Why Labor can’t repent…

The three year Inquisition conducted by Tony Abbott into the previous Labor government is as dishonest and politically motivated as the trial of Joan of Arc. Abbott, the Bishop Cauchon in this charade, has put the ALP to the stake and is threatening to set it on fire…but that is where the analogy fails.

He has no fire left, the government has fallen, and Labor now turns to the matter of its legacy.

Chief amongst the ‘heresies’ for which Abbott prosecuted Labor was the ‘carbon tax’, a hideous misnomer that the media (and academics such as Robert Manne) inexplicably blame Labor for ‘allowing’. Labor consistently referred to the carbon pollution reduction mechanism as a ‘carbon price’, it was Abbott and a co-operative press that labelled it a ‘tax’, despite its structure more closely resembling a fine.

But all that is beside the point these days, because the political stick with which the Coalition has beaten the ALP appears to have had a psychological success: if the media reports are true, Parliamentary Labor has fallen victim to a kind of collective Stockholm Syndrome.

It would be political suicide for Labor to turn its back on Carbon Pricing. 

Heeding the advice of Peta Credlin, hardly an objective observer, is ludicrous. The woman who masterminded Tony Abbott’s successful campaign on utter destruction does not have the interests of the Labor party at heart. Her goal is the destruction of Labor and the preservation of a Liberal government – whatever advice she gives, Labor should probably do the opposite.

Likewise, allowing people like Joe Hockey, Greg Hunt and George Brandis who claimed prior to the election that “Labor would change its mind” to be correct is, frankly, embarrassing. Did the Coalition respect the mandate of the ALP to price carbon? Not in 2009. In fact, Tony Abbott has spent the last four years explicitly ignoring, in the most negative, partisan and unproductive fashion, the mandate the Australian public gave Kevin Rudd and reaffirmed through the election of a government in which Tony Windsor, Robb Oakeshott and Adam Bandt were key players. 

The texture of our democracy is complex, far more complex than Abbott’s rhetoric gives it credit. But Abbott understands that the words he speaks do not match the reality he observes. He is a liar, and  scoundrel, and the fact that he couches his politics in heavily religious terms – repentance – is a far greater insight into his fundamentalist nature than his patchy legislative track record.

Abbott is all rhetoric and his rhetoric is all designed to maintain his power. 

Consider for a moment the linguistic trap he has set: if Labor supports the repeal bills, it is a confession of ‘sin’. Period.

There is no logic in ‘better drawing attention to the flaws of Direct Action’ by allowing the repeal of a carbon price that nobody cares about anymore (except the rabid and vocal minority right-wing) – even Business Spectator agrees that holding out will throw more attention on Direct Action. A capitulation simply renders Australia entirely without any meaningful response to climate change, it undoes the remarkable progress we have already made in negating carbon dioxide pollution, and it smashes the idea that action to improve our natural environment was the ‘good’ thing to do – another failure to address the greatest moral challenge of our time.

And it is a great moral challenge. We are destroying our ecosystem, and even at the level of pure self-interest we have to consider that a crucial problem: human civilisation is dependent on a stable climate, our agriculture and food security cannot stand the variance in temperature that global warming will produce.

Is action to address this really something for which Labor wants to ‘repent’?

If Labor stands its ground, not only does it prove that it has a spine, but it reminds the rest of us that climate change is real, the transformation of our economy is a good thing, and the struggles of the past three years, the damage done to the Labor government, were all in the service of a far greater good.

Labor needs to show that it is not poll-driven; that it is a party of conviction, driven by the belief that Australian society is capable of transformative and innovative change for the better.

Labor has nothing to lose by believing in itself, and Australians have everything to gain by finally seeing a party that stands on its convictions and finds a meaningful way to bring them into reality.

The ALP is no longer tied to the stake, the fire has gone out, and if Cauchon knew how much Joan became a hero to the people of France, he would be quaking in his boots.


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