After the #carbocalypse – how do progressives respond?

While mocking the continued existence of Whyalla was amusing yesterday, this morning I am left more contemplative about the introduction of carbon pricing.
(And I am deliberately using that language to encompass all the different mechanisms that came into effect, including the initial fixed price, or tax.)

Firstly, the imperative to deal with climate change is real, urgent and profound, despite the deliberate campaign from some corporates and their supporters to pretend otherwise. The impacts of climate change will hit poorer people harder and hurt more. Therefore, any progressive group in Australia should be behind action to alleviate this hurt.

But should this support be unconditional and uncritical? Has the toxic and polarising debate about climate change led to lazy policy analysis by progressive organisations or have they just absented themselves from the debate, leaving only conservative voices?

Or is this just a follow on from the errors made by the Prime Minister last year, by announcing a carbon pricing scheme with no details, allowing the vacuum to be filled by anyone with a fanciful notion. For months, and months, and months.

I’ll start with the unions. The ACTU’s press release on Saturday talked up the potential for new jobs in renewable energy industries, but only mentioned climate change once, and didn’t even include a single sentence about why acting on climate change is important for ACTU members. The AWU’s website is down, so I’ll add in their response when I can.

No comment from the NUW, or the CFMEU. The AMWU put out a strong statement last week, but again, omitted any discussion about why acting on climate change is important. The CPSU reproduced the ACTU fact sheet, again with no discussion on why all this is happening. (Are you sensing a pattern here yet?)

Nothing from the TWU or MUA and the ASU again posted the ACTU response. (I’ve focussed on unions with workers in related fields, but happy to update if other responses come in.)

How about the community sector? ACOSS has launched a national survey, but had no response yesterday. The RSPCA was pilloried for hitching their wagon to the LNP, but missed the chance yesterday to discuss climate change. Mission Australia, the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, the Smith Family, and the Brotherhood of St Laurence all chose not to say anything.

Unsurprisingly, some of the environment groups were out of the blocks early. The ACF ran a slightly contradictory line, with the carbon price having no impact on share prices, while celebrating companies having to pay to pollute. Again, no line about why this is a good idea and nothing about impacts on poorer people. Greenpeace didn’t say anything nor did TWS, while WWF actually mentioned what the carbon price is meant to do. The TEC talked about electricity prices.

Other progressive voices have raised significant concerns about the impact of the carbon pricing model on both dealing with climate change and on those who lose under a free market. But as seen above, they remain on the fringes of debate.

The silence of progressive voices in responding to the carbon price, allows anyone with a scare campaign to fill the void. That silence only adds to the fears of suburban folks, that have been well stoked over the last year, that the carbon price will leave pensioners shivering under a blanket by candlelight.

Is the silence due to the flaws in the carbon pricing scheme? Or the poor campaign from the Government? Or that progressives know that this will do very little to address climate change, apart from expanding the reach of the market into even more spheres of life.

Or is it the scorn that pours out of some on the left about the supposed ignorance of people living in the suburban marginal seats that decide elections, who just need to be ‘educated’. I don’t know, but all that silence only lets the corporate world off the hook, instead of forcing them to be accountable for the damage they are doing.

That silence also means that there is little significant critique of the carbon pricing scheme from the left, only the shrill wails from the right.


About bluntshovels

Freelance writer, with an unhealthy interest in Senate committees.
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