Modia Minotaur

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

An Energy Debate - Not A Nuclear Debate

So much going on - so little time to blog. I apologise, but my uni report on the ALBA Latin American trade bloc and the nationalisation of Bolivia's energy industry had to come first.

I was pleased to see Labor's Peter Garrett finally injecting some sense into the rapidly escalating debate over nuclear power. Given that Garrett's previous tilt at politics was as a Senate representative of the Nuclear Disarmament Party, there has been much anticipation as to his stated opinion on the nuclear issue, and his response, made to ABC's AM, is the first sensible salvo to be aimed. Garrett described the debate as a `farce', but it's much more than that. On one hand, it is a typical Howardian obfuscation - Private Kovco? Costello for PM? Anyone remember any of those issues? Nope - yet again, the focus is on internal dissent over a contentious policy in the ALP, exactly where Howard likes it. It's entirely possible - even probable - that this issue will have largely evaporated by the time Howard has usurped a glum Peter Costello in Question Time today. Notwithstanding the few localities that have expressed interest in a nuclear power plant, actually building one would become the biggest NIMBY issue the Howard Government has ever faced (believe me - as someone who grew up under the shadow of Lucas Heights, I know). Now that Kim Beazley has taken a definitive stance, it may also have lost its value as a ALP grenade, too. Howard also faces a good deal of internal dissent, with Nick Minchin one prominent frontbencher to express doubts that nuclear power is the saviour it is painted to be by some.

On the other hand, as Garrett pointed out, Howard has deliberately misframed a very important debate, and those who come out with guns a-blazing against nuclear power are nevertheless buying in to Howard's framing and continuing the debate as he wants it to be continued. Instead, Labor has an extremely valuable chance to seize the debate and turn it on its head, putting global warming exactly where it should be - at the top of the agenda. I've long identified the Howard Government's record on the environment as its greatest failing (a recent ABS report makes much the same conclusions). Howard's phoney nuclear debate can - and should - be turned around and put to the service of re-opening a genuine debate on improving Australia's record on sustainable energy. When even Arnold Schwarzenegger is making the argumentthat emissions must urgently be reduced (he plans to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels), you gotta listen.


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