In 1831 a young French nobleman, Alexis de Tocqueville visited America. He believed that democracy was the way of the future, and that America was the most advanced democratic society. He set out to experience developments at first hand. His book Democracy in America is a classic, regarded by many as the best book ever on both America and democracy.
Tocqueville had a traditional view of political parties, which he regarded as essentially evil. He thought that a new time required a new political science. He made a distinction between great parties and small parties. Great parties, he believed, overturn societies, tearing them apart; small parties agitate within and degrade society.
Great parties are primarily concerned with principle, they deal primarily with generalities, they are interested in ideas and have real convictions.
Small parties are interested in consequences, not principles; they are concerned with particulars, not generalities; they focus on people rather than ideas; they are more interested in victory than conviction. They use violent language, but they act timidly.
It is clear from recent political history in Australia that politics has been dominated by small parties. At the recent ALP National Conference Bill Shorten showed that he is determined to make Labor the great political party it used to be.
This is clearly illustrated by his vision of 50% renewable energy by 2030, surely an idea whose time has come. It’s a grand vision that demonstrates real conviction and has the potential to overturn our society.
It’s a vision that needs to be viewed on an international rather than a selfishly local scale. Australia contributes less than 2% of the world’s carbon pollution. Even eliminating it completely will make no difference to the fact of catastrophic global warming; that will be determined by other developed nations. But it will serve as an example to other major polluters that Australia is a nation of integrity, prepared to pay its share for the sake of the planet.
Some will doubt that Australia’s example will change the behaviour of the major polluting countries - China, America, India, Russia for example. But we’ve been world leaders before. For a few years after the Howard government signed the Kyoto agreement, Australia led the world in setting and achieving renewable energy targets. The Abbott government’s policy of turning back the boats is acknowledged world-wide as being effective and life-saving.
Our resolve will be tested. Tony Abbott’s policy of removing funding from the solar/wind power industries must be rejected. He did it to the automotive industry, now he’s doing it to renewable energy - a multi-billion dollar contributor to our economy. The decision to redirect funding to unproven technology at the expense of our developed and proven industries is putting at risk the potential $8.7 billion analysts predict the wind industry will contribute to the economy in the next five years.
Renewables will contribute massively to our economy and create thousands of jobs. But we need to be realistic, there will be inevitable changes that must be planned for.
Obviously the coal industry will be a major loser. In regions like the Hunter and Latrobe Valleys thousands will be unemployed and regional economies disrupted. While this will be more than balanced by the opportunities made possible by the renewable energy sector, massive retraining and probably relocation of the workforce will be needed to prevent the problems which were created in South Australia by the Abbott government’s abandonment of the automotive industry.
Fortunately, wind farms and solar farms are usually located in rural locations, and this may offer a partial solution. AGL operates the country’s biggest solar farm at Nyngan, which will benefit the local economy This is another reason to ensure that a proper level of funding is available to the companies that provide these services.
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