Climate change? No big deal, no moral issue please, says Australian Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
No, he is not going to raise taxes on anyone or anything, not even on cigarettes. "We certainly don't believe in a great big new tax masquerading as an environmental policy."
But where is the money for measures to counter climate change, if he is going to do anything about it? Any magic wand, a reporter asked Mr. Abott satirically.
But the Liberal Party leader was not to be put down. He responded, saying, " Well, you know Mr Rudd can find money for all sorts of things. He can find $43 billion for a national broadband network. I can tell you now our climate change policies will be vastly less expensive than just that one policy of Mr Rudd's. And if Mr Rudd can find $43 billion to fund a climate change policy we can certainly find the funding for ours."
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has declared he is determined to press ahead with reintroducing his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme that was voted down in extraordinary circumstances last year. He is talking about reducing carbon emissions by 5 per cent over the next decade.
If the emission trade scheme proposed by the government is to be rejected, the only option would be to levy tax on the people in general, the PM contends, but the Opposition leader insists his climate change policy will be paid for with savings from the federal budget, rejecting claims it will include a "mega tax" on Australians.
Mr. Abbott emerged the leader of the Liberal-led Coalition in August last, toppling the previous leader Malcolm Turnbull over his willingness to support emission trading, it may be recalled.
The scheme, fixing caps on emission of CHGs, would allow trading of the permits among industries, but the opposition argues that the scheme amounts to taxing the polluting industries - that could mean less profit, perhaps closure, leading to joblessness. Abbott capitalized on such fears.
Since then he is very aggressive on a range of issues, whether immigration, business or environment. Yesterday in a speech to the Young Liberals in Adelaide, Mr Abbott said climate change is not the serious moral issue that the government claims it to be.
He said, "It's an important issue but even if dire predictions are right and average temperatures around the globe rise by four degrees over the century, it's still not the "great moral challenge" of our time - as Mr Rudd has described it on 14 occasions; let alone the "greatest" moral challenge of our time - as Mr Rudd has described it at least four times. I suspect that Mr Rudd and other climate change advocates resort to the language of morality in an effort to cast their opponents as bad people rather than just wrong. It's a case of intellectual bullying. Adapting to changing rainfall patterns, for example, will be hard but it won't supplant the threat of war, injustice, disease and want as the biggest problems with which humanity must grapple.
"It's hard to escape the conclusion that it's the revenue consequences of the emissions trading scheme rather than its environmental ones that excite Mr Rudd and the Labor Party. It's a great big tax, creating a giant slush fund, administered by a huge bureaucracy, providing endless handouts."
Mr Abbott also says he will continue to block changes to the private health insurance rebate as suggested by the government. It wants to means-test the rebate and use the savings to boost funding for the health system, but the opposition contends the rebate takes pressure off public hospitals.
The ruling Labour could move to dissolve the parliament and go for elections if it is defeated on healthcare and environment. Some opinion polls say that the Labour will be returned to power.
But the Nationals, an ally of the Liberals, say support for emission trading is fast vanishing among the voters.