Thursday, December 2, 2021

Want to understand how the Coalition works? Take a look at climate policy

This week, the harrowing case in which the prime minister was grateful to a fraudulent part of his cabinet for climate policy has once again brought attention to the mysterious nature of the Coalition’s accord.

While the numbers eventually sank in his favor, the turn in politics that Scott Morrison saw as politically existential was temporarily held hostage to a famous fickle party room of which he was not a member and over which he could exert zero influence.

In the end, both won. Morrison achieved his 2050 target, but without any promises to cut methane production as demanded by the US and Europe. There was also no interim (2030) collateral.



Read more: Politics with Michelle Grattan: Scott Morrison’s (Subtle) Climate Plan for Glasgow


These exceptions make Morrison’s announcement a harsh rather than significant policy change.

Since then, the government has taken advantage of this fact, arguing that its 2050 target will be achieved within existing policies and without the need for legislation.

This cross-party dependence has an obvious numerical meaning in the mandatory bipartisan preferred voting system. As for the Coalition, this has enabled it to strip Labor of its parliamentary majority in all but one federal election since 1993.

Scott Morrison showed up without a junior coalition partner to announce the government’s climate policy.
Lucas Koch / AAP

However, this success was achieved by transferring disproportionate power to a small player who owns only a small fraction of the national vote and promotes policies that are strongly at odds with the public opinion of the majority.

According to the latest poll published by Nine’s Resolve Political Monitor on Wednesday, the Labor Party’s primary votes are 34%, while the Liberal Party (excluding the Nuts) is just slightly higher at 35%.

Interestingly, with the addition of citizens, the coalition of votes grew by only 2%, to 37%.



More: As Labor gains traction in polls, is Barnaby Joyce hurting the coalition too much?


In the last elections, 33.34% of voters across the country voted for Labor. The Liberal Party (on its own behalf) took less than 30% in 2019, although this total does not include the vote count in Queensland, where the two conservative parties form a single entity – the Liberal National Party (LPP).

The total share of the Coalition in the primary votes for liberals and citizens in 2019 was 41.44%, while the corresponding results of the first preference of the Labor and Greens at 33.34% and 10.40% were 43.74%.

On the face of it, this suggests that Labor can do as well with Greens as liberals can do with citizens.

But the key difference is that while citizens provide brand differentiation from liberals in regions where they operate exclusively, city-oriented greens are largely devouring Labor’s progressive voices.

The division of the electoral card between liberals and nationalists is more like a Qantas-Jetstar arrangement, where the full-service operator has created a cheaper no-frills service under a different brand.

Both companies are airlines, but the different branding allowed the Qantas subsidiary to enter the economy segment against Virgin and other cheaper operators without confusing the presentation and pricing structure of its main brand.

Another difference is the existence of a formalized coalition, the exact terms of which are set out in a secret power-sharing agreement that gives the junior partner a significant chunk of office.

This includes the post of Deputy Prime Minister and additional cabinet posts (currently four), as well as portfolios of other external ministries and undisclosed political commitments.

These arrangements are so structured that the current liberal prime minister has no say in who represents citizens in his or her own cabinet. A prime example of this is Barnaby Joyce’s return to the championship leader in June 2021. His actions against the hapless but cooperative former Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack came as a shock to Morrison, who was out of the country at the time.

Want to understand how the Coalition works? Take a look at climate policy
Despite the fact that Michael McCormack was the deputy prime minister in the coalition government, the resignation of Barnaby Joyce in June 2020 came as a shock to Scott Morrison.
Lucas Koch / AAP

Joyce left the ministry in disgrace in February 2018, well before Morrison’s ascent to the post of prime minister.

The two have not appeared at the press conference together since Joyce’s return.

After the razor-thin victory of the Turnbull government in the 2016 elections, Joyce, for the first time as leader of the Nationals, was asked what the Coalition Agreement would cover. Triumphant over responsibility, he boasted:

The first is to keep the agreement confidential. This aspiration is one, two, three, four, five and six.

Deploying personalized messaging between city and bush is central to the success of citizens, and therefore the success of the coalition.

This potential of the Labor Party as a single, mostly metropolitan party is lacking.

Indeed, then-leader Bill Shorten was criticized during the 2019 election campaign for inconsistent messages or so-called audience buying, for highlighting environmental beliefs in Melbourne and a more pro-coal mining stance in Queensland.

It’s too early to tell, but in the days since disgruntled citizens of the country hit the target of “zero net by 2050,” the conservative side has made several conflicting messages.

Key citizens such as Matt Canavan have openly declared their intention to campaign against Count Zero.

Almost immediately, it became known that Joyce himself had personally opposed Morrison’s promise of carbon neutrality by 2050, but lost the party room debate.



More: Grattan Friday: Can Barnaby Joyce Sell To His Supporters The Net Zero He Previously Crushed?


Apparently this is bad for Joyce and the citizens. But maybe not. On the one hand, it makes him look lame and ineffective as a leader, unable to carry off his small 21-person party room.

On the other hand, Joyce’s notorious antipathy to signaling climate virtue (as it characterizes conservative law) allows citizens as parties to continue to question the primacy of emission reduction among government priorities when communicating with their electoral base.

Tellingly, the only concrete thing that far from drifting away from clean zero was the immediate promotion of an active fossil fuel accelerator, Minister of Resources and Energy Keith Pitt. He moved from the external ministry to the cabinet.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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