Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reframed her government’s carbon pricing agenda in an attempt to tap into the chief concerns of the electorate. Rather than making the case for climate legislation with the Great Barrier Reef-destroying rhetoric of her predecessor Kevin Rudd, Gillard is presenting climate change as an economic opportunity. In the words of political commentator Annabel Crabb, the government is ‘…replacing morality with economics.’

As Crabb points out at The Drum:

‘In the new Gillard formulation, action on climate change is no longer something to which Australia is morally obliged regardless of the behaviour of other nations; these days, it’s an economic race in which it would be perilous for Australia to fall behind.’

Following Gillard’s lead, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said that Australia risks its economic competitiveness if it does not soon implement a carbon price. The Age reports:

‘Mr Combet said a carbon price would boost Australia’s economic competitiveness by opening up new market opportunities and prompting investment in renewable and efficient gas-fired power.

He said countries that had low-emissions technologies would prosper most this century, and the Chinese and US economies were changing to deal with climate change.’

Interestingly, neither the United States nor China has national carbon pricing measures in place. Rather, they are using a combination of measures—e.g. renewable energy standards, public investment and loan guarantees—to deploy renewable energy and develop clean technology industries.

If the Prime Minister’s goal is for Australia to seize the economic opportunities of emerging clean technology markets, why would she make the case that carbon pricing is the only policy needed when it is evidently not the case? This position narrows the Labor government’s policy options and sets Gillard up for more climate change backflips.