Friday, 23 July 2010

The Heart and Soul Election

If this Australian federal election is the election where the Liberals lost their mind, it’s also the election where the Labor Party lost its soul.

The ALP last election stood for an evidence-based approach on climate change. Ross Garnaut was tasked with summarising the best science, and producing an economic response. The plan was that the government would go with what he recommended. If anyone spotted the flaw in the plan – the then opposition was committing to a course of action where they had not sold the detail politically – this was lost in the “it’s time” mood that swept John Howard into the dustbin of history.

Now that we know the best science, and have an economic basis on which to proceed, what’s Labor’s position? The logical progression from the Rudd campaign would be to win political support in the form of a renewed mandate to implement the Garnaut recommendations. Instead, Julia Gillard plans to set up something that is an odd mixture of focus group and jury, a Citizen’s Assembly to decide where to go next. This is rank cowardice. It only puts off the hard decisions, and leave us exactly where we were before the Garnaut Report, except this time we are allowing public opinion to shape policy, instead of expert advice.

In a situation where expert advice points in a direction that will require some hard adjustments, you do not need some sort of populist leading from behind strategy that procrastinates decision-making. Political leaders need to do the hard yards of selling the tough steps that we have to take. They also need to cut through the dishonest propaganda of lobbyists who see their agenda as more important than the overall welfare of humanity.

Add to this Labor’s abject surrender on defending refugees against unfair attack (including straight-out lies), and Labor’s craven cave-in to the big mining houses over the mining tax, and you have to wonder what Labor stands for.

And the Liberals? They elected Tony Abbott as their leader. If you don’t get why this is crazy, read this. No wonder all the polls are showing a big swing to the Greens.

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