It’s time to take another look at Howard’s Way

The vicious and polarising screaming match that currently represents the national debate on Carbon Tax is a profound disgrace, and must stop immediately. If it continues, it will turn Australia into a violent society.

Clearly, it’s time for everyone to give way from their fundamentalist positions at the extremes of the debate and find common ground from which Australia can act to progressively remove pollution from our continent in all of its forms.

In saying this, I will have to be one of the first to move, as I have been trenchant in my opposition to an Emissions Trading Scheme, even though I have always believed that human beings are polluting the world.

So, where do we start?

Firstly, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott must get some dignity and commonsense into the debate, as most Australians don’t understand what they are arguing about.

While this is happening, I want to suggest that you buy a copy of John Howard’s autobiography “Lazarus Rising” and turn to Page 548, where you will find a chapter called “Our Warm Dry Land.”

I was getting a little weary by the time I got to the five hundred and forty-eighth page, but it brought me alive,

as I found it fascinating to rediscover Howard’s attitude to Emissions Trading, the Murray Darling Basin and Nuclear Power — three favourite subjects of mine.

However, we should concentrate for the moment on what he said and did about Emissions Trading.

He declared that he is an agnostic on climate change, not a sceptic, but, given the constant international debate on the matter, he decided in 2006 that his government should examine the establishment of an Emissions Trading System (ETS), and he appointed a task force to put recommendations before him.

Dr Peter Shergold led the Task Force, and in its ranks were conservative business leaders such as Peter Coates (Xstrata), Margaret Jackson (Qantas) and John Stewart (National Australia Bank).

Howard’s brief to them was that they should not plan to run ahead of the rest of the world and they should ensure that our trade-exposed industries remain competitive.

Shergold’s report recommended that an ETS be established, and it outlined a conservative long-term approach to its creation.

Howard took the report to his Cabinet and to the Federal Council of the Liberal Party. It was agreed that an ETS would become part of the Coalition’s platform for the 2007 Election and that it would be gradually implemented from 2011 to 2016.

If you want to check-out the facts on this, you can read it on the Liberal Party’s website — it’s on page 27 of the 2007 Policy Document.

It is important to note that Tony Abbott was with Howard throughout these deliberations. I have checked with two of his Cabinet colleagues and they cannot recall him saying that it was “a great big new tax.”

Clearly, he now has changed his mind. He should allow Gillard the same privilege. As we all know from personal experience, it is possible to change your mind about a previously-held conviction. Making a change does not mean that you become a liar.

You can get a copy of Shergold’s report from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. You will find that its extensive recommendations are not overly threatening and really are worthy of implementation — although some of its statistics and forecasts will have to be updated from 2006 to 2011.

It is nothing like the ridiculously complex, industry-destroying scheme that Rudd and Wong put forward, and I didn’t find anything in it to cause me to lose much sleep.

Essentially it points out that:

• No matter what course of action we decide upon to combat global warming, green house gasses or pollution generally, a cost will be involved for all of us. Anyone who thinks that this cost can be avoided is out there with the fairies.

• Emissions can be reduced while maintaining economic growth and development, but it will need very effective risk management procedures.

• Emissions Trading is preferable to a Carbon Tax as the market will set a more realistic and fair price.

• Instead of waiting for the world to agree on Emissions Trading, we should work in partnership with nations in our immediate region — eg, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand — so that the Central Region of the Southern Hemisphere tries to lead the world, not Australia alone. (Could I say here that it is nonsense for us to say that we won’t do anything until China, India and the United States clean-up their massive pollution. It’s like saying that we won’t mow our lawn because other people in the street aren’t mowing theirs).

• An ETS alone will not achieve the required results. It must be accompanied by significant investment in clean and renewable energy. It is not a matter of choosing one or the other. They are an unavoidable alliance.

• It is possible to have legislative controls on Emissions Trading that will curb the capacity of the greedy to manipulate the ETS in order to make themselves a fortune.

As Abbott committed himself to an ETS when he was a member of John Howard’s cabinet, and as the PM has stated publicly that she personally prefers an ETS to a Carbon Tax, they should meet as a matter of urgency and agree to adopt the Howard ETS by getting it through both Houses of Parliament and totally isolating the Greens in the process.

They will save a lot of time and arguments if they leave advisers like Ross Garnaut, Tim Flannery and Al Gore out of the debate. They have lost all credibility and don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between carbon and carbon dioxide.

My role will be to ‘terrorise’ MP’s and Senators in both the Government and Opposition ranks until sanity prevails, and they drop their hatreds and prejudices so as to be able to work together to put this divisive issue behind us and get on with our goal of making Australia the most liveable nation on earth.

One sound reason for getting activated is my belief that, if a conservative PM like John Howard was willing to agree on an ETS, then the scheme that he approved must be reasonably financially responsible. It is clearly time for sanity to prevail. Let’s do it immediately as the fact is that if Howard had been re-elected in 2007, an ETS would be operating right now.