If you live in Australia, it’s hard to have not been exposed to the turmoil sparked last week by the factional fights within the Liberal party over the ETS/CPRS legislation that was defeated in the senate today. With the leadership spill driven by the climate change skeptics within the party who believed that Malcolm Turnbull was doing the wrong thing by brokering a deal with the Labor party over the ETS legislation, believing the science needed more analysis or at the very least, needed to wait until after the United Nations Copenhagen climate change conference. The Liberal Party has in the process of electing their new leader Tony Abbott just ruined the best chance the climate change skeptics had in clawing back this issue from the hands of the Labor party.
Given the Liberals poor showing in the polls even before the ETS issue erupted (Worse than at the last election) the Liberals were likely to lose their majority in the senate at the next election. The Liberals only have a majority in the senate still due to the half senate elections cycle and the large number of seats Howard won in the 2004 federal election. With this in mind, the path Turnbull took in regards to the ETS was very sensible, he understood the likelihood of losing the ability to block the legislation after the next election, and regardless of his position on the science behind climate change knew that now was the time to negotiate a deal that would best serve his constituents. This opportunity existed because the Labor party is keen to be seen as a world leader with the ETS and use it for political gain around the Copenhagen conference, the time was right, Labor wanted action on the legislation before the next election, and the Liberals held the majority in the senate. But instead, by imploding over this issue the Liberal Party has ensured that after the next election, the Labor party will be in a position to pass whatever legislation they want without amendment.
While the climate change skeptics in the Liberal Party never held a strong enough position to block the legislation past the next election, they held a strong enough position in the short term to win a number of important concessions from the Labor party to benefit their members. The Liberal Party has squandered this position, and ensured the worst possible outcome for their members and the climate change skeptics alike.