MUNGO MACCALLUM. Angus Taylor’s thought bubbles: from the second rate to the already discredited

Our current government has become inordinately keen on producing road maps, and its most recent cartographer is our constantly embarrassed and embarrassing energy minister, Angus Taylor.

Taylor’s hand picked team in the draft room has developed yet another version of what he misleadingly calls an emission reducing strategy, but which even he quietly admits is actually a formula – or at least a cloud of thought bubbles – aimed at shutting up the activists while not seriously affecting the economy, by which he means no new taxes.

Instead he will rely on technology, which he apparently believes comes at absolutely no cost. Our innovative minister has just invented the free lunch.

As you would expect from Taylor and his motley collection of bureaucrats and rent seekers, the result is a grab bag of possible solutions ranging from the second rate to the already discredited. In the first category comes a reliance on gas as a stop-gap measure until renewables take over, and in the last soil technology and carbon capture, which have both already received lavish government funding with no discernible outcome.

And of course there is the obligatory nod to nuclear power, as unrealistic as the crusade by the zealots has always been. At least the madness of funding a new coal-fired power station in the north, as demanded by the Queensland mafia, has been quietly shelved – well, for the moment.

Hydroelectricity and battery storage – Malcolm Turnbull’s Snowy 2.1 – get favourable mentions, but there will be no real money for the established renewables – solar and wind, which we are told can now stand on their own feet. There are a couple of encouraging signals for electric vehicles (but not for a while) and hydrogen power, the only idea that seems to be taken at all seriously.

But the real, the proven solution for reducing emissions is not even on the table. Any hint of emissions trading, as it is now being re-embraced in most other parts of the civilized world, is anathema to Taylor and his party of denialists. This is right outside his road map, indeed outside his chart of the known world. Here be dragons.

Last week’s announcement was not even a real road map – others described it as a discussion paper for a road map, barely a glint in the Cabinet’s eye. And like most of the wizard wheezes devised by Scott Morrison and his bumbling bunch of ditherers, it is not about policy, but about options: we’re certainly not committing to anything, but we are letting you know that we are thinking about this and when we get round to doing something about it, in due course, we will probably let you know.

That is, if we can find someone to tell us the date. Taylor’s press handout was marked 21 June – premature certainly, but perhaps looking forward to Midwinter Eve – the shortest and bleakest day of the year. Maybe he has the idea is that it can only get better from here. Or maybe he needs not only a road map, but a calendar.

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Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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