Frydenberg powers on
ON Friday State and Territory leaders agreed to take the National Energy Guarantee to “the next stage”, which effectively means the Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg can seek party-room endorsement of it before a consultation period, after which States and Territories may or may not sign off on it. Clear as mud, I know.
It’s also unclear if Friday’s development was a win for Frydenberg or simply a stay of execution.
The States can still kill the deal.
But Frydenberg’s position looks better now than it did at the start of last week, and given there is broad support for the NEG and the Victorian Government is struggling politically ahead of a State election in November, it’s possible that Frydenberg wins this one.
If that happens, it will be a remarkable achievement, but not in terms of climate-change policy — the NEG does four-fifths of nothing on that front.
It will be a remarkable political achievement, bringing together State and Territory governments with different partisan stripes, holding together a Coalition party room that has a number of sniping reactionaries who want the deal dead, and ending the so-called “climate-change wars”, which have fractured debate for a decade.
In fairness, the NEG also provides a framework for future policy.
Frydenberg will have bragging rights like few others in the Federal Government if he wins. And that’s before considering the complex array of special interest groups and media commentators he has won over.
For the uninitiated, this is a guy who won’t leave you alone when it comes to this issue. I’ve taken a mere passing interest in the debate, but if I’ve had the slightest question Frydenberg has always made himself available. And that’s despite my constant negativity about him getting the deal done or, indeed, the value of getting the deal done.
I remain unconvinced how valuable the NEG really is, but the approach Frydenberg has taken is exactly what public policy advocates need to do — seek outcomes and make them as achievable as possible, consulting stakeholders along the way.
He’s not there yet, but he’s a hell of a lot closer to getting it done than most of us expected.