Andrew Forrest

By Tina Perinotto

Comment: 25 June 2010 – Mining industry leader Andrew Forrest last night quipped that if anyone has blood on their hands over the political assassination of elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd it was tax reform architect Ken Henry who had dared to design a super tax on the mining industry.

Almost the first words Julia Gillard uttered as Australia’s new Prime Minister was to declare a truce with the mining industry over the recent mining tax advertising wars. Expect major concessions as soon as humanly possible.

It’s another backdown, demanded by the people who mine this earth of its rich  resources. One version of the analysis is that the Labor Party couldn’t back down yet again, on a declared policy intention, so Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had to go.

For environmental issues, this does not bode well. Among those first words of Gillard’s were assurances that the emissions trading scheme would indeed be kept on the back burner. (No matter how weak The Greens think it is, the power of the ETS is in the signal that it sends to the entire country that action on climate change warrants a big change; and at least it is a huge mechanism that is capable of big changes.)

As wonderful as Julia Gillard is, as fantastic as it is to get a woman as Prime Minister, this sacking yesterday, which felt almost as deep as the sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975, shows why it’s been so hard for the will of the people on climate change to prevail in this country.

Yesterday the mining industry crowed about The Sacking Mark II but, as as Lateline’s Tony Jones asked last night, what signal does it send to any new Prime Minister?  The answer? That it doesn’t matter what the voting people of this country want, the resource miners are the people who are really in charge.

Harsh words but what other conclusion is there?

You couldn’t help but know that the moment Rudd took office he was under the mandate of an entirely new electorate – one that doesn’t go to the polls but knows how to prevail all the same.

His fall from popularity came harshest with his decision to back down from the emissions trading scheme;
his worst mistake was to not call a double dissolution at the start of this year when he would have romped home for another term. But given what’s happened this week, maybe this would have been a pyrrhic victory anyway; a similar result as yesterday’s may have prevailed in any case.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott got his leadership role the same way  – remember the mammoth campaign the polluting industry waged when it thought the ETS would get through Parliament, supported by Abbott’s forebear Malcolm Turnbull?

What’s next?

Let’s just ask the miners.