Photo: US Dept of State
Following a leadership vote at 9am Thursday 24 June 2010, Australia may have a new Prime Minister. It seems likely the deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will be chosen by her political party to dethrone the country's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Australia may end up with its first female Prime Minister but it also signals a government in crisis. And climate change is being fingered at the reason.
UPDATE: Indeed, such events did occur. Read what the new Australian Prime Minister has to say on the climate change issue.
Kevin Rudd swept in to office, a mere two and half years ago, promising reforms on many levels, key among them climate change. His first act as leader of the country was to sign the Kyoto Protocol. He then attempted to set up an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) or what our US readers would know as a Cap and Trade scheme. He nearly got this through the Australian Parliament, but needed the support of the opposition party. Their leader, Malcolm Turnbull, negotiated some amendments, but was then dramatically ousted by his party at the 11th hour and the ETS reform was defeated. And thus were sown the seeds of a massive loss of faith by the Australian populace.
At one time, ranked close to the most popular Australian Prime Minister of all time, Kevin Rudd's fall from grace can be tied to his decision to defer for several years any direct action on an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), once a central plank of his action on climate change, an issue he famously described as "the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time."
When the opposition parties refused to allow the ETS to be passed into law, and the UN Copenhagen climate change talks ended in fiasco, Kevin Rudd had the option to dissolve both houses of the government, and take the issue to the public in a fresh election. When he chose not to do that, given the emphasis he'd previously ascribed to the issue of climate change, the Australian public seemed confused about what he stood for.
Many other stumbles have followed since but climate change and evironmental action is where it all began to unravel.
When Kevin Rudd and the Labor Part were elected in late 2007 we wrote:
"How all this will pan out is anyone's guess. Politicians rarely deliver on election promises. And it is likely being in office will involve more compromises than lofty visions."
What the next few hours and then six months or so before the next election, will bring is also hard to deduce, but climate change has already resulted in the demise of one Prime Minister, the previous incumbent, John Howard, as well as two Liberal leaders, Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull. Another Prime Minister may be about to find it is a bridge too far.
More Australian Politics and Climate Change
Australia: The Politics of Environment - A Brief Round-Up
Climate Change to be a Determining Factor in Australia's Election
A Democracy at Work: Australia Votes on Climate Change
The World's 5 Most Inspiring Green Leaders
No One Else Is Reducing Emissions That Much So We Won't Either: Australia's Prime Minister