Lib candidate can't explain Direct Action - but he's not alone

Liberal candidate, Tom Zorich, became the second Jaymes Diaz, unable to explain the Direct Action climate policy. But he's in some highly esteemed company with the CEOs of major energy companies.

Overnight the Liberal candidate for the northern  Adelaide seat of Wakefield, Tom Zorich, became a YouTube sensation with his inability to even attempt to explain the Coalition’s Direct Action climate change policy (YouTube clip below). But he shouldn’t feel bad,  he’s in pretty esteemed company.

Source: Sky News

In a town hall debate with the sitting Labor Member, Nick Champion, the debate moderator Peter van Onselen asked Mr Zorich,

“Tony Abbott has made it very clear he will scrap the carbon tax if he’s elected, his alternative is Direct Action. How does Direct Action Work?”

Mr Zorich replied, “[long breath]….Look I’m not across all those issues Pete, I’m sorry. … I'm sorry Pete, I haven't got much to tell you about that".

He was then asked to explain why the Coalition had dumped its prior support for an Emissions Trading Scheme to which Zorich stated he, "did not have an answer for you here".

Now while the discomfort of Zorich makes for a great laugh, the reality is that he’s hardly Robinsoe Crusoe on this issue.

Just yesterday we reported that the CEO of Santos, one of the biggest energy companies in the country, wasn’t entirely sure what Direct Action might entail. His words were, "I think the issue with Direct Action is we simply don't know enough about it to really intelligently comment".

Then there’s the CEO of AGL Energy, Michael Fraser, who told the Australian Financial Review,

"A very valid question that we should all be asking ourselves is to say what actually is the detail of direct action?...Quite frankly from my own perspective I’d like to see that detail and actually like to understand it to form a view as to which is preferable".

Grant King, head of Origin Energy - he too is still wondering what Direct Action might entail.

Tony Shepherd, the President of the Business Council of Australia, just a few months ago was asked what he thought about Direct Action. He thought the policy hadn’t even been released yet.

For those who follow these issues closely, it has been immensely frustrating trying to pin down a coherent model for how Direct Action could effectively function to deliver emission reduction targets. 

Greg Hunt has made a number of speeches in the last few months that represent important progress from the 2010 election policy. His commitment to an auction process with pre-determined abatement calculation methodologies is a major advance over the use of tendering. But still there are so many unanswered questions that are pivotal to evaluating whether the scheme could function effectively. What’s more other members of the Coalition make statements that are contradictory to those of Hunt, such as Cory Bernardi and Tony Abbott.

The Energy Supply Association, whose membership represents a large proportion of Australia’s emissions, echoed the feelings of more than just a few people in its recent statement entitled, ‘On the Hunt for Direct Action Plan’. In taking into account Hunt’s more recent speeches and assorted statements to the media they concluded,

"While we already knew that the Coalition’s policy was the Direct Action Plan, these recent statements give us a slightly better indication of the Coalition’s plans and how the scheme will work. For the energy industry, the detailed mechanics of the baselines and any resultant penalties and rewards will be critical, but a lot of detail on how the scheme will operate still needs to be worked out."

I suspect that if a TV or radio journalist was clever enough to ask Tony Abbott how Direct Action worked and then followed it up with just two extra probing questions, they’d have Abbott sounding pretty similar to Tom Zorich.

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