Climate change denier Tony Abbott is about as fair dinkum an environmentalist as Kevin Rudd.
Abbott won leadership of the Liberal Party with the support of Nick Minchin, the man who denies global warming at all and claims the whole thing is a left-wing plot to de-industrialise Western society.
Abbott's victory over pro-ETS leader Malcolm Turnbull was a victory for the deniers, not the environmentalists. Abbott's claims to being an environmentalist, detailed in his speech to the Millennium Forum today, are an attempt to keep the Liberal environmental vote.
One of the interesting things that came out of the recent byelections in two safe liberal seats was a big swing against the Liberals and to the Greens in some high-income booths. The swing was to the Liberals in the lower income booths.
So Abbott is changing his colours to appeal to part of his "natural" constituency while trying also to appeal to workers frightened by the increased costs an ETS may impose on them.
With a front bench of well known environmentalists Barnaby Joyce, Bronwyn Bishop, Kevin Andrews and Philip Ruddock, it is unlikely the rich would be so stupid as to fall for this environmental chameleon.
But Abbott's position on global warming may not be the major determinant of the rich vote in a general election. It is likely they will support Abbott despite his anti-environmentalism. Class is thicker than brain cells.
If Tony Abbott is a pretender, Kevin Rudd is the great pretender. As Richard Denniss from the Australia Institute told the the Canberra Walk Against Global Warming, a man who supports a pathetic 5 per cent cut in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 is a denier too.
Now, as part of the Copenhagen negotiations, Rudd wants to destroy the minor gains of Kyoto. He has sided with the US in wanting to tear up the treaty.
Lumumba DiAping, the chief negotiator at Copenhagen for the developing countries and China, said that Rudd was deceiving the Australian people and was a sceptic. He is right.
Labor's Emissions Trading Scheme is a massive transfer of wealth to the rich and the polluters. It will do nothing to cut the huge growth in greenhouse gases in Australia – more than 80 per cent since 1990.
Neither, of course, will Abbott's climate action. This is a make believe scheme to give the impression of doing something to hide the reality of doing nothing. Much like Rudd's ETS.
The situation cries out for a campaigning left, a left committed to real social change, to begin a mass radical campaign to force Rudd to introduce a comprehensive scheme to address global warming.
That must involve spending hundreds of billions in the next decade on green jobs and renewable energy to address the greatest challenge to humanity. It must involve taxing the rich and their polluters to pay for this.
As we in Socialist Alternative chanted at the recent Walk Against Global Warming Rallies: "Stop global warming. Make the rich pay."
But this left must go further. It must link pollution to profit and argue that only a truly democratic society in which production is organised to satisfy human need can address climate change.
No such left as a mass movement yet exists. Until it does the debate among the rich and powerful will be between the do-nothings like Rudd and the deniers like Abbott.
This article first appeared in En Passant with John Passant.
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