Essay by Eric Worrall
Although the dust hasn’t fully settled, its looking increasingly likely Australia will have one of the greenest governments in our history, after the panicked last minute conservative attempt to embrace Net Zero spectacularly backfired, and led to a string of losses to “Teal Independents”. But Australia is about to face some very serious economic problems which green ideology can’t fix.
Who are the independents likely headed to parliament after election night’s ‘teal bath’?
By political reporter Jake Evans
Election night is shaping as a resounding victory for a group of independents who have challenged both parties to do more on climate change and accountability.
- Liberal MPs Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman and Jason Falinski are likely to lose to independents
- A handful of new independents could become the power brokers in the next parliament
- Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong has not been called
The so-called “teal independents” are candidates contesting in typically safe Liberal seats on a platform of greater climate action and implementing a federal integrity commission.
These candidates were backed by a well-funded campaigning machine called Climate 200, which raised about $12 million from more than 11,000 donors.
And while most of these independents are challenging established Liberal politicians, Labor is also taking note of the rise of so many independents.
The Teal independents, who have challenged and appear in some cases to have defeated inner city heartland Conservatives, have presented as economically moderate deep greens. Scott Morrison attempted to outflank them with a last minute switch to supporting Net Zero late last year, but it looks inner city voters chose real greens over the counterfeit. All ScoMo’s Net Zero push did was alienate supporters elsewhere, who expressed that disappointment by voting for minor parties and independents.
The Teals, who may hold the balance of power in the incoming government, received substantial financial and logistical support from Climate 200, which was founded by and is led by billionaire mining and renewable energy entrepreneur Simon Holmes à Court. So I don’t think we need to guess what policy positions they will push.
The incoming Left Wing labor government will likely need the support of the Teals and Green Party to form government. They already openly back massive investment in green energy, having to please green coalition partners will just confirm this tendency.
The question in my mind is how the new government will handle some very real problems which are developing.
The politically motivated lack of investment in Australia’s ageing coal power fleet has caused wholesale power prices to double over the last year. Nobody invests money in plant and equipment which could face imminent shutdown or punitive taxes.
The outgoing coalition government was toying with the idea of a government funded fossil fuel power plant, but I somehow doubt the incoming government will continue that policy – their policy position is the power price increases were caused by lack of investment in renewables.
There is the matter of the coming food crisis. The Ukraine war has triggered a rise in fertiliser prices and a drop in the international supply of grain. Australia, a major primary food producer, may be less badly hit than some places, but we produce very little fuel or fertiliser, so we will feel the full impact of international price rises in these commodities. Fertiliser production requires lots of cheap energy, and we’ve seen precious little of that lately. Even if Australia maintains food production, ordinary Australians will still feel the price rises. And as global shortages loom, there will be strong incentives to cash in on the lucrative overseas market.
Then there is the matter of coal. The only reason Australia has retained a level of financial stability the last few years is booming mineral and coal exports. Coal alone contributes 10s of billions of dollars to our balance of trade and export earnings. But a deep green government could end all that. Of course, as the Chinese economy collapses under an insane series of Covid lockdowns and their real estate market collapse, as Europe embraces economically suicidal green policies, and as the USA sags under Bidenflation, it seems likely demand for our mineral exports will sag, even without damaging policies imposed by deep green zealots. The rise in global food prices won’t help fix this – see my point about fuel and fertiliser prices undermining agricultural profits.
Add to this the embarrassing economic ignorance of our likely new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who recently explained the best way to fight inflation is generous wage rises.
I fear Australia could be in for a rough ride. I don’t think we’ll go full Sri Lanka, but its going to be an interesting few years.