One of the major commitments in the Labor-Greens agreement was for a cross-party committee to look for a way forward on a climate price. The details of the committee structure have now been sorted out, and it looks like it’s serious. The membership, terms of reference and structure are explained in the Prime Ministerial press release.
The PM will chair the committee, with Greg Combet and Christine Milne as the deputy co-chairs. Wayne Swan will also be on the committee, as will another Greens representative (almost certainly Bob Brown). There will be two independents, with Tony Windsor already agreeing to join it. There’s also a standing invitation for two Coalition MPs, though it seems unlikely that those invitations will be taken up.
Almost as interesting is the expert panel who will advise the committee – Ross Garnaut, Professor Will Steffen, Patricia Faulkner and Rod Sims. Garnaut, along with his private advisory role, has also been asked to update the Garnaut Review.
Michelle Grattan’s report describes the makeup of the committee as an indication of “The Greens post-election power”. Well, yes. But it does seem to me that there is the structure in place for a serious attempt to find something workable here; the people with the power to actually negotiate will be in the same room, at the same time, with credible expert advice in addition to everything the bureaucracy can bring to the table.
Of course, the numbers on the floor of the House being what they are, climate price supporters will need either Rob Oakeshott or a dissident Coalition member to get the support of the House. While it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they might pick off a Coalition dissident if something goes to Parliament, it seems unlikely that we’ll get direct involvement at the committee stage (though who knows what might get discussed unofficially). Oakeshott’s voting record suggests that he’s got no in-principle objection to a carbon price. The best chance of getting such a price through is therefore to get him involved in the process of designing it as soon as possible.