When Bill Shorten lost the last election he did a victory lap around Australia. He knew that if he could win the psychological battle he could rule from opposition, and that would make absolute victory easier in 2019.
The strategy relies on Labor having the balance of power in the Senate, which it exercises with the help of the Greens and a shifting quartet of nano- and micro-party Senators. Not that the smaller party senators are intrinsically Labor but they can be suckered into supporting bad policy. (They're not Liberal either, they tend to be oppositional, and their voters tend to be either oppositional or strategic.)
Neither Tony Abbott nor Malcolm Turnbull ever developed the strategy or the rhetoric to win in the Senate, except occasionally. Trapped in Labor's framing they ran around the same maze time and again, generally finding no way out, except to eat de-calorised, Labor-lite, humble pie.
A new prime minister gives the country the chance of a fresh approach. And we need it. Labor populism under Bill Shorten and Sally McManus, if they deliver on their promises, will make the economy inflexible and weak, the population poorer, and budgets harder and more miserable at a time when our national security is under threat from shifting power balances around the globe as the developing world joins the developed world.
This list of policy suggestions from the Australian Institute for Progress is designed to side-step the rhetorical maze on issues that either need to be addressed before the next election or that will press themselves into the debate before then. They are not meant to be exhaustive, and they don't address the philosophical issues that need to be addressed, such as demonstrating that a definition of "fairness" that doesn't incorporate a recognition of excellence and contribution, is not fairness, but lowest common denominator mediocrity which will rob even the poorest of security and a better standard of living.
1. Electricity prices
There is a direct relationship between cheap electricity and a high standard of living. In particular, access to some of the cheapest electricity in the world has contributed to high wages in Australia. The energy debate has become mired in arguments over global warming and its causes, where the population is more or less split down the middle. In our view, regardless of your view on global warming, the best public policy responses relate to adaptation rather than mitigation. At the same time state and federal governments have been implementing policies that have encouraged intermittent renewables, which has undermined the reliability of the National Electricity Market (NEM) and led to higher electricity prices.
The government needs to level with the public and admit that more intermittent power will mean higher prices, but that higher prices will not mean lower global emissions. It needs to move the debate from mitigation to adaptation.
To start this process it should:
1 Undertake a review of the Paris Accord, its potential impact on global temperature, and the performance of countries that are signatories to it.
2 Do a proper analysis of the emissions intensity of the Australian economy which identifies the amount of CO2 used to produce goods and services domestically and for export, and nets exports out against imports. In other words, in our view the measurement of country emissions should be based on consumption rather than production.
3 Commission a proper economic analysis to determine the likely cost to the Australian economy of different climate change measures.
4 Identify like-minded countries that we can work with to develop a practical agreement on emissions which will actually be implemented.
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