Federal Election 2013 coverageHave your say on YourViewElection Live with Stephanie Peatling
The electoral atmosphere is surreal. We have a government on the back foot over its economic record – which has been outstanding when the global economic environment is taken into account.
And we have an opposition that appears to have successfully undermined the government’s credibility, based on the government’s record of fiscal debt and deficit, which has, in fact, been the foundation of the nation’s success in avoiding the global financial crisis.
The Coalition tactic recalls the 1996 election. At every outdoor political event the opposition’s debt truck would be lurking in the background, showing Australia’s foreign debt ticking over at an alarming rate. Immediately after the election the truck was put way, never to be seen again. Nor was any policy – serious or otherwise – advanced by the Howard government to reverse this alarming growth in debt.
So it will be this time unless Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are silly enough in office to ride roughshod over their advisers in Treasury, Finance and the Reserve Bank and impose austerity policies involving massive cuts in government spending. Such policies have proved spectacularly unsuccessful elsewhere in reducing deficits or unemployment.
It is too late to explain the benefits of Keynesian policies in the middle of an election campaign. The damage was done by the former treasurer, Wayne Swan, who refused to explain that the task of economic management is to balance the economy, not the budget, and that when private spending collapses (such as in the GFC), either the government steps in to take up the slack by increasing spending and cutting taxes, or growth slumps and unemployment rises.
As a consequence, the Coalition is having a field day selling fear, aided and abetted by the Murdoch press. This too, is partially the responsibility of Labor, which changed the media ownership rules in the 1980s, paving the way for News Limited to get control of the Herald and Weekly Times group and about 70 per cent of metropolitan daily newspaper circulation.
But the most depressing aspects of this election are the failure of the major parties to develop a coherent policy to deal with climate change, and their willingness to co-operate in squeezing the Greens out of the political process when the Greens are the only party prepared to confront the issue.
The draft of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, leaked last week, is truly terrifying. Reports of the draft state that the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions ”at or above current rates” have put the world on track to become up to 5 degrees hotter and that there is a 95 per cent likelihood that human greenhouse gas emissions are driving the rise in extreme weather events now being observed around the world.
The implication of 5 degrees warming is an extremely hostile environment for the biota, de-population and, not to put too fine a point on it, the end of civilisation (including the economy) as we know it.
And yet, against this background, the Greens are seen as the main enemy of the major political parties. Last week, Tony Abbott said in respect to the allocation of Liberal preferences, ”everywhere, with no exceptions, the Greens are behind Labor, partly because they are economic fringe dwellers”.
Both Abbott and Rudd say they are not climate change deniers, but they are both peddling policies to reduce the price of carbon emissions into the atmosphere as a way of reducing living costs and promoting the international competitiveness of Australian industry.
Abbott in particular is locking in a higher level of fossil fuel dependence by his promise that his government would invest only in road infrastructure – as opposed to electrified public transport.
In the lead-up to this election Abbott has promised $20 billion for road infrastructure, including $1.5 billion for the east-west link in Melbourne, with no requirement for a cost/benefit test.
Why? According to the Australasian Railway Association, transport accounts for 14 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. At 76 million tonnes a year, we have one of the highest transport emissions per capita in the world. Ninety per cent of transport emissions are attributable to road and only 2 per cent to rail. The so-called energy efficiency of a fully laden suburban train is about six times greater than for cars.
If the world is to avoid breaking the 2-degree-warming cutoff point between dangerous and very dangerous global warming between now and 2050, the International Energy Agency calculates that only one-third of the world’s known deposits of fossil fuels can be burnt. This suggests that industry policy should be directed at reducing fossil fuel subsidies and that new freeways, especially potential financial and environmental disasters such as the proposed east-west link, will become stranded assets with no economic, social or environmental value.
This is looking like the Wonthaggi desalination plant disaster all over again, and for the same reason: no independent environmental impact statement and no public cost/benefit analysis that would expose the multibillion-dollar folly of such an enterprise.
Kenneth Davidson is a senior columnist at The Age. Email: [email protected]苏州美甲学校.au
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.