Garnaut Review” [link]) on the economics of climate change for Australia).

Although the election itself did not have much of a climate component, it can fairly be called ‘the first climate change election'[link to Rootes], thanks to the preceding framing battles, where Rudd used climate to make Howard look out of touch.   The government (a coalition of Liberal and National party members) was swept from office after 11 years, with Prime Minister John Howard losing his seat.  Rudd’s first substantive act was to announce that Australia would ratify the Kyoto Protocol [link]. At that year’s UNFCCC meeting in Bali he received a standing ovation.  Expectations were high indeed.

It’s important to know that Rudd’s government relied on support from minor parties, especially in the Senate, to get legislation through.  This would come back to haunt him…

2008 – peak hope, peak hype, loads of ink

Garnaut produced his draft Review early in the year, but it proved unpopular with industry, which expected more compensation and protection for itself.  Garnaut began to be sidelined [link to prove this]

Meanwhile, a parallel process was under way to bring actual legislation for an emissions trading scheme – called the “Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme” (CPRS) forward.  It involved a ‘Green Paper’ in July [link] and then a ‘White Paper’ [link] in December. Meanwhile, the Treasury produced some economic modelling in October.

By the end of the year, with successive watering down of ambition in terms of targets, and increased compensation to industry, Rudd’s support from the Green Party and from environmentalist groups was shrinking. Meanwhile, public campaigns about climate change were not being well received.  The scene was set for an awful failure.

[It should be remembered that the Global Economy almost ground to a halt in 2008. It is not as if Rudd etc had nothing else on their plates!]

2009  – peak battle, peak blood spilt

In March the CPRS legislation was released. Industry demanded that it be postponed because of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).  A first attempt at getting the legislation through in May failed.  As the second attempt was made, in November, the opposition Liberal party replaced its pro-climate action leader (Malcolm Turnbull)  with the anti-climate action Tony Abbott.  The legislation failed to get through again.  The Australian Constitution allowed for Rudd to call a ‘double-dissolution’ election if he wanted. [link]  Meanwhile, in December the UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen ended in failure. [link]

2010 – off the agenda, mining battles, back onto the agenda thanks to electoral calculation

Although the CPRS legislation was re-introduced in February 2010, nobody expected it to go anywhere.  In April Rudd surprised everyone by announcing that climate change would not be a priority, at least not until there was a global agreement. [link] This did not help his popularity.  However, the big event in the middle of this year was what came next.  Responding to a tax review by Treasury, Rudd announced a Mining Super Profits Tax.  Industry responded with a massive advertising campaign ($22m in 6 weeks) under the heading ‘Keep Mining Strong‘. Rudd’s popularity plummeted, and, with a Federal election due by November, the Labor Party decided to replace him.  On June 24 his deputy Julia Gillard replaced him, and announced the mining tax was going to be if not kicked into the long-grass, then watered down.  Gillard then called an election.  During the election she proposed a “citizens’ jury” to look into climate change (the idea was derided). [link]  Fatefully , she also declared that there would be “no carbon tax under a government I lead.”

Labor haemorrhaged support, down from its 2007 peak. The election resulted in a hung parliament in the lower house, which has 150 seats. Both Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition had 72 seats, with 5 independents and one Green. After 17 days of haggling, Gillard prevailed, forming a minority government with three independents and the Green. [link]

In September the Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change (MPCCC),  first met,  with political representatives from Labor, the Greens and the independents. The Liberals and Nationals were invited to participate, but refused to do so. The MPCCC also included Ross Garnaut.

2011 – the peak crazy year. So much blood

It’s kind of hard to describe this year without reaching for hyperbole.  I’ll try to stick to the facts.

Gillard announced that the MPCCC would come up with recommendations and that legislation would be introduced in the middle of the year.  In March there were a series of high-profile public rallies both for and against the “carbon tax” (Gillard’s proposal was actually an emissions trading scheme with a fixed price for the first years). At one, in Canberra, Tony Abbott stood in front of a placard that described Gillard as (Green politician) “Bob Brown’s bitch” (link).  High profile tours by figures who denied the existence/severity of climate change garnered media coverage.

In May, an update of the Garnaut Review was released.  On 10 July the proposed legislation, the “Clean Energy Future” package (CEF) was announced.

An advertising campaign was launched against the package, with strong support (?leadership?) from the mining industry.  Alongside this, economic modelling commissioned by the mining industry purported to show that the “carbon tax” would destroy the Australian economy.

Despite the vigorous opposition, the legislation passed into law in November 2011, and from 1 July 2012, Australia would have a “carbon tax.”

2012 – the rest is silence…

By 2012, with Gillard’s popularity low, and the issue of climate change very toxic. The government basically stopped talking about it. [link].

Although the sky did not in fact fall when the “carbon tax” came into force in July, the Gillard government received no ‘bounce’.  Meanwhile, Kevin Rudd was challenging for the leadership of the Labor party…

A note on the volatility of Australian politics over the last decade.  From December 1975 to November 2007 (32 years) Australia had 4 Prime Ministers – Malcolm Fraser (1975-1983), Bob Hawke (1983 – 1991), Paul Keating (1991-1996) and John Howard (1996-2007). From June 2010 to September 2015 it had 5 – Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull.


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