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opinion

Carbon, The “Political Slaughterhouse”

Despite what the media tell you, Australia is not engaged in a tax debate on carbon emissions trading. We never were. Comprehensive tax reform is a separate, urgent debate, one that both major parties continue to sidestep. Instead, we have this crazy manufactured tax debate on carbon, where leading scientists and economists get neatly sidestepped, along with national challenges that really demand our urgent attention.

So where did carbon pricing drift off the reservation? Back in 2001, it was the Liberal/National Coalition government Treasurer Peter Costello trying – and failing – to get an emissions trading scheme (ETS) through Cabinet. Six years later, both then Prime Minister John Howard and the Labor leader Kevin Rudd took an emissions trading scheme to the 2007 election. In 2009, Prime Minister Rudd and the then-leader of the Liberal/National parties, Malcolm Turnbull, very nearly agreed on a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (ETS) model in 2009.

So all was nice and bipartisan – until the tight Parliament of 2010. At the time, neither the science nor the economics of an ETS were in question by political leadership. Yet an ETS stumbled at the final hurdle three times, thanks to tactical political plays.

I was one of the independent members of the House of Representatives whose support would help form the government after the 2010 election. Following the hung parliament outcome, there were a fair few negotiations. In my first phone-call with potential Prime Minister Tony Abbott after the result, I was told in so many words that if I supported an ETS (or the NBN) then I should “go with the other mob”.

(Interestingly, all other Liberal/National Party policies were up for a pragmatic conversation.)

So, the DNA of an Abbott-led government was made clear on day one of negotiations: no ETS would be delivered by a Liberal/National government.

<p>Mike Bowers/The Global Mail</p>

Mike Bowers/The Global Mail

Abbott knew I had campaigned at two local elections on the topic, repeatedly arguing that science and economics pointed to an ETS as the best model for Australia. It was a difficult start to negotiations with Tony Abbott.

So in throwing my support behind Labor to deliver an ETS, I was aware that the scheme would not be a bipartisan product. Indeed it was a brutal exercise, ramming an emissions trading scheme framework through the House of Representatives and Senate, and cleaning up the edges once the framework was in; our best scientists and economists were left to win the debate in the public square.

It was my view that logic would ultimately beat politics, once the framework was in.

Not so fast. We got the ETS through, but in doing so, the whole political conversation got stuck on two unexpected words – “carbon tax”.

And this is where, with hindsight, we failed. In particular, I worry that we failed what I consider the environmental challenge of our time for Australia – biodiversity loss. Today we see cuts to the funding for biodiversity programs to pay for the Labor government’s proposed changes to this thing called a “carbon tax”.

Biodiversity loss is Australia’s greatest environmental challenge by a country mile. But any initiatives to address biodiversity challenges see politicians running that same country mile – because they will not look past the crazy carbon showdown.

A National Biobanking Scheme would greatly encourage private sector investment in biodiversity, but yet again, eyes glaze over in the current carbon climate.

Biomass should be unlocked, in an agnostic way, to allow it to contribute more than 10 per cent of our energy security mix into the future – just as it has been in other countries. But, no, we’re stuck in a carbon fight.

The forestry industry should be engaged on the diverse economic role a tree can play in staying in the ground as well as being extracted – but instead carbon tax wars confuse the issue.

Community engagement on the science of koalas, for instance, is easier than greenhouse gases.

Australia should step forward, and on a large scale. The country should develop, protect and enhance a National Biodiversity Corridor network, where linked corridors of national significance are really seriously, and somewhat urgently, progressed. Again, the carbon fight instead has everyone treading lightly on any big environmental play.

The frustration is, we’re stuck in a political contest over something that should be but one in a suite of measures we should be taking in the multi-trillion dollar ecosystem service and landscape management space.

An ETS is not the centre of the universe. It was always a secondary, not primary tool to enhance and achieve better protections for biodiversity in Australia, and to deal with the challenges and opportunities emerging together in the nexus between landscape, energy and food.

We are stuck in a fight over this secondary tool, and it is putting a full stop on any progress on other measures.

Ecosystem services is a real industry in the trillions of dollars. Globally, we will have to feed twice as many people, on half the arable land, with half the environmental damage, and half the water use. This is an economic opportunity for Australia, as well as a global question for this century.

Yet do we have a Minister for Ecosystem Services, or Landscape Management? No, we don’t. Indeed, public policy in Australia has a very poor understanding of this meeting point between the environment and economy – and I do think this is why carbon pricing is proving so politically toxic.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if I were dropped back into 2010 and had this opportunity again, I would make biodiversity loss the top of the pyramid of what we were trying to address, instead of prioritising the science of what Abbott now famously writes off as an “invisible” gas.

Community engagement on the science of koalas, for instance, is easier than greenhouse gases.

If we had put biodiversity first, securing the broader suite of tools required to address these challenges would have been easier, and the much-needed bipartisanship more certain.

And, ironically, we probably would have been able to negotiate an ETS on the way – probably as a sensible agreed measure, rather than this political slaughterhouse. In the end, it’s not science that is in dispute. And it’s not the economics that is in dispute. It’s all just politics.

THE “invisible termination” of an “invisible tax” is written and authorised by Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, vying for the country’s leadership ahead of an uncertain election date in a new political landscape. It’s all about campaigning; not governing.

Because remember, Australia’s so-called carbon price was never a tax. The Clean Energy legislation, which passed the House of Representatives and the Senate in late 2011, included 18 Bills. Apart from reductions in fuel tax subsidies for non-heavy transport and cars, there was only one other tax measure, and it was a good one – the tripling of the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $18,200. The tax break from 1 July 2012 was the largest increase in the tax free threshold ever – and arguably the single biggest leap towards a smarter and fairer tax system that we have seen in decades.

Otherwise there is no mention of a tax anywhere in any of the other 17 Bills that are now law.

The absurdity of the current debate is that Tony Abbott is today talking about a “floating tax” in an effort to label the entire market – not just the three-year fixed-price period – a tax. The logical extension of that argument is that we don’t have a share market, but a share market tax.

This relentless rhetoric overwhelms reality. Politics needs a fix, which is why now Kevin Rudd is banking on removing the “non-floating tax”, the fixed-price period, as his solution.

In the land of Reality, do we really have taxes called floating or non-floating taxes? Of course we don’t. The bullshit knows no bounds, and Australians are being played for fools.

70 comments on this story
by john marshall

Good opinion piece; as a climate invasive species scientist I am fully aware of the impact on ecosystem services the continued loss of biodiversity will yield. Abbotts muddled thinking and lack of intelligent direction on these issues tells me he has extemely poor advise and simply is uninterested in something he appears not to understand!

July 17, 2013 @ 4:30pm
by Lorraine

Rob, please think carefully about the coming election. We so need people like you to continue in Parliament to ensure a decent future for our kids and grandkids! What will they have if our biodiversity disappears and climate change continues to impact in devasting ways!

July 17, 2013 @ 5:24pm
by hal saul

I agree with lorraine, we need yourself and others to get this sort of information out to a lot more people. The guardian newspaper should be picking this up for one thing, a program on the ABC too - used to happen!

July 17, 2013 @ 9:13pm
by sally wa

Thanks, Rob, for this, and for everything.
I miss the real government already, including the real PM.

July 17, 2013 @ 10:53pm
by A Fair Go

I want to cry....because this is the truth...."the bullshit knows no bounds" in a toxic political environment that is laying waste to an entire nation.
Is there no way for an independent politician to become prime minister?

July 17, 2013 @ 11:59pm
by Kelvin Carlson

Excellent piece Rob. It must have been painful sitting in Parliament for 3 long years listening to the debate rage on the "carbon tax", particularly in Question Time. And now with Abbott's latest comment on the "invisible gas", we're back to arguing about the science, not the best way to deal with the problem. Incredibly frustrating.

July 18, 2013 @ 6:08am
by Mark of Caloundra

Yourself and Mr Windsor have made a magnificent contribution in this last parliament, along with one of the best PMs this country has had. We are the poorer for your collective leaving.(You were only three but the intellect has dropped by half!) Hope you make a career now out of informed ongoing commentary and your indelible brand of policy over politics and rock solid analysis.History will judge the three of you as extraordinary.

July 18, 2013 @ 7:27am
by Michael from Hobart

Tony Abbott will go down as the Newt Gingrich of Australian politics, the man who, more than any other, transformed our functioning democracy from a balanced system of managing competing philosophical positions to an expensive battleground that guarantees governments will achieve nothing. Well done Tony, your actions in the 43rd parliament have sentenced our bicameral parliamentary process to death.

I hope you feel good about that.

July 18, 2013 @ 7:36am
by Curtis

Sir, you will be sorely missed in the legislature, such a breath of fresh air from a 'poli'

July 18, 2013 @ 7:42am
by Franky

We want to get rid of this bloke; Why?

July 18, 2013 @ 9:06am
by Franky

"The forestry industry should be engaged on the diverse economic role a tree can play in staying in the ground as well as being extracted"
Excellent comment - opportunity cost is not often discussed let alone put so well and so simply.

July 18, 2013 @ 9:33am
by Andrew Sippel

What is wrong with us in Australia? Why are we more likely to follow miss-information, which has an obvious political or leadership slant, than to think and reason out the problem for ourselves. It just amazes me how so many people just focus on a key word or key phrase, instead of taking on board the bigger idea of what is trying to be communicated. Bio-diversity is king to sustaining life on this planet. A tax on an Abbott’s “invisible something” can help to readdress bio-diversity decline. Let’s help people to keep seeing the bigger issues. Thanks Rob for getting your communication out there. Australia has lost the services of a brilliant, doing politician and deep thinker.

July 18, 2013 @ 11:18am
by PIA

It is a national tragedy that the topics that so need decent debate have been denigrated to nonsense by the LNP and the media for the past 3 years. They are now once are again submerged....and replaced by spin.

July 18, 2013 @ 11:24am
by cagey

Thank you for your contribution to the polity and for your support of the former Prime Minister. It is now clear that the opposition were determined that the minority government would fail within months. The Liberals and their country cousins are not comfortable governing. They just want to be in office to ensure there are nothing changes which might disadvantage their clients and employers from the planet of Haves.

July 18, 2013 @ 11:36am
by Heather

Mr Oakeshott, what a great analysis of such a critical issue to this country. You did however shy away from a mention of the Greens role in the rejection of the ETS in 2010. This is something I still don't understand. Scott Ludlam on Q and A last week, shuffled around the issue when questioned. It appears that if an ETS came before parliament before this election, they would still consider rejecting it. I don't get this or them. I'd like to hear your views on this.

July 18, 2013 @ 11:42am
by Ailsa Cowan

Rob Oakeshott, we need you! Please reconsider your decision not to contest the next election. My vote - Rob Oakeshott for PM!!!

July 18, 2013 @ 1:13pm
by Linda Gill

Excellent article..Robert. Sadley as Twiddle Dee & Twiddle Dumb politic & sqabble over actions to address climate change..we move faster & faster to a precipice of no return.

July 18, 2013 @ 2:47pm
by Bob

Well said Rob. Your voice of reason will be sorely missed.

July 18, 2013 @ 2:54pm
by VJO

Brilliant. And Abbott lovers love to point out that he is a Rhodes Scholar - got there with glowing references from his church pals and through his boxing skills. Abbott has turned the meaning of Rhodes Scholar to now be 'complete dickhead'. PhD for Oakeshott !

July 18, 2013 @ 3:04pm
by Jake Hennessey

Spot on!

July 18, 2013 @ 4:12pm
by Pappinbarra Fox

You are right. But biodiversity is not restricted to Australia. The whole globe is experiencing the greatest extinction period in over 65 million years. And there is no doubt that it is anthrpogenically driven - mainly through habitat loss. The enhanced greenhouse gas effect will not lessen this mass extinction episode overall though it may assist in some minor areas.
I believe that you and Tony Windsor were breaths of fresh common sense in a parliament where protocol and procedure were trashed by the LOTO. All the best for the future.

July 18, 2013 @ 4:27pm
by Orwell

Rob, thank you for your service to the Australian people. Yours and Windsor’s absence in the Parliament will leave a vacuum... exacerbated by the anti-matter that will likely be Barnaby Joyce!

July 18, 2013 @ 4:28pm
by Andy Kitchen

Enjoyable reading Mr. Oakeshott. Could you please post some further reading for you article? I would like to know more about the Biodiversity problem and how the new proposed taxes will actually work. Thanks in advance.

July 18, 2013 @ 5:00pm
by shane at Port

Hey Franky, waddayamean "We"? No sensible voter wants to get rid of this bloke- He's the best we've had for decades. More simple, clear sense from The Lyne King. We'll miss you Rob, onya mate!

July 18, 2013 @ 6:14pm
by Thomas

We are well rid of this person from parliament who has helped saddle our economy with a destructive tax and empowered a new parasitic green bureaucracy. What a shame he doesn't face his voters for their opinion. We now have a mess to unravel.

July 18, 2013 @ 6:57pm
by Imagine

Thank you for the article Rob. The nation owes you a debt of gratitude for your service and for your contribution to improving the social fabric of our nation. Men of intelligence, honesty and integrity, like Tony Windsor and you will be sorely missed as we battle to conserve our environment and the future for our children.

July 18, 2013 @ 9:27pm
by NeilM

The sad thing is no matter which way we turn we are surrounded by bs at the next election.

July 18, 2013 @ 10:01pm
by John long

When bullies are thrust into a Leadership position unprepared emotionally,philosophically and from a humanistic viewpoint u end up with the dilemma that has been the Governing of Australia since the last election.Mr Nick Minchin who was the architect in ensuring Mr Abbott was thrust into leading the Coalition has much to answer for,having departed to plot from afar.Mr Abbott is the bully who has cajoled his colleagues into following His lead.That being an opportunistic and totally negative approach to any legislation which he and his allies could thwart in what has been a hung Parliament.The good of the Nation has been sacrificed for the good of Mr Abbott & his immediate group of conspirators ,whilst unfortunately many excellent political representatives on both sides have been treated contemptuously.

July 18, 2013 @ 10:43pm
by jane

A great read, Rob.

It's a great tragedy that we will be robbed of two of the most honest politicians in the Parliament. I wish that you would both reconsider your decisions to stand, but understand why you have chosen to retire, after the cowardly campaigns conducted against you both.

Once again we will sorely miss your honesty, integrity and common sense.

I wish both you and Tony Windsor all the best for the future.

July 18, 2013 @ 11:51pm
by Kevin Cobley

The greatest moral crisis of our time is now the re-election of Rudd, who has now moved to cut the almost invisible tax that Abbott described as a giant wreaking ball clobbering the Australian economy.

The Carbon Tax raises a minuscule 4 Billion dollars most of which was paid out to the lower earners and pensioners in compensation, this compares with the $80 billion dollar GST that Abbott gleefully supported. That giant wreaking ball didn't have much effect. The Liberals want to extend the GST to Food, Education and Medical which will raise 5 times the level of the carbon tax, to give further support to the states.

Abbott is telling us his disbelief of invisible things, perhaps he should tell Pell of his new belief system.

There is now such a profound lack of morality, decency and honesty in the political system brought to us by Abbott's sleazy crew and the governing Murdochracy.

I would hope that the election delivers another Labor minority government with Wilkie and the Greens holding the balance of power, insisting the Carbon tax raised to a more realistic level of $60 per tonne that will truly move the country to a renewable energy future.

Hopefully Labor will then replace "Rudd the Treacherous" and the Liberals replace "Abbott the Unworthy" with more suitable leaders, we don't really need men of no principles leading political parties.

July 19, 2013 @ 4:06am
by Chris Francis

Great article Rob. I shudder to think what lies ahead of us without you as an independent voice of reason to counter the bullshit of mainstream politics. I do hope your voice continues to be heard in the public arena as independent and well reasoned debate is critically important on these matters.

July 19, 2013 @ 8:18am
by Matthew T

Biomass boosters always seem to forget about the toxic smoke. Allowing unfettered wood burning in residential areas will only see air quality decline further. If there is any biomass burning it needs emission standards better than 0.0001g/kg of fuel. If it isn't as clean as burning gas then it is too polluting.

July 20, 2013 @ 7:13am
by Anthony Element

You are right to blame our amoral political leaders for much of this debacle, Rob.

But we ordinary citizens; so many of us willing to believe such absurdities as the one about how all the climatologists in the world are conspiring, ultimately bare the blame.

We are now collectively and nationally whining and hand wringing about the end of the mining boom, when two minutes of clear thinking should have led anybody to the conclusion that all the coal in the universe is of no use if we have no customers.

But then, we had Martin Ferguson representing the coal industry in government...

Interesting to juxtapose your excellent commentary alongside Bernard's story about how NZ has had an effective free trade agreement with China for several years. But of course we didn't bother with anything so trivial because we had a coal industry to keep us warm.

We Australian are largely the victims of our own thoughtless banality.

Fortunately we're quite good at playing catch up.

After all we've had a fair bit of practice.

July 20, 2013 @ 7:52am
by Noel Condie

Thanks Rob, a well reasoned outline of an emotive issue. Along with many others I thank you and Tony Windsor for your service to the Nation, sad to see you go but your family and sanity are more important. This last Parliament must rank as one of the most bitter and divisive we have endured, all thanks to one man, Tony Abbott.

July 20, 2013 @ 8:13am
by Elizabeth Eaton

Your contribution to politics, along with Tony Windsor has been invaluable. The ways forward under climate change scenarios comprise a difficult picture to sell politically since we need to invest in things that have been low priority so far, and in doing so our overall high standard of living might drop.
Why are we overall so keen to attend to simple slogans, operating as a sort of political dummy? Why do we not attend to substance and policy?
I am not keen on Rudd. However I wonder about starting the ABA Club - Anyone But Abbott.

July 20, 2013 @ 9:31am
by Martin Bailey

I salute Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor- two men of intelligence and integrity, whose presence in Parliament will be missed. Lets hope some more independents get up in the forthcoming election!

July 20, 2013 @ 9:52am
by Betty Birskys

Yes, I heartily endorse the remarks by Chris Francis. You, Rob Oakshott, and Tony Windsor were the two most decent, believable and honest Members in the House - and I say that as a Labor voter. And I must thank you for the conclusion to your valedictory address in the House; it was the statement of a man with common decency: Yes, Julia Gillard's father would have been proud of her...

July 20, 2013 @ 10:49am
by Bob Auld

Invisible substances - try electricity first of all Tony, everyone believes it is there but it remains obstinately invisible. Of course the other invisible substance without substance is any policies by the Coalition - the Emporer without clothes again - trust me, says Tony, I'll come up with something "later".

July 20, 2013 @ 10:54am
by Virginia

Is it because Australians are ignorant or just too lazy to find out about issues? Why are they content to get their (mis)information from sour shock jocks and certain elements of the media without really trying to understand the issues or the truth of the information they are receiving? I thank you, Tony Windsor and Julia Gillard for your contributions to our society. I do not know how the three of you have managed to get up each day and face the negativity, but I thank you for it. Please continue to be a rational and intelligent public voice in the future, Rob. We need you.

July 20, 2013 @ 10:55am
by DL

I feel compelled to second the comments about how sorely missed you and Tony Windsor will be- that you were such rare voices of sanity and level headedness gave greater hope for the future- Thank you for your contributions and achievements, they were deeply appreciated - you will be missed- we hope some of your spirit remains.

July 20, 2013 @ 12:19pm
by Michael Leslie

Rob, that is an excellent article. We ought to be so thankful for your (and Tony Windsor's) contribution to Australia. You have been open and honest in your endeavours. You have served us well in spite of the ridicule that has been heaped upon you. Thank you so much for this contribution.

It is so very sad that politics in this country has fallen to such depths. How are we going to get through? Where are we going to end?

July 20, 2013 @ 12:27pm
by Blair Donaldson

Thanks for such a clear description of the problems we face courtesy of Tony Abbott, the Murdochs and their fellow travellers. It would be nice to think that politicians from both sides of the house could work together on the important issues of climate and biodiversity but so long as the rednecks think there are a few votes in denying science and demonising researchers, the future looks bleak. What is needed is the public ridiculing of anyone who denies established science and promotes pseudoscience as an alternative. The anti-intellectual position taken by Tony Abbott and his cronies is leading us to a new dark age.

July 20, 2013 @ 12:30pm
by Rotha Jago

Rob Oakeshott
Thanks for explaining your point of view. Your journey has been an honest attempt to do the right thing. The problem for all political parties is that while there is a battle for the moral high ground, what is the "Right Thing" ???
There is another battle going on which is never discussed. This is best approached by asking some questions.
Who persuaded Tony Abbot to champion an Emissions Trading Scheme?
What was their argument?
Why did Kevin Rudd decide not to pursue the ETS ?
What did he discover which worried him and made him change his mind?
Why is "Carbon Farming" so financially and practically disastrous?
Why, when banks have been so enthusiastic about Carbon Trading, have they supported a Carbon Farming model which is impossible to make any money out of?
What is REALLY going on?
Go back to the time when the Carbon word was first discussed in cabinet in the Howard Government.
Around that time Senator Ian McDonald, Minister for Environment was approached (by whom?)
to direct all Government money through a chain of private companies, Terrain, Murray River, they had different names but they all would apply for and acquit Government Environment grants, and keep 10% for themselves. These private companies would have boards comprised of 'Stakeholders' and included Academics, Aboriginal people, Local Councillors, Farmers (but never Organic or non chemical Farmers) and a major seller of agricultural chemicals .
So that is where we are today. The local environmental organisation, Terrain in our case, is wealthy, and is in favour of spraying Glyphosate broad scale everywhere. It's scientists are sure it is harmless and constantly assure everyone that it can do no harm.
Killing weeds is somehow so virtuous that young scientists even travel to remote islands to spray weeds. After Cyclone Yasi , when Dunk Island was devastated, the first thing the local authority did (Government Funded) was spray the long grasses which had sprung up, fed by torrential rains. If you google "Glyphosate, Stephanie Seneff" you will soon see why there is a Biodiversity disaster happening. Add "Toxicity" or "Corruption" to your Glyphosate searches and all will be revealed.

July 20, 2013 @ 12:46pm
by michael mills

The still relative question posed by Lomberg and, given more impetus by the declaration by the British of a standstill if temperature of the last 17 years while CO2 has increased by 10%, we should call a halt to the ruinous wind and solar systems and, instead, conduct long term research into alternatives suggested by physicists .

July 20, 2013 @ 1:21pm
by molly moolah

Thank you, Rob Oakeshott for this clear explanation. I am 72 years of age and live in a household of 3. I am the only careful recycler in the household. We have had solar water heating since 1996. In the last couple of years I have added extra rain water storage to make 27500 litres of rainwater storage. I use an el cheapo front load washer and have been able to wash in rainwater for almost all of the last 2 years. Also 22 solar panels. We live in suburban Brisbane. I have long had a faith that in some way, tomorrow will be better than today. I would love to live for many more years to keep doing my bit to protect biodiversity. I keep setting the right example in my household.

July 20, 2013 @ 1:25pm
by June

What a pity you, Rob, and Tony Windsor, are leaving Parliament. You both had the courage of your convictions, given the freedom of being Independents and able to speak for one's self instead of having to be hypocritical and toeing the Party Line. Would that we have more Independents in the forthcoming election, and that the Greens would be more flexible in their policies and learn to bend with the wind a little.

July 20, 2013 @ 2:56pm
by ben gershon

thanks to you and Tony Windsor. when the commentators were complaining about only sound bites coming from pollis and you gave a 17 minutes detailed explanation .they then complaint it was too long .all strength to you and good luck on your next venture

with thanks

ben

July 20, 2013 @ 3:31pm
by Keith Anderson

"The bullshit knows no bounds, and Australians are being played for fools." .... Rob this has long been the case, in fact from the 1960s, when the last of any real infrastructure projects and biodiversity sustainability were initiated.

We have developed a class society and it is based on MONEY ... if you have it then you buy the power - Liberal Labor, Greens, and Democrats. We need a 'power with' not a 'power by' society and this can only happen if all Australians become politically active by giving voice to their concerns and desires.

Political Parties do not represent the majority, only the blind. Now is the time to choose a real candidate rather than a Party hack, one doing for their constituents rather than the Party at the feeding trough.

Robert Oakeshott you were our Champion for Lyne

July 20, 2013 @ 3:34pm
by Matt D.

It is a measure of the man that Mr Oakeshott never asked for a ministry in exchange for his supporting the Labor party in 2010. Judging by his reasoned and intelligent comments here and elsewhere, one could almost wish he had.
A (hypothetical) scenario where Oakeshott takes the environment portfolio and has a non-labor voice in cabinet and the media could really have cut through some of the awful rubbish we've seen from popular media and opposition over the last three years on environmental issues. It would also to some degree have negated the false bogeyman image of the greens secretly setting Labor's agenda and possibly saved us from cringeworthy slurs such as "bob Brown's ----".
I salute Mr oakeshott's acheivements in public life and hope he continues to contribute to the conversation.
matt.

July 20, 2013 @ 6:00pm
by Andrew Mitchell

Rob Oakshots piece is very perceptive and the best article on the subject I've read for many years. He is says we have put the cart before the horse and the political leadership has been very poor, which I agree with. Thanks very much Rob Oakshot for your insights.

July 20, 2013 @ 6:58pm
by John Poppins

Rob, you have greatly lifted the standard of thought expressed in our Federal Parliament. Thanks. We need many more of your calibre.

I have been saddened by the acceptance by media of the term 'Carbon Tax'.

Given the nature of applications for the revenue we should use the term 'Carbon Dividend'.

July 20, 2013 @ 10:40pm
by R M Dearden

I find it incredible that you have only this one plank in your platform and ignore the reasons why biodiversity is low on the totem pole. To spend money on this issue we should not have wasted it on all the stupid, wasteful schemes that the Labor Government did with your support.

Now we have and $80 Billion interest bill each year, too many people on the public tit, immigrants who have no intention of fitting in to our society and no plan to manage this complete mess.

By the way, CO2 is an essential element for life and especially biodiversity. At 400ppm it is a trace element that makes plans grow more efficiently (they starve if it goes below 200ppm).

And, by the way, the world has warmed and cooled all by itself numerous times. Man has an environmental impact, no doubt, on the earth but not on the weather or the climate - that is the sun's job.

July 21, 2013 @ 8:25am
by Ellie Bock

Dear Rob
I join others in thanking you sincerely for your stellar contributions, which together with those of your colleague Tony Windsor have bought no small measure of common sense and reflective effort to the current period of government.
Unlike others I have no questions, only a brief comment.
Working in the area of biodiversity and land management for over 15 years I cannot agree with you more about the fundamental importance of this so minimally regarded yet absolute bedrock aspect of present day Australia - continually waylaid, even blindsided, by the 'economic values' of extraction, felling and 'improvement'. It is time - well overdue - for a new economics of the land and sea where humanity's unhealthy infatuation with technological fixes does not blind us, as a biological species, to the physical limits of our planet, but where a real calculation of costs and benefits includes air, water, all other species and the long term bio-physical inheritance of future generations as integral components of the larger equation.
I am once again reminded of Bob Brown's words from 1976: "Selfishness prevails on Earth. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia. We live for maximising personal wealth and ignore the miseries of our neighbours; we plunder our natural resources as if we were the most deserving generation that has ever been or will ever be; we rush to gain advantage from technological innovation even when there are appalling risks; we claim parenthood as a joyous right but leech the joy from our children’s futures. As a result mankind faces a needlessly wretched future. At best there will be prolonged repression, cruelty and hate until reason gains ascendency in a human community desperate for happiness. At worst life will cease at its own hand."
It would have been great to have a conversation along those very lines with you 4 years ago.

July 21, 2013 @ 10:43am
by Tony Kerr

Rob, you and Tony obviously found time to think deeply about complex issues. What do the other politicians spend their time doing? While I agree with your comments about biodiversity, the travails of our ecosystems are now, and have been for some time, worsened by climate change than bulldozers and their ilk.

July 21, 2013 @ 11:35am
by Mark Killen

Rob, you are a good man, we need you and others with high ethical standards in our Federal Parliament. Tony Windsor is another. It is a shame it is hard to name many more isn't it?

July 21, 2013 @ 12:18pm
by Peter Curtin

Thanks again ,Rob, for another contribution to the discussion , so debased by the destructive Abbott drivel of recent years. As others have written, your integrity, openness ,humour and vision for our country beyond the next election or two, will be sorely missed. Best wishes, pc

July 21, 2013 @ 12:51pm
by Terry Morrison

Rob you will be missed (of course Tony Windsor too)
Almost 100% of comments are on the same "wavelength" how marvelous and rare! The hegemonic influence of the Murdoch press is a major factor in the miss-understanding of this issue; their uncritical (with a few honorable exceptions) lack of analysis of Abbott's comments on this subject over years is easily verified.
Few people realize just how pervasive and insidious Murdoch's reach is; take for example anytime a "customer" (read Micheal Sandel for expansion on this comment ) walks into a supermarket, petrol station, or even a coffee shop, the vast majority of "news" papers are Murdoch owned -most major Supermarkets don't even bother keeping anything else but Murdoch propaganda. many times when we watch commercial TV or listen to Commercial radio (of course there are always a few exceptions) we get the same guff -the sheer bile of the Bolt Report -with its banner of a News Ltd production across the bottom of the screen at the end of the program. how can the average person really be expected to recognize that there is a different story.
Thank god (pun intended) for the ABC in all it's various forms, Radio National is a voice of analytic excellence, the science show has belled the cat on this subject many times -Media Watch should be compulsory viewing for anyone who is a thinking individual see the last few weeks for example. SMH despite it's weird fence sitting on some subjects has been strong on this too.
The only reason Abbott gets away wit his three word slogans is because the Murdoch media and thee shock jocks have given him a huge advantage.

July 21, 2013 @ 5:59pm
by Robert Pask

Rob you and Tony will be sadly missed in the House.
I will miss your honest rational comments.

July 21, 2013 @ 8:15pm
by Michael. Faulkner

Incisive comments offered by a fine Australian, and an exemplary politician.
This article makes clear several things: the sheer poverty of ideas in most political discourse in this country, the relationship between this poverty of ideas and the corporatist mentality that pervades both the two big political parties but also the Canberra, (Murdoch - dominated ) press gallery, and, the new thresholds of intellectual paucity that an Abbott-led government promise to inflict on this nation.
Thanks Rob Oakshot for your considerable contribution to Australia in the past three years, not least of all for showing us that the difficult and delicate art of politics can be pursued in a thoughtful and compassionate way. I hope the nation can continue to benefit from your energies, albeit in another way, into our future,

July 22, 2013 @ 5:10am
by Helen Macdonald

Such a shame that the few rational voices in the Federal Parliament will not be there after the next election. Rob, you and Tony Windsor will be greatly missed.

July 22, 2013 @ 11:50am
by Rodger Brook

I cannot wait to see Rob Oakshott and Windor leave Paliament. They have both been a disgrace and they have not represented the will of their electorate.

July 23, 2013 @ 10:33am
by Ben Staples

Thanks Rob for your contribution to politics. It's an utter shame that the dumb slogan politics of Tony Abbott dominate headlines in our country instead of the real issues that you endeavoured to tackle. Tony Windsor and yourself can leave parliament with your heads held high.

July 24, 2013 @ 12:32am
by fred strachan

to rodger brook, both oakshot and windsor were upfront before the 2010 election to their electorate and were democratically elected(will of the people),fred

July 24, 2013 @ 5:02pm
by George pick

To rodger I totally disagree. Both Rob and Tony were one of the few pollies that maintained honesty and integrity in a parliament that was full of opportunism, dishonesty and cowardice. I applaud these 2 and only wish we had more like them. If I was in their electorate I'd be extremely proud.

July 24, 2013 @ 6:07pm
by Peter Brown

Oakshot and Windsor showed the value and benefits of a parliament not controlled by major parties.They both focused on the issues and voted on the merits of the issue not swayed by party room decisions.

July 24, 2013 @ 6:27pm
by Geoff

Rodger
Much better if you addressed the actual topic of discussion rather than mounting an attack on the writer. I am not aware that Oakeshott and Windsor's electorates want to lose biodiversity or continue with unsustainable climate policies.

July 24, 2013 @ 8:02pm
by Tim Rowe

And still, we are stuck in partisan politics and half a story. This period of Australian political history (last 10yrs and foreseeable future) are going to be taught in our schools as some kind of fracturing polarization of the Australian nation. I feel sick even thinking about how much damage all of you politicians as a group, have done to our nation's stability, foundation, and future. There is a level of corruption operating in Australian politics never seen before on both sides. The lack of a moral compass in Canberra is phenomenal. I personally believe some of the government and opposition should be in prison not parliament. I hope democracy prevails, but this is by no means a sure thing. We the voters are going to decimate the major parties at the next election, some of us just do not have a clue who the viable alternatives are right now.

July 26, 2013 @ 5:19am
Show previous 67 comments
by Lee

What a disgraceful loss of opportunity our nation has endured over the last parliament - due mostly to yobbo behaviour. We won't recover for a very long time.

Thank you Rob ( and Tony ) for reminding us all what a true servant of the people is.

July 28, 2013 @ 12:36pm
by angela sands

I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Rob and Tony Windsor for their excellent performance as members of Parliament willing to understand issues and work in the coummunity and nation's interest.

October 6, 2013 @ 12:04pm
by Mark

Yeh....he was my (unlamented) local member.

He also made a commitment to the electorate to never support a Labor government.

Don't trust him or his revisionist histories. He was all about extracting revenge on perceived and actual slights by the National party just like Windsor. He is as pure as black coal with a heart and conscience to match.

If you went to his sycophantic community events and heard him prattle on about "helping the kids" over and over again you would realise he had zero substance and only had emotional blackmail. I lol'ed out loud at one just before he announced his cowardly retreat before the last election where he actually handed out graphs showing "gonski" spending on them without labels or legends. Just lines rising up to the sky which were "a good thing" (spending public money) and when questioned what it what do for educational benefits the answer was "more money must be good". Yeh.....intellectual giant for sure.

Public life is better without him. Port Macquarie is better without him. His personal revenge gave us 3 years of pathetic left wing feminist crap. What a disgrace.

January 30, 2014 @ 2:22pm
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