Well what a tumultuous week. We got a new Senate which has shifted the balance of power, to the roguish and unknown. The end of the financial year brought its usual financial crescendo and fixed foreign fortunes. The themometer crashed to what we know better as winter in these parts. And then there was the real game changer when our tubby renegade millionaire politician, Clive Palmer took to a podium with America’s champion of climate change, Al Gore.

It was a bit like awakening from an anaesthetic seeing the king of coal Clive start sweet talking the diplomat of doom. A dream or a cold, hard brush with reality?

Our national rhetoric on carbon emissions had become so toxic we did seem doomed to inaction, failing to reign in our pollution, our greed, our disengagement and failing the rest of the world and our own kids.

The improbability is breath taking that a mining magnate should stick his giant spanner into the conservative’s planned reversal of Australia’s action on climate change and renewable energy revolution. What actually happened?

Palmer committed his excited PUP of a party to block Coalition legislation and to save the Renewable Energy Target allowing it to keep shifting Australia’s energy mix. They will also vote save the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to keep it boosting clean industries at a profit. Also, to save the Climate Change Authority so that it can keep giving independent, expert advice to a country that has so much to lose from climate change.

The bad news is that Mr Palmer has also used his freshly minted power to kill the carbon price. He proposes to switch it to an emissions trading scheme, which will be set at zero until other countries are taking similar action.

As the axe the tax banners are stowed in a locker for another election day a broad range of countries have introduced, or are planning, market based emissions trading schemes and carbon taxes. Australia’s top five trading partners – China, Japan, the United States (US), the Republic of Korea and Singapore–and another eight of our top twenty trading partners (New Zealand, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada) have implemented or are piloting carbon trading or taxation schemes at national, state or the city level.

Mr Palmer plans to open another new giant coal mine in the Galilee basin which will deliver billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere. He is unique but he wouldn’t be alone in having a conflict of interest in voting to scrap Australia’s price on carbon pollution.


Tracey Carpenter is President of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network