Aussie Election Ruling Coalition Carbon Net Zero Split? – Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

As Australia approaches a tight May 21 federal election, the countryside based junior ruling coalition partners, the Nationals, appear on the verge of walking away from their net zero 2050 commitment.

Coalition climate split emerges as Nationals Senator labels net-zero goal ‘dead’

By Jorge Branco
7:04am Apr 27, 2022

The Coalition appears to be splitting on climate change, with Nationals Senator Matt Canavan describing 2050 net-zero targets as “all sort of dead” just hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison was forced to defend his government’s “absolute” commitment to it.

Labor seized on the former minister and outspoken fossil fuel champion’s comments on Tuesday as a “huge development”, coming the day after Queensland Nationals candidate Colin Boyce described the target as a “flexible plan” that “leaves us wiggle room”.

Both Mr Boyce and Senator Canavan pointed to the world’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and particularly the dramatic impacts on oil and gas supply to Europe, as evidence of a lack of commitment to the target.

“The net zero thing is all sort of dead anyway,” he told the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing on Tuesday.

“I mean, (United Kingdom Prime Minister) Boris Johnson’s said he’s pausing the net-zero commitment, Germany’s building coal and gas infrastructure, Italy’s reopening coal-fired power plants, it’s all over.

“I mean, it’s all over bar the shouting here.”

Read more: /c3a5f713-35b4-46b5-b5e8-240b7b9dc8f2

Senator Canavan is right when he describes Net Zero as dead in Europe, at least until the Ukraine crisis is resolved.

But Australia has largely been shielded from the energy crisis in Europe, and the gasoline price and inflation crisis in the USA – our white hot commodities boom has kept our currency strong enough so voters in Australia haven’t felt gasoline and electricity price pain to the same extent as other countries. So Australian voters haven’t caught up with the new reality in Europe and the USA.

The ruling federal incumbents, the Australian Coalition, are composed of the Liberal Party and the National Party. To add to the fun, in the state of Queensland the Liberals and Nationals merged into one party, the LNP. Senator Canavan is LNP, but he sits with the federal National Party as a senator.

Despite the name, the Liberals in Australia claim to be a center right party – “Liberal” has a slightly different meaning in Australia.

National Party supporters are mostly Christian conservative rural voters, who are deeply concerned about mining jobs, coal jobs and fuel prices. The Liberal Party’s support base is more urban.

Like greens in the USA, green voters in Australia tend to cluster in big cities, as far from actual contact with nature as they can manage. Support for the ruling coalition has stagnated in recent years, so senior Liberals, like Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, have been sucking up to inner city green voters in a desperate attempt to cling on to their parliamentary seats.

Until recently the Nationals were fairly climate skeptical, but under pressure from Liberals who were afraid of losing their inner city seats, the Nationals caved in and announced support for Net Zero late last year.

But this pandering to greens doesn’t sit well with rural National Party voters, who are deeply concerned about rising energy costs and mining jobs. Polling suggests a lot of voters might be on the verge of defecting to minor parties with a strong climate skeptic agenda, such as One Nation. On the other side of the coin, the Green Party might be on the verge of making strong gains in inner city electorates.

If the Coalition had stuck to their principles and made a solid case for fossil fuel, energy exports, and affordable energy, they would have stood a chance of replicating climate skeptic Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s landslide election success in 2013. The Liberals might have lost some of their more useless inner city politicians, but voters generally like evidence that their politicians have principles, even if they don’t fully agree with them.

Instead the coalition went all in trying to please everyone, backflipping on climate policy to follow the latest opinion polls, and are now being torn apart by opposing demands from different groups of supporters.

The only reason the Coalition has any chance is the opposition Labor leader blundered badly in an interview, and inadvertently revealed he has a weak understanding of economics – a big issue for an electorate worried about a possible imminent economic downturn.

So it is anyone’s guess who will run Australia, after the May 21st election.

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