Pronouncing the introduction of carbon pricing as one of his proudest achievements, a tearful Tony Windsor stated he would not be contesting the election in September.
Windsor, and also Rob Oakeshott, will be remembered as the men who stuck some backbone into a Labor Party that lost its compass on climate change.
The decision by Labor, apparently pushed by Gillard and Swan, to abandon their long-held emissions trading policy on false pretences, will represent the pivotal point where Labor lost its way.
The original emissions trading scheme (the ‘CPRS’) was designed with a series of provisions that always recognised the imperfect nature of international efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. The free permits for trade-exposed industry, and an emissions target that was calibrated to actions by other countries, meant that the outcomes of Copenhagen were an illegitimate excuse for dumping the policy.
Under the Howard Government, well before the ridiculously inflated expectations of Copenhagen, it was agreed that an emissions trading scheme was a sensible policy to implement. This was agreed even while admitting that a legally binding, meaningful and comprehensive international agreement was as likely as a supersonic pig.
Notably this is something the Business Council of Australia, who seems to suffer from a bad case of amnesia, signed on to.
Gillard’s citizen’s assembly was a joke, dreamt up by the same poll-driven, principle-free NSW Labor Right that gave us the fiasco that was the NSW State Labor Government.
When the 2010 election handed Windsor and Oakeshott the power to decide who formed government, it was evident they had already been influenced by the work of Ross Garnaut. Thanks to Garnaut’s advice, Windsor and Oakeshott had come to realise that climate change was an extremely serious problem and that Australia needed to act. In addition carbon pricing would be the most effective and efficient way to act.
Consequently both of them, in conjunction with the Greens, pushed Labor back towards their original policy of implementing a carbon price irrespective of international climate negotiations.
Without Windsor and Oakeshott, we may have yet again pushed this serious reform into the never never.
Thanks to their efforts, the general public now realise the scare campaign surrounding the carbon price is groundless. Even if Abbott manages to repeal the carbon price, when it inevitably re-emerges onto the policy agenda, the reform will be a much easier sell.