Kevin Rudd faces a delay in the introduction of his carbon emissions trading system until after the next election, with Brendan Nelson vowing last night that the Coalition will not accept a start-up date before "2011 at the earliest". The Opposition Leader told The Australian that the Prime Minister's plan to begin emissions trading in July 2010 was a threat to the economy and the Coalition would reject legislation allowing trading until it was clear whether China and the US would join a global pact to reduce their emissions. International talks aimed at creating a pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol on emissions reduction will not be completed until late next year following a meeting in Copenhagen.
Dr Nelson's warning came ahead of a meeting in Sydney today of a coalition of Australia's biggest exporters and the powerful Australian Workers Union aimed at considering alternatives to the Government's plans to address climate change, detailed in a green paper released last week. Today's AWU Climate Change Roundtable was convened by the union's national secretary, Paul Howes, and will include representatives of the LNG, cement and aluminium industries.
A growing chorus of exposed industries - including airlines, petrol refiners, LNG exporters, cement manufacturers and aluminium smelters - has voiced concerns in recent days that billions of dollars of investment risk being lost overseas. Their concerns tally with AWU fears that thousands of jobs would be lost on the tide of outgoing investment.
In a letter obtained by The Australian inviting employers to today's roundtable, Mr Howes says participation would serve to inform the commonwealth's final policy on the ETS. Opposition resources spokesman David Johnston also widened the gap between the major parties yesterday by insisting the LNG industry be offered free permits under the ETS.
Dr Nelson's comments on the timing of the introduction of emissions trading mean Mr Rudd faces the choice of agreeing to a delay or negotiating with the Greens for Senate approval for his plan. Government sources have made it clear Mr Rudd sees little chance of compromise with the Greens, who want his $500 million taxpayer-funded investment to research clean coal technologies scrapped.
Last night, Dr Nelson said there was no room for "extreme positions on either side" of the climate debate. "If Mr Rudd wishes to be saved from himself, I am here to help," he said. "He is proposing to bring legislation into the parliament before the Copenhagen meeting even occurs, which will determine what sort of shape the global response will take from 2012."
Dr Nelson said it was possible the Opposition would back emissions trading legislation with "responsible amendments". But his starting point was the absolute conviction that Australia should not embrace action that could damage its economy without knowing whether big emitters like China, the US and India would join a new global emissions reduction pact. "(Mr Rudd is) determined to do this from 2010 from my view without having due regard for the economic consequences of what he is about to do," Dr Nelson said.
"Mr Rudd is proposing to impose on Australia in about two years' time an emissions trading scheme which is still poorly developed. The economic assumptions underwriting it are yet to be developed, let alone tested, in an Australia in a deteriorating economic climate." Insisting the actions of the US, China and India were "the main game", he also said the Coalition wanted a guarantee that Mr Rudd's promised reductions in fuel excise to make up for increases in fuel prices continue indefinitely, not be reviewed after three years, as was the Government's proposal.
Mr Howes, who yesterday declined to comment on the AWU-convened meeting, has previously warned the Government's goal of having an ETS in place by 2010 would destroy local jobs. "The roundtable will bring together senior executives from a range of industries and peak industry organisations in the trade-exposed emissions intensive sector of the Australian economy that have a stake in the sector's future under an emissions trading scheme," Mr Howes wrote in his letter.
The Australian Aluminium Council, the Cement Industry Federation and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association confirmed yesterday they and some of their member organisations would attend the meeting. AAC chief Ron Knapp said he would be raising the "significant impact of the ETS on the economy and employment in this country". "The ETS doesn't change future global aluminium production expectations; it just changes the address of smelters and that's to the detriment of Australia."
CIF chief executive Robyn Bain said she would attend with representatives from member companies Cement Australia and Adelaide Brighton. "We're all in agreeance that the emissions trading scheme needs to deal with carbon reduction but ensure that industry - particularly manufacturing in Australia - is kept and has the ability to grow."
APPEA chief executive Belinda Robinson said the ETS meant Australia's LNG industry and its "capacity for assisting the world move to a lower greenhouse future will be seriously compromised and that means thousands and thousands of jobs - existing and new - will also be at risk".
Senator Johnston yesterday said the Opposition front bench would agree on Tuesday that LNG was a clean transitional fossil fuel and deserved free permits, despite falling outside the threshold for compensation set down by the Rudd Government in its emissions trading green paper. The front bench is "not going to take very much persuading", he said. "The alternative is to do what the Government is doing, which is to effectively say to the LNG industry, 'You should go and develop somewhere else where you don't have a carbon price ripping at your profitability'."
The evolving Coalition position widens the differences between the Coalition and the Rudd Government as Labor seeks Coalition support for its emissions trading regime in the Senate. But some in the Coalition believe it should differentiate itself from the Government even further.
Labor has said it understands the LNG industry's concerns and will talk to LNG producers before it reaches a final position on its scheme. But the Government is adamant that it cannot compensate all trade-exposed industries, or deliver full compensation to those it does help, because this would impose an intolerable burden on other sectors of the economy.
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said government assistance to industry would have to be gradually reduced over time. "To do otherwise would be economically irresponsible - it would compromise Australia's efforts to reduce carbon pollution and place more of the burden on other parts of the economy," Senator Wong said after attending a meeting in Sydney to discuss the Government's white paper.
Also yesterday, Wayne Swan declared his pledge to use "every cent" in revenue raised through the ETS to help assist households and business would continue for the life of the Rudd Government.
If Michael Short can doubt, so can the Liberal Party
By Andrew Bolt
Michael Short, business editor of The Age, continues his assault on the warming evangelicals running the rest of his paper by publishing yet another article (this one by Professor Geoffrey Kearsley) finally telling Age readers the truth about global warming - that it stopped a decade ago:
There is much more yet to learn. My point is this: It may well be that human activity is indeed changing the climate, at least in part, but there is an increasing body of science that says that the sun may have a greater role. If it does have, then global warming is likely to stop, as it appears to have done since 1998, and if the current sunspot cycle fails to ignite, then cooling, possibly rapid and severe cooling, may eventuate. The next five years will tell us a great deal. In these circumstances, we should wait and see.
Short's campaign could prove critical to Kevin Rudd's future. Age readers are unlikely to have ever heard this heresy before, and will now be told it's OK to doubt. What's more, Short is clearly showing the Fairfax bosses what a real editor committed to restoring The Age's long-dead reputation for open debate would look like. He has put himself in the running to take over from editor Andrew Jaspan, a global warming fanatic who has tried instead to suppress debate and has just fired the only conservative columnist (contributer Jon Roskam) on the grounds that he's too well exposed. If Short replaces Jaspan and takes The Age off the global warming bandwagon, already being quietly deserted by The Australian, Rudd's hopes of marginalising sceptical scientists and inconvenient truths will be destroyed. The ABC can't sell Rudd's religion by itself.
But you see, of course, one last hurdle. The Liberals still do not have the courage of their lack of conviction in man-made global warming. Too scared by the media, they are going along with Rudd's insane emissions trading scheme and the global warming bandwagon. They are refusing to attack Rudd on his weakest spot. They will thus share with him the dishonor of having being conned by bad science and salvation-seekers. They will never be able to say: We warned you. We were right, and Labor once more wrong.
In short, they lack the courage of Michael Short. And they fail to heed this warning in Kearsley's article, which I repeat: The next five years will tell us a great deal. In these circumstances, we should wait and see.
Liberal MPs: There has been no warming for a decade. Dare to doubt the theory. Dare to wait and weigh the fresh science. Do not let Rudd drag you off the cliff with him.
Even the ABC is starting to give air to the sceptics it tried so hard to ignore or ridicule. Here is ABC Adelaide 891 interviewing Dr David Evans, who once helped the Australian Greenhouse Office build models predicting terrible warming:
The case that carbon emissions cause global warming is now entirely theoretical and it's all driven by computer models and computer models and theory aren't evidence. But it's worse than that - something else happened. By 2006 we had a new result. The signature of increased greenhouse warming is missing, and therefore, we know that carbon emissions aren't the main cause of the recent global warming.
(The satellites are) telling us the temperatures have been flat or slightly down since 2001.
I think we should do a lot further research on climate, on alternate energies, on clean coal; and we should probably plan an emissions trading scheme, but not implement it. I think instead we should wait to see what the big countries do. Wait to see what climate research produces and wait to see whether temperatures resume going up.
I would like the press and the Opposition to ... simply ask Penny Wong, as the relevant Minister - to ask - to show the evidence that carbon emissions cause global warming. We're about to change our economy radically so as to de-carbonise it. So, obviously, the onus is on the people who wish to do that, to say, well, why? Show us the evidence. But I think you'll find there is none; there'd be a bit of an embarrassed silence.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your roundup of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH