CAVEAT emptor: yet another Liberal Party ratchet scam is afoot this week and it will hornswoggle many. The media rounds of shadow energy and ‘climate change’ spokesman Ted O’Brien indicate the Opposition will take a policy of grid nuclearisation to the next election – much to the delight of most conservative commentators. Being sold as a hard-headed and opportune démarche, in reality the initiative is a capitulation almost as yellow as the cake it acclaims.
That’s not because the taboo on nuclear power in Australia is sensible but because the Coalition’s rationale for advocating its repeal is spurious and lily-livered in equal measure. Doctrinally chained to net zero, the Liberals now tout small modular reactors as the most reliable way to cut (benign) carbon dioxide emissions. O’Brien’s promo column in The Australian on Wednesday concentrated more on replacing coal with SMRs and slashing “around” 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 every year than it did on families and businesses struggling to pay for electricity. Nobody sensible doubts that nuclear power should comprise some portion of the energy mix in a big, wealthy, stable, uranium-abundant and growing nation. Yielding an evilly false premise to Labor, however – namely: Global Boiling is real and Canberra can reduce the earth’s temperature – reinforces the weather cult when the goal should be to destroy it. The Opposition must insist that oil, coal and gas – plus nuclear – will together guarantee the country’s needs for decades to come.
The phenomenon of gun-shy Liberals drifting leftward in increments and staying there to sidestep noisy charges of extremism isn’t new. The party assented to the net zero con in 2021 because Scott Morrison and News Corp concluded that scientific reality was no longer saleable. That’s the ratchet that has trapped every state division of the party – to the extent that most of their lukewarmness in the 2020s is not strategic at all but heartfelt. Yes, the conversion to nuclear rationality is fare more solid than usual but it’s wise to stare a Trojan horse in the mouth.