We have just had confirmed what voters have already woken up to -- Clive Palmer might give the appearance of being a bit of a buffoon but he is no fool.
In one stroke he’s shown he’s able to fix the carbon problem in a way that the Greens, the ALP, and the Coalition have been unable to devise.
And, as I will explain, Clive Palmer has also given Tony Abbott, Bill Shorten and Christine Milne a real lesson on how to market policy.
The carbon tax was always one of the stupidest taxes ever introduced in Australia, because we were virtually alone in the world. That made our industries less competitive, and it was brought in at a time when we had huge boosts to power costs because of infrastructure investment and other factors.
And instead of using the money raised by the tax to cut carbon, we allocated big sums for social handouts.
Getting rid of the carbon tax is essential for the nation. But we now must also be aware that thanks to fracking technology in the US, Australia’s natural gas, as well as gas from Russia and the Middle East, China and the US, means we’re now able to reduce carbon emissions.
So they are now looking much more closely at some form of carbon treaty to appease their green movement. If that momentum takes off, we will need to be part of it, because there could be trade sanctions.
However we are not helped because while our gas reduces Asian emissions, we have to burn more coal because we do not have sufficient gas and we put blocks in the way of developing gas.
Clive Palmer’s suggestion is to end the silly carbon tax and replace it with an emissions-trading scheme that prices carbon at nil while leaving the infrastructure in place to raise the carbon price should our trading partners go in that direction.
While there are still details to nut out, it is a sensible plan because Australia can then go into the carbon game in tandem with its trading partners.
And Clive also gives the majors a marketing lesson: In a brilliant touch Palmer gained the endorsement of Al Gore, which leaves the ultra-left Greens gasping with envy.
What Palmer is showing the big parties is that it is one thing to have the right policy, but you must also know how to market it.
Just look at Andrew Robb and Tony Abbott. When Andrew Robb devised the initial Coalition budget strategy, he always added a clear vision for Australia. Abbott didn’t do that, and now he’s suffering for it.
Elsewhere, the government is making much-needed changes to the commercial building rules, but it’s not doing a good job of marketing the huge cost benefits.
Back to Clive Palmer: There is no doubt that Clive operates in the high-risk end of town. But remember that anyone who can out-negotiate the Chinese in a deal is a strategic thinker. I do not know who is right in the Palmer dispute with the Chinese over iron ore, the courts may or may not find against him, but Palmer has an agreement that gave him wide powers.
It is conceivable the Chinese may unintentionally have funded his 2013 election campaign.
All too often the Chinese out-negotiate Australians. That did not happen with Palmer, and Tony Abbott is quickly learning that he will need to listen to what the Palmer United Party and the independents in the Senate have to say.