Thursday, June 26, 2014

Clive Palmer feeds chooks their own entrails

Today, apart from being the one year anniversary of Rudd deposing Gillard, is the day where Australia and its media commentator "chooks" try to figure out what is in Clive Palmer's head by poring over the chicken entrails after his presser yesterday with Al Gore. The primary sources are the transcript of the presser (can't find a full one but long excerpt here), and the transcript of his interview on Lateline.

When you have declaring victory for Gillard, Business Spectator speculating that Malcolm Turnbull is the big winner and Catallaxy Files calling it as a sting operation on Al Gore, you know we're in Clivezone where the old way of doing things in Canberra has been shaken up a little bit. I think Andrew Bolt's ambivalence is closer to the truth, as there's something there for everyone.

My reading is that Palmer is trying to #occupy the centre, and has orchestrated a deal which all parties can find fault with, but all parties can find something they like - as with all good compromises. He comes off looking a bit like Bob Hawke in the process, which is remarkable for a first attempt by a minor party leader, and certainly more elegant than anything the Democrats or Greens ever achieved.

In summary:

  • Liberals (especially Joe Hockey) should be happy that the new ETS would zero-rated until major trading partners join the party so that it's effectively a short term Keynesian stimulus, but sad that the Rudd ETS framework would be left intact for a future Labor government to switch on without much fuss;
  • Labor should be happy that they get much of what they would have achieved if Rudd had won, albeit only medium-to-long-term, and can look forward to cheering on Hillary Clinton to reverse the failure of Copenhagen when she sweeps in 2016;
  • Greens should be happy because they get to keep the CEFC and RET (if Clive follows through), even though emissions will blow out again in the short term from the zero-rated ETS;
  • The electorate should be happy because Canberra is actually working to produce a compromise.

What Palmer has done is attempted to unilaterally define the terms of battle. Due to him holding the balance of power and - crucially - the failure of Abbott to have the gumption to set down the rules before him, he is probably going to get away with it, because Abbott will most likely accept the terms. Abbott just doesn't have the chops to negotiate anything more favourable, due to a serious lack of talent in his parliamentary team and a lack of empathy with ideological opponents. Whether the proposed amendments are in fact terms of surrender by Abbott or the blueprint for his success is going to be contingent on whether Clinton really does change the world with a tsunami of votes to remove US Congressional blockages in the mooted 2016 "wave" election.

It is Australia's lot to be a cork in the ocean, bobbing about in every which direction the global currents take them. The Palmer deal only makes this more transparent. It's too politically difficult for Australia to bleed itself to lead the way on carbon emission reduction, fair enough, the public has spoken on that. Palmer's compromise ensures that we aren't a roadblock, however, and it would allow Abbott to host the G20 without becoming an international pariah. The pressure should be on the trading partners whom Palmer mentioned. We can say that we'll be there when they are. That is the politics of the possible.

At first blush, Clive has shown himself to have a more deft hand than many would have given him credit for. Clivezone 1, Chooks 0.

UPDATE: Posted this on John Quiggin's thread on the subject:
It is true that the fact that Clive did not make his vote to repeal the carbon tax contingent on passing his ETS amendment does dilute his message somewhat.
Abbott might be well served to follow Clive’s lead and pass his ETS anyway, since it makes a hell of a lot of sense for him politically. It heads off the threat of Turnbull and the wets in general, since Malcolm (or Joe) can’t wedge him on the issue any more. It also means that Abbott can host the G20 without being an international laughing stock, and in fact means Abbott can get on his high horse and lecture Asians about his superior morals, which is right in his wheelhouse. Plus, he doesn’t have to negotiate anything, and the Greens would hate it which makes him very happy. There’s a lot to be said for it benefiting Tony Abbott.


  1. Greetings mOnty, there will be more of these spectacular examples of Clive's ability to play with the mind of that mental pygmy, Abbott.

    True popcorn fare.

  2. He certainly surprised me with this one, I wasn't sure he was capable of it.