Cartoon: by Bill Leak Source: The Australian
Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience. – Tom Lehrer: “Wernher von Braun”
Politicians tend to view ‘national interest’ and ‘common good’ in terms that reflect their own self-interest and prejudices to a remarkable degree.
Green independent MP Andrew Wilkie supports a carbon tax but will only vote for it if industries in his electorate are shielded from the damage it will do. The rest of Australia can go screw itself because its something he favors and in the national interest. He raged over compensation to ‘big polluters’ (as he calls secondary industry) until realizing that there was a zinc smelter in his electorate:
And the MP for the Hobart seat of Denison is using his deciding vote to extract maximum benefit for all his constituents. First on the list is a guarantee of a "fair deal" for Hobart zinc smelter Nyrstar, which lies in the heart of Denison and employs 560 people.
In February, Mr Wilkie created alarm by suggesting he would not support the carbon tax if it included excessive compensation for "big polluters". However, on a visit to Nyrstar, perched on headland jutting into the River Derwent at Lutana, the MP was given a presentation that appeared to shift his position.
Smelter general manager Jeremy Kouw said Mr Wilkie had softened his stance and was now sympathetic. "He wants to make sure we don't end up with any perverse outcomes where we would see a company using best available technology and renewable energy go out of business because of the carbon tax," Mr Kouw said.
The carbon tax is tricky for Mr Wilkie, as the southern half of his electorate is one of the greenest constituencies in Australia, while the northern half is traditional working-class and once solid Labor.
In the affluent southern suburbs of Battery Point, Sandy Bay and South Hobart, where Mr Wilkie a former Greens Senate candidate gained a large chunk of his votes at last year's election, support for a carbon tax appears high. However, north of Creek Road, in traditional working-class suburbs such as Glenorchy, Goodwood and Lutana, Tony Abbott's anti-carbon tax campaign is striking a chord among tradies and Nyrstar workers.
Mr Wilkie, who relied on preference flow to win Denison with a primary vote of just 21 per cent, knows that to retain the seat in a campaign to be fought largely on a carbon tax, he must walk both sides of Creek Road on the issue.
His strategy is clear: if he can back the tax and protect big employer Nyrstar while winning broader concessions for Tasmania, it should be a win-win for him politically.
"I support, in principle, the government's move to put a price on carbon, but the settings must be right," Mr Wilkie said. "People on low incomes must be properly compensated; high-emission, trade-exposed industries such as the zinc works in Hobart must be fairly treated.Sometimes it seems that the left feel that they could make a perfect world, if only they didn’t have the misfortune to be stuck with the need for the votes of the working class, who tend to be so bloody crass as to want jobs.