Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Environment Minister Greg Hunt have written to Labor’s Environment spokesperson, Mark Butler requesting recommencement of negotiations over the future shape of the Renewable Energy Target.
While a large proportion of the letter reads as a defiant attack on the Labor Party for refusing to concede to the Government’s demand to slash and burn the scheme, this is likely to be a bit of bluff and bluster.
The letter argues the RET is “broken”, “not working” and the level of the target is “unsustainable because the 41,000 GWh 2020 target cannot be met”, as well as suggesting consumers will face massive costs if the scheme is not watered-down.
Labor’s Mark Butler is understandably saying the letter signals “no change” in the Government position of wanting to slash the target, but don’t get distracted by emotive words like “broken” and “unsustainable”.
In the end it is the Government that has come pleading for negotiations to recommence after Labor walked out of prior negotiations on the basis the Government’s position of a 40% cut to the scheme was unacceptable.
Also Climate Spectator has been informed that the letter contains no numbers suggesting what the level of the target should be. Instead Macfarlane states, “The type of adjustment [to the RET] was, and remains, open for negotiation”.
Hunt and Macfarlane gave stonewalling a try in the previous discussions and it didn’t work.
Since then Newspoll’s latest result (Labor leading 55% to Coalition 45%) suggested if an election were to be held soon the Coalition would face a disastrous wipe out. At the same time the G20 summit made Abbott look like an international pariah on climate change.
Politicians say polls come and go, but this one has rattled them. Understandably so, because it comes on top of countless prior polls since May that put Labor comfortably in front of the Coalition. What’s more this poll completely reversed the popularity gains the Coalition had got out of the Ukraine plane crash. Even Andrew Bolt says something has to change.
The Australian newspaper, traditionally close to the Coalition, has revealed Abbott is now desperate to cast off a range of unpopular government measures blocked by the Senate that are hanging around like a bad smell. This letter needs to be seen in that light.
The letter does indeed reflect that the Coalition still want to dramatically slash the level of the Renewable Energy Target. But reading between the lines one suspects they want to remove this issue from political dispute even more.
The Coalition could of course negotiate with the cross-bench senators to try to win their ideological war against renewable energy. But the barnacle will remain, because Labor will hammer them as anti-solar, anti-renewable energy and in the pocket of big power companies all the way to election day.