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Wikileaks confirm Green Party opportunism

February 10, 2011

According to a US Embassy confidential cable, the Green Party had everything to gain from blocking action on climate change. This Wikileak revelation confirms the Party’s malign role because it highlighted how the Green Party was thinking at the start of 2009 – before blocking an ETS twice before the year was out.

I have previously made the point Australia would be pricing carbon now if the Green Party had not joined with climate change deniers and blocked Kevin Rudd’s Emissions Trading Scheme in the Senate, on the last occasion in December 2009. Without that action there would be a price on carbon. And, capital would be withdrawing from coal-fired plants and going into gas and renewables.

We are not pricing carbon- because of the Green Party.

Daniel Clune of the US Embassy in Canberra had cabled Washington March 17, 2009, with this observation:

Although deeply committed to environmental issues, the Greens stand to gain the most from knocking down the Government’s ETS – any substantial delay is likely to lead to tougher targets, and disaffected Labor voters will most likely turn to the Greens to protest the Government’s having “lost its way.”

In other words, the Green Party saw itself winning votes from voters who blamed Labor for having no price on carbon. Crafty politics. But world action to slow down the disaster of global warming is retarded to the extent that Australia – a big per capita polluter – has no emissions trading system and refuses to do what Garnaut has urged this week, plan for its future and the world’s.

  1. John Newton permalink
    February 10, 2011 11:16 am

    Just possibly, Bob, and I know how diffiocult it is for a Labor politician to think like this, the Greens studied the CPRS and recognised that it was next to useless and indeed detrimental to the environment an decided to block it in order to get a better result – and not just to get more votes.

    I certainly don’t have to point out to you how flawed the Continue Polluting Regardless Scheme was – especially after Rudd capitulated to Turnbull.

  2. Chade permalink
    February 10, 2011 11:25 am

    1. This is a theory from the US Embassy, and speculation.

    2. With the Greens, Labor would still have been 1 vote short in the Senate.


  3. Stephen permalink
    February 10, 2011 11:44 am

    Do you think Clune’s opinion was based on information from within the Greens Pary?

  4. Bob Carr permalink
    February 10, 2011 12:30 pm

    Okay some comment.

    First, I think that the US Embassy picked up the atmospherics in the Green Party – that is, if we do it in we pick up votes anyway. That is, they behaved like a conventional party, which is what they in fact are.

    Second, on the Senate votes. Two Liberal Senators were prepared to cross and vote for an ETS. That was going to give it the numbers – with the Green Senators.

    Third, lacking a Senate majority Labor had no choice but to negotiate with Turnbull – especially as Bob Brown had ruled out negotiating with Labor in May 2009.

    Even if Labor’s legislation had all the flaws in the world it still would have been the first step to pricing carbon and could always have been amended in a better political climate and tightened up. A political climate like the present, with the current Senate votes ( or those to exist shortly with the new Senators taking their seats ).
    A million times better than having no price disadvantage attached to coal at all, which is where we are now thanks a lot.

    Oh, and taking this first step is exactly what Garnaut asked for this week. TAKE THE FIRST STEP.

  5. Chade permalink
    February 10, 2011 1:14 pm

    But, two Liberals Senators crossed the floor *after* it was known that the bill wouldn’t have the support. It’s a pretty piece of speculation that they would repeat that action if there was support from the Greens.

    If Rudd et al knew that they were thinking of doing this, why didn’t Labor then negotiate with those two Senators and the Greens together, rather than with a Turnbull who had to try to drag the rest of the Liberal party Senators out of denialist mode?

  6. Bob Carr permalink
    February 10, 2011 1:51 pm

    No they were prepared to cross and vote for it. Everyone expected that to happen. But by delaying the thing for months and sending it to a Senate committee inquiry where climate deniers had a field day the Green Party gave the deniers in the Liberal Party like Minchin what they needed to vote Turnbull out on this issue. So the Coalition switched, the Green Party was opposed and an ETS died.

    Thus Australia refused to price carbon .

    Don’t have this happen again.
    Do what Garnaut urges : take the first step ! And remember, a gas-fired power station would be under construction now if the ETS had passed. The first step !

  7. Mick permalink
    February 10, 2011 6:42 pm

    Hi Bob,
    I’m not going to comment on your theories about The Greens’ motives, but instead focus on the reasoning in your post.

    You seem to imply that the speculation of a US embassy official somehow is new and significant evidence about the Greens motives. How is that? Plenty of people were speculating at the time. The fact that a US embassy official was also speculating is not significant information.

    I’d have thought the speculations of a former NSW Premier deserve more weight than some US embassy official, so why not just present the speculation for what it is? i.e. it is your speculation? Implying that a US embassy official having similar speculations to you is new and significant evidence, is simply an ill-founded inference.

    It just seems opportunistic on your part, which is disappointing.


    • Bob Carr permalink
      February 11, 2011 7:14 am

      Okay, but is the substance of my criticism of Green Party action right or wrong ? They blocked an ETS, pure and simple.

      • Mick permalink
        February 11, 2011 11:54 am

        They Blocked a flawed ETS yes.

        As to whether your criticism is right or wrong, I think that depends on which part of your criticism you’re talking about. You claim two things. Firstly that the Greens should have backed the ETS no matter how flawed. Secondly that the Greens did not back it for purely opportunistic reasons.

        For the first, I honestly don’t know whether you are right or wrong. You might be, but you might not be. If only we had two universes we could run both experiments and see which Greens decision would have been better for the world. From press reports, I believe the decision was hotly debated within the Greens, so it’s was clearly not a simple decision one way or the other for them.

        For the second criticism (that they were just being opportunistic) I suspect you are wrong, and certainly the wikileak from a US Embassy staff does not add any evidence to the argument, as I suspect you well know, which is why the only clear case of opportunism here appears to be your own opportunistic title for your original post: “Wikileaks confirm Green Party opportunism”.

  8. Watson permalink
    February 10, 2011 8:36 pm

    You have asserted that if Australia had adopted the impossibly compromised CPRS we would now be seeing carbon abatement. But Bob, the scheme was so weak, and gave so much back to the major carbon polluters, it was incapable of delivering anything more than elaborate and expensive window dressing. Beefing up the CPRS so that it actually delivered an effective signal to the market would have taken years of argument and nit picking negotiation. Carbon polluters needed to be checked, not stroked and told not to worry. Far too many times now, the Rudd/Gillard poll driven brand of Labor Government has delivered spin and compromise, not reform. That is not what the Australian electorate voted for, and that’s why the Greens wouldn’t accept it. And now Gillard has rubbed a little more salt into the wound by cancelling or delaying some of the few token carbon reduction programs the Government had running in order to pay for a flood which is a harbinger of the consequences of delayed action on climate change.

    You seem to suggesting that Green strategists hoped voters would shift to the Greens because they damaged the Labor policy, when in fact the shift has occurred because the Labor Party has demonstrated that it has feet of clay when it comes to the ‘greatest moral challenge of our generation’. Some of us actually believe that is true, Bob.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      February 11, 2011 7:12 am

      Gas would be replacing coal. Hundreds of millions would be flowing into renewables but was held back. The filthy Victorian brown coal plants would be starved of funds IF the scheme had got up in 2009. Think what Garnaut advises, just make a start. You think it was deficient but it could always have been tightened. Make a start.

  9. Jack Pead permalink
    February 10, 2011 8:58 pm

    Very few (from any side of politics) could have foreseen the extent to which climate change would fall from both global and domestic importance following the COP15 negotiations in Copenhagen. It is easy to say things like “we are not pricing carbon- because of the Green Party” with the benefit of hindsight. But at the time it was made, the decision of the Greens not to support the CPRS made a whole lot of sense. We cannot point the blame at them for the lack of climate change legislation in Australia.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      February 11, 2011 7:07 am

      We can. They voted with deniers in the Coalition to delay, then block it. Over a year on we have no price on carbon.

  10. Anon permalink
    February 11, 2011 10:31 am

    The Greens are demonstrable Marxists in a world that has left Marx on the ash heap of history (to quote Reagan’s speech to the House of Commons in 1982 that is often misquoted as “dustbin of history”—but that’s another story. The phrase originates with Trotsky, which is why Peggy Noonan (I think) wrote it into Reagan’s speech).

    That’s not to say the Greens don’t operate by the Marxist manual: they do.

    They are literally trying to “heighten the contradictions,” as Marx wrote, because they really do believe that things must get worse before they’ll get better.

    Which is not only mad, but precisely, pessimistically, contrary to their message of happy optimism.

    • Watson permalink
      February 11, 2011 10:57 am

      This post seems like ideologically hysterical nonsense, except that it claims that the (Australian) Greens are ‘demonstrably Marxist’.
      OK, I’m willing to learn, demonstrate instead of pontificating.

  11. chrys permalink
    February 15, 2011 1:52 pm

    I wonder how much GHG are attributed the fact that we have built over our good food growing areas, so that food required by the populace is actually getting further and further away? And how long can we continue to do so?

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