Australian Senate Uproar Reveals Divisions Over Clean Energy

The Australian Senate has the task for reviewing the Clean Energy Future bills that have passed the lower house. Already, the Liberal-National parties are using interjections, procedural obstruction and filibustering to frustrate the passage of the legislation. Australia’s carbon price (initially a tax then a carbon market) and a $13.2 billion renewable energy stimulus package is at stake.

Figures released by the Senate show how divisive the debate is becoming, with this data on the last sitting week (11-13 October).

It shows that the Senate was forced to a division (a counted vote) 33 times in 3 days. This represents 17% of the 188 divisions for 2011 wheras the period of three days only represnts 7 percent of the 43 sitting days for 2011.

The rhetoric was inflammatory at times, as you can see if you download the official transpcript (or Hansard).

The Liberal-National Senators played to Australia’s anti-climate “Tea Party” movement. Some are mainstream politicians who accept climate science but are seeking to make political capital over the legislation. Others in the opposition are extremists who do not accept climate science, subscribe to outlandish conspiracy theories and call climatologists Nazis.

Barnaby Joyce (NAT, Qld) for example, said during the last sitting week that the carbon price legislation ‘will destroy our nation’;

We are on the edge of a precipice. This government is just completely and utterly self-indulgent.

It is just an absurd kafkaesque policy.
Senator Joyce (Hansard 11 Oct 2011, p.22-23)

This whole carbon tax is a joke.
Senator Cormann (Hansard 11 Oct 2011, p.24)

I am indebted to the Queensland Resources Council for pointing out that tomorrow is Pudding Day. … How very appropriate, the Queensland Resources Council points out, that the vote on the Gillard government’s carbon tax legislation is going to be on Pudding Day.
Senator Boyce (Hansard 11 Oct 2011, p.39)

When you think about this, you would have to think this is the greatest sell- out since Judas Iscariot took 30 pieces of silver.
Senator Boswell (Hansard 11 Oct 2011, p.48)

One of the interesting statistics that the Senate does not compile is the number and source of interjections. I did this myself and my count is that there were more than 81 interjections. (This is being overly lenient to the Liberal-National interjectors, who were far more prolific than I give them credit for in this tally.)

The 33 Liberal-National coalition Senators are 46 percent of the Senators on the floor of 71, but made 55 interjections (68 percent of the total).

Labor’s 30 senators on the floor (42 percent) made 24 interjections (30 percent of the total).

The Greens 9 senators are 12 percent on the floor. They made two interjections (two percent of the total).

Senators Xenophon (IND, SA) and Madigan (DLP, Vic) did not have any interjections recorded in Hansard.

The outcome of all the rage was failure in the sense that zero bills were voted down.

The Greens hold balance of power in the Senate and no amount of shouting can change that.

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Dan Cass is strategist at The Australia Institute and an honorary associate at Sydney Business School. He has advised international and Australian energy companies, and is now on the advisory board of Solar Head of State and was a director of Hepburn Wind. @DanJCass

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