Labor's carbon dilemma
Some inside Labor now say the party must dump its carbon pricing plan and let the new government go ahead with its direct action alternative, but not because they think the Libs plan is good policy.PT2M16S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2tkan 620 349 September 11, 2013
Federal Labor should allow the Abbott government to scrap the carbon tax and implement other ''bad policies'' it has in order to expose them as disasters, Labor MP Nick Champion says, in a move that has seen a union leader label him a ''muppet''.
Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt has also expressed concern that Labor might help scrap emissions pricing, calling on the party to "hold its nerve".
Labor backbencher Nick Champion says the Coalition's climate policy would be disastrous and voters should see that. Photo: David Mariuz
Mr Champion, who was re-elected to the South Australian seat of Wakefield on Saturday, has broken ranks with his senior Labor colleagues, who have already signalled they will block the Coalition's plans to repeal the carbon tax in parliament.
''If the majority of people vote for bad policy then they simply need to see that experiment fulfilled. It's not our job to save the Liberal party from bad policy. It's not our job to save the Australian people from bad policy if that's what they choose,'' he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
Mr Champion said that given the Coalition's Direct Action policy would be a disaster, it would ''hasten their demise''.
The policy has previously faced criticism from within Coalition ranks, both from MPs concerned about addressing climate change and those sceptical about the issue.
''If the Liberal Party want to hang themselves, well, we should give them as much rope as they need,'' he said.
Scrapping the carbon tax and moving to the Coalition's direct action plan would push electricity prices up, raise Australia's emissions and waste $3 billion dollars, Mr Champion earlier argued.
He says Labor should oppose the carbon tax repeal legislation in the lower house and abstain in the Senate.
Mr Champion also said on Wednesday that Labor should apply the same approach to other ''bad policies'' such as Mr Abbott's ''signature'' paid parental leave scheme.
His comments were quickly condemned by CFMEU leader Tony Maher, who described Mr Champion's remarks as ''cheap kindergarten politics''.
''He's walked into it like an amateur,'' Mr Maher told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
Mr Maher said the sooner Labor chose a new leader, the better. ''Otherwise muppets like this will keep saying stupid stuff.''
Mr Bandt also told reporters that he was very worried by Mr Champion's comments and that Labor needed to hold firm.
"Parliament's capacity to preserve the climate change legislation … is dependent on Labor holding its nerve," he said.
"I want to make it clear to whoever ends up leading the Labor Party, whether it's Bill Shorten or Anthony Albanese, if Labor does not stand for protecting the climate change legislation that it passed, it will lose significant support in the community."
Outgoing climate change minister Mark Butler said his party should stand by the carbon price.
Just because Labor lost the election, "that doesn't mean we junk every policy" he told ABC Radio.
Newly re-elected Labor MP Michelle Rowland also launched a passionate defence of Labor's policy on Sky News, noting that when he was first prime minister Kevin Rudd had called climate change ''the great moral challenge of our time''.
''I don't think it's ceased to be the great moral challenge of our time,'' she said.
Ms Rowland, who is one of Labor's heroes after fending off Liberal challenger Jaymes Diaz in her western Sydney seat, said that when Labor walked away from action on climate change in 2010 it suffered in the opinion polls.
''I'm quite unequivocal about the fact that Direct Action is a bad policy,'' she said, arguing that even Coalition MPs could not explain it and that it had not been properly costed.
Ms Rowland said she would not expose her constituents to extra costs by supporting the Direct Action plan.
''They can't even find one person to explain what it is other than planting trees and magic soil,'' she said.
Outspoken Labor Left MP Melissa Parke tweeted her strong support for Labor's existing policy: ''There can be no question of backtracking labor [sic] carbon pricing policy.''
She later tweeted: ''Effective action on climate change is a core labor [sic] value. Even more importantly, the planet is at stake.''
But outgoing trade minister Richard Males appeared to be more in line with Mr Champion's comments, saying that Labor needed to acknowledge that the Coalition had won the election.
Mr Marles said the issue would need to be considered by the new Labor leadership team and party room.
''It is very important that we choose our battles carefully,'' he told Sky News.
''It is balancing up the fact that [Direct Action] is a lemon, and if [Mr Abbott] owns it it will be for him to hang himself on it . . . but at the same time we have to bear in mind the millions of people who voted Labor at this election and being true to what they did.''
On Wednesday, Coalition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt told Fairfax Radio that the Labor Party ''should accept the verdict of the people''.
''Everyday that they refuse to allow the carbon price to be removed is a day that they vote for higher electricity and gas prices,'' he said.