Fry­den­berg pow­ers on

The Sunday Times - - Opinion - Peter van Onse­len Peter van Onse­len is The Sun­day Times’ po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and a pro­fes­sor at UWA.

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.

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