If you attended Scott Morrison’s press conference on Friday afternoon, you may have detected a two-tiered affair.
The Prime Minister appeared, just before the rain, to give New Boy of Macquarie Street a sharp blow in the ribs. Morrison, who likes a game of preemption when he plays it – which is mostly in the federation and the government – informed Dominic Perrottet of what would happen with the overseas arrivals after New Boy turns up. be dissatisfied and anticipated the end of the hermit kingdom.
But when it comes to the Nationals, the Prime Minister retracted his pointed elbow and stepped on eggshells.
Morrison has finally confirmed that he will be heading to Cop26 in Glasgow, suggesting some confidence that a sufficient number of nationals will generously allow the Prime Minister of Australia to confirm a rhetorical commitment to zero net emissions.
After all, it would be weird to fly to Scotland with Joe, Boris and Emmanuel (too soon?) And have nothing to say except technology not taxes when you have the Angus Taylor robot to do it – although let’s be honest, stranger things have happened.
But lest anyone view Morrison’s confirmation of looming northern hemisphere travel plans as typical triumphalism or unwelcome foreshadowing, the prime minister on Friday tried not to brag, assume, or put himself in before.
Morrison worked on a schedule to clinch his net zero deal with the Nationals in the first half of next week. This planning was as obvious as the nose on your face. But when he appeared on Friday, Morrison pushed back the timing. He said the ongoing discussions could extend over the next fifteen parliamentary sessions.
Why did he do that, you ask? The simple answer is that the nationals are in the mood.
For the past week or so, the Nationals have seen powerful institutional forces line up for a mini-crusade. The works council, suddenly renouncing the slander of the “demolition of the economy” goals. Worse still, News Corp – the cacophonous propaganda machine for Tony Abbott’s “tax ax” bullshit and ruinous consequences – launched its Mission Zero project with comedic piety.
Before anyone can decide whether or not to laugh at the flip-flop or cry or rage for the lost decade – “Twiggy” Forrest has arrived en route to Glasgow. Mr. Iron Ore, now the Green Hydrogen Evangelist, had the beers with Barnaby (Joyce), had lunch with Bridget (McKenzie), then advised Scott (Morrison) to blow up the Coalition if it’s what it takes for Australia to secure an upcoming zero commitment and, preferably, a higher emissions reduction target by 2030.
Forrest has a valid point, of course.
It is high time for any leader worthy of the title to consciously decouple from the self-generated madness of climate wars.
But it was all about as subtle as a meat ax.
The nationals feel managed, because that is exactly what is happening.
The past week has been an orchestrated, institutional and comprehensive judicial press to isolate the intractable laggards and push the undecided to act.
Organizing psychology is here primitive. We’ve figured out that net zero people are everywhere here now, are you really going to keep standing there, mumbling talking points that campaign headquarters sent out in 2019, to the time when there was a weekend war, and the coal was forever?
Now it’s politics – the only ecosystem more brutal than a primary playground.
Brutal power games can certainly work – and this one just might.
But what people need to understand about Nationals is that they get irritated when they are on a leash. They are a cohort of parliamentarians who are sufficiently fond of the sound of their own voices to much prefer to be on the show rather than the reception. Nationals react very badly when told what to think, what to support and what to say.
So, nationals at all levels – supporters of net zero, opponents of net zero and people who have yet to report – became more and more cranky throughout the week as this very obvious management exercise became. more assertive.
The teeth were duly gritted. People worried about the plethora of landmines that an idiot might be about to step on. There was a daily meta-analysis of the Aussie’s tone, which much of the government assumes to be the stenographic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office.
There have been complaints about liberal Andrew Bragg, who gave a speech to an enthusiastic group of investors about the opportunities associated with the transition, and Josh Frydenberg, who continues to insist that global capital has done so. a choice on decarbonization and if Australia knows what is good for us, as a net importer of foreign capital, we will continue.
As might be expected, opponents of the net zero party hall have used the encroachment to present themselves as brave outsiders, fending off a group of smug elites engaged in yet another cycle of thought policing. A five second read of Matt Canavan’s social media accounts shows you how eager he is to stir up this particular fight.
Fellow Queenslander Keith Pitt has positioned himself in adjacent territory, not because he is a companion or natural ally of Canavan, but because the Resource Minister thinks he knows energy policy and will also wonder whether it is possible for nationals to detain Flynn, Dawson and Capricornia if the government adopts net zero, or a more ambitious 2030 target.
Remember that in 2019, the Nationals told the locals, hand on heart, that nothing needed to change. Now the script will be that things will change but not for a while, and don’t worry, we’re going to be creating jobs in the new energy economy – a more complicated story (the truth is usually more complicated) than One Nation. , shooters, Liberal Democrats, and possibly Clive Palmer will be all too happy to blast holes.
I mention Canavan and Pitt because another factor contributing to the aggressive passive dynamics we see in the preliminary rumblings around net zero is a proxy battle for leadership succession at Nationals.
Pitt thinks he can lead, Canavan is often referred to as being on the verge of a change of lower house and inexorable greatness, and the other big player on the pitch is David Littleproud, who has been a cautiously constructive force. on climate action, and believe it or not, there is a constituency for that in regional Australia. (Yes, that’s irony, don’t worry).
So it’s fair to say that things are complicated.
I obviously know what has to happen.
Australia should go to Glasgow with a more ambitious 2030 target and a mid-century commitment. Equally important – and often overlooked in the theatrical criticism and the Kremlinology that make up much of the coverage of climate policy – the Morrison government should also develop a credible policy that ensures these commitments are actually honored. Anything less than that is pre-election greenwashing.
But while I’m very clear on what should happen, I’m not quite sure where this story ends.
His colleagues say Barnaby Joyce doesn’t care about net zero – whether it lands or not – but he does care about a huge amount of money he might be able to squeeze out for regional revitalization along the way. .
Nationals who want Morrison’s climate pivot to land are encouraging their colleagues to start thinking about what they would like to squeeze out of a prime minister who has every reason to be generous in order to avoid a crippling blow to his authority, a significant break in the Coalition, and a resentful outburst within the Liberal Party.
Plus, on the bright side, Victorian Darren Chester – a persuasive adult who thinks the transition is an opportunity rather than the end of time – is very likely to join his colleagues for Sunday’s party hall reunion after a period of time. distance. This week, Chester put the odds of a net zero deal at 95%.
Probably, this land.
But that’s climate policy, and that’s Australia.
So who can be sure?