GREG Combet has committed Labor to a bold and brave strategy through to the next election and beyond. Like a defiant Captain Ahab being dragged down with his Moby Dick nemesis, beckoning and cursing his damned crew and ship even after death, the Climate Change Minister has committed Labor, if defeated, to defy Tony Abbott’s repeal of the carbon tax.
Tall, dark and aquiline, a bearded Combet would not look completely unlike Gregory Peck’s Hollywood depiction of the obsessed sea captain who’s dragged to his death by Herman Melville’s great white whale and continues his call to battle beyond death.
Combet has decided to stand on principle over the carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme and declared that even if the government is defeated at the next election the ALP will use its position in the Senate with the Greens to stymie Coalition attempts to repeal the carbon tax.
Regardless of Coalition claims for a mandate to repeal a carbon tax that the Opposition Leader has campaigned for over three years, Combet has committed Labor to whatever obstruction it can provide in the Senate, to the point of forcing a double-dissolution election over the tax.
In a series of media interviews this week, in the build-up to the introduction of the world’s highest, economy-wide carbon tax from July 1, Combet was adamant an election loss would not change Labor’s principled position on a carbon price to combat global warming.
“In politics you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in. And this has been Labor policy for years now. Having a price on carbon, through an emissions trading scheme arrangement. That’s what we’re implementing,” he told ABC radio.
Expressing frustration with Labor’s previous failures with an emissions trading scheme Combet said:”We tried to do it in the last parliament and were defeated. We’re doing it again. It’s legislated. It’s coming into effect and most importantly, at the end of the day, Australia needs to make this change.”
While he was “standing up” for principle Combet was also reinforcing a Labor political strategy to play on doubts and scepticism that Abbott can ever deliver his “blood oath” promise to repeal the carbon tax.
Labor’s approach is to try to neutralise Abbott’s exploitation of public anger and resentment about the carbon tax by “Abbott-proofing” as much of the tax as it can and undermine voter confidence that the Coalition can ever deliver on its biggest promise. Given the earlier start date, a full year before an election can be called for the Senate, the extensive legislated household and industry compensation and general public cynicism towards all politicians and taxes, Abbott already faces huge logistic and political challenges in delivering on this key promise.
That’s Combet’s political intent. But Combet’s declaration that Labor will die in a ditch to oppose the repeal of the carbon tax has its own political challenges and contradictions.