Emissions Trading, Sustainable Population Growth & Management and Infrastructure Planning & Spending.

In any long-term strategic assessment, these three policy areas are inextricably entwined. They will largely determine the future which our children and their children inherit.

We have to put a price on carbon and the sooner we do so the better for both our economy and the environment. Whilst the Rudd Government’s proposed CPRS legislation was far from perfect it was, at least, a start. Had the Labor Government and The Greens been prepared to sit down together and discuss it, a workable compromise, less generous to the serious serial polluters, may have emerged. By comparison, The Coalition is led by a non-believer whose front-bench largely resembles the Howard ministry resurrected. If we ignore those, such as the former Treasurer, Senate Leader and Foreign Minister who have retired from politics, we have a pretty accurate picture of what an Abbott Government would offer in the area of carbon abatement. Officially, they are promising to reduce Australia’s emissions by five percent by 2020 by paying, rather than penalising, the worst polluters (e.g. Victoria’s brown coal power stations).

Any responsible government must have an enlightened policy on population. With the benefit of science and technology we know that the mindless mantra big is beautiful is no longer relevant. The planet does not need more people and, whilst those with a vested interest in boosting their bottom-lines, i.e. big business, have had the ears of Australia Governments for far too long, there’s no evidence from either of the major parties that they grasp the fundamental truth that GDP cannot continue to grow ad infinitum. The world’s, and Australia’s, resources are finite. This is another no brainer!

Once again, the exception here are The Greens. They see any shift from a carbon-based economy to a green one as inherently more sustainable and positive. They alone expound the economic benefits, the new sunrise industries and jobs which renewables can deliver. And, if we are to be a smarter, more sustainable country, then we need to seriously prioritise our public spending. For too long successive Australian Governments have pursued a low tax policy which deprives the public sector of the necessary income required for visionary projects such as fast-rail and a truly national high speed broadband. Other countries, smaller, poorer, than Australia can successfully design, build and operate high speed infrastructure. Why not us? In this area of policy we have long been obsessed with the great god car which, in turn has distorted all infrastructure decision-making in favour of roads, carparks, etc.

In summary, neither of the major parties’ policies engender much confidence that they have even begun to grasp the need for long-term planning and vision in these fundamental areas which may help to soften the shock of the inevitable downturn when the resources boom passes, as all booms must. This is particularly true when we’ve put far too many eggs in the one basket, China. However, the Labor Government has at least shown a willingness to move away from the tired worn-out conventional mindset of The Coalition. Sadly, the one party with an enlightened, well thought-out platform embracing all aspects of sustainable development will, at best, hold the balance of power in The Senate. The Greens understand the environment and have a long-term vision for Australia’s carbon emissions, population and infrastructure.