Australia's Green Ideological Disaster
Australia is providing a case study in the self-destructive politics of green ideology, when believers of the religion of global warming gain political leverage.
Between 1996 and 2007, John Howard became Australia's second-longest-serving prime minister, with his center-right administration being regarded as the epitome of responsible economic management, overseeing the "good years for Australia." In 2007, Kevin Rudd's left-wing Labor Party gained office, and by 2009, a six-year run of budget surpluses gave way to the largest deficits in modern politics. A slew of ideologically charged policies followed, including a nationally subsidised home insulation scheme which was unregulated, resulting in millions of wasted funds and even a death due to unqualified installation, and a public education "revolution" to renovate school buildings where the government happily paid exorbitant over-inflated tenders for unnecessary and, in some cases, unwanted refurbishments, blowing over $1 billion. This "revolution" was overseen by Rudd's deputy, Julia Gillard.
With plummeting polls leading into the 2010 election, having been bestowed with the mantle of the worst prime minister in Australia's history, Rudd's leadership was successfully challenged by Gillard. However, Gillard was no shoe-in for prime m,inister, and to counter an effective campaign by the conservatives who warned that another Labor government would mean an unpopular carbon emissions tax, Gillard declared that "there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead."
The election was even tighter than predicted and resulted in the first hung parliament since 1940. To secure power, Gillard chose to cut a deal with three independents and a lone Greens member of parliament. Despite her declaration to the contrary, Gillard was now over a (green) barrel and was forced to renege on her commitment not to introduce a carbon tax in order to honor her agreement with the Greens, whose agenda not surprisingly included a carbon tax.
It's taken Gillard two years to implement the controversial tax, during which time she has been irreverently referred to as "Ju-liar." Thoughts of staying in power have no doubt helped her withstand such criticism, along with the support of a sympathetic Obama. During his visit here in November last year, he expressed his support for the tax, saying, "I think that's good for the world ... I actually think, over the long term, it's good for our economies, as well, because it's my strong belief that industries, utilities, individual consumers -- we're all going to have to adapt how we use energy and how we think about carbon."
The tax came into effect at the start of the 2013 financial year, yet after only a few weeks, the vociferous reaction from the Australian public can't be ignored. They are smarting not only from a new controversial tax, but also from a prime minister who expressly said she would not implement it. The foundation of the Labor Party, working-class families, are feverishly adjusting their weekly grocery budgets to account for a policy that many would have never thought possible. Long-term voters of the left are shell-shocked, feeling cheated and abandoned.
Far from serving the working class, a carbon tax is the Trojan Horse of what many view as eco-terrorist environmentalism designed at saving trees -- or worse, generating a warm fuzzy feeling inside -- rather than jobs and a sustainable future.
One would hope that deliberate untruths would be uncommon in Western politics, but outright lying should never be tolerated. There has been much philosophical deliberation about why people lie, but ultimately in politics the issue is whether the electorate is prepared to tolerate such conduct. The polls here suggest a distinct lack of mercy. In the past weeks, reports indicate that the Labor-Greens coalition is under immense pressure, with Labor Party members labeling the Greens as "extremists" and the Greens, ironically honestly, describing Labor as lacking values and standing for nothing.
The relevance of Australia's experience for the U.S. is that it highlights the degree of ideological blindness the left can be prone to. In Australia's 150-seat House of Representatives (the equivalent of Congress), the Greens secured one seat. Notwithstanding the vagaries of the Australian electoral system, that equates to roughly 0.6% of the vote. Simplistically put, by making a deal with the Greens, the incumbent administration has implemented a policy that less than 1% of the electorate voted for.
The concern to a modern liberal democracy like Australia is not that minority political parties such as the Greens exist, but that they are offered a place at the table without the consent of the public at large. Obama, as far as I can tell from here, was forced to shelve his plans for a carbon tax because even the Democrats could see the negative economic consequences. Yet Gillard has chosen to somehow live in denial of its affects on the long-term health of the Australian economy, which is beyond me -- but then there are so many truths extreme liberals fail to acknowledge that it's not entirely surprising.
Bush had his critics, but at least one knew where he stood. John Howard certainly held his ground on an issue, no matter the reaction of the chattering masses. The danger of the left's liberalism is that it is so focused on popularity that its policies are often extremely short-sighted. Gillard must be struggling to reconcile her short-term desire for power with her integrity.
Reports suggest that Obama is doing his best to "bankrupt" the coal power industry. What should be of concern to U.S. voters is that Obama's energy policy could well be the thin edge of the wedge of increasingly-left-of-center ideology crystalizing into policy. I trust that the events Down Under serve as a timely reminder of what the left is prepared to deny in order to maintain a false ideology.