Leading article Australia

Turnbull’s PPL lesson

16 February 2017

3:00 PM

16 February 2017

3:00 PM

One of the mistakes that plagued Tony Abbott during his period as Prime Minister was his stubborn commitment to the Paid Parental Leave scheme; the unlamented PPL. From the get-go, it was obvious to any sensible commentator that the scheme was a futile attempt by Mr Abbott to win over people (i.e. doctors’ wives) who would probably never vote for him anyway, even though they would have greedily grabbed as much as they could for themselves out of the scheme had it ever been implemented. Worse, the scheme fatally undermined the entire Abbott-Hockey narrative about budget restraint and belt-tightening. By trying to sell the PPL and other self-contradictory meassages, Team Abbott enabled the otherwise sensible 2014 budget to be discredited. Eventually the PPL was ditched but by then the damage it had inflicted was irreversible.

The Paris Agreement, whereby Australia has committed to a renewables energy target that requires reducing our emissions by 26 to 28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, is playing much the same role for the Turnbull government. The people who are impressed by this unattainable and costly RET are those lefty doctors’ wives (among others) who will never vote Liberal anyway. Moreover, the RET will inflict minimum pain on those same latte-sipping, chattering classes, whilst dramatically ramping up the pain of unemployment and an ever-deteriorating lifestyle for those battlers struggling in small businesses or with young mouths to feed. And as a final twist of the knife, the RET will not reduce global temperatures by any measurable amount and is therefore a pointless national vanity exercise.

As with Mr Abbott’s PPL, Mr Turnbull’s stubborn insistence on retaining the RET completely undermines the single most important narrative this government now has to work with: the commitment to guaranteeing cheap and reliable energy as a means of improving our budgetary position, improving employment, encouraging business investment and guaranteeing growth and a sound economic future for our children.

Tony Abbott talked himself blue in the face attempting to justify and sell his PPL to a sceptical public and a nervous party room – only to end up abandoning it when the pressure became intolerable.

Malcolm Turnbull should learn from that costly mistake. It is simply impossible for the Coalition to effectively prosecute the case against the madness of Labor’s various state and federal renewables targets whilst it persists with its own target which, although slightly less loony, is still completely bonkers. Mixed messaging does not work; never has, and never will. Just look at or listen to Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg every time he attempts to sell the three-pronged ‘cheap, reliable and… er, clean’ energy story. There is no better communicator in the government than Mr Frydenberg, and no-one who works harder to speak to the media and the public with honesty and empathy. But the sad fact is that the moment he stops talking about blackouts and power cuts and the nonsense that Labor are inflicting upon their own states and switches to advocating the Liberals’ own RET he loses all credibility. Hamstrung by its own policy, the Liberal party is denying itself the single – and possibly only – election-winning weapon against Bill Shorten.

Sneering at Mr Shorten for having ‘sucked up to’ a deceased Melbourne businessman might grab the headlines for a day or two. But the Prime Minister has a far more effective weapon with which to clobber the hypocritical Labor leader, and that is the fact that Labor’s destructive and pointless 50 per cent renewables energy target is deliberately increasing the likelihood of unemployment, driving down growth and investment, and destroying businesses.

Energy price hikes, blackouts and job losses caused by the Left’s craven, loopy, pointless, crippling response to the threat of climate change will increasingly aggravate non-ideological voters over the coming months and years. It is inevitable that, with the rise in popularity of the climate-sceptical One Nation party, the government will before the next election hurriedly abandon their own RET.

For their own sake, as well as the nation’s, we suggest they do so sooner rather than later.

Move the embassy

No doubt during his visit to these shores, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu will be greeted by the usual ‘welcome to country’ smoking ceremonies. But let’s make his visit a truly memorable one: out of respect for his own proud culture, let’s announce we are moving our embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient Jewish capital – Jerusalem.

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