I think Australia has finally gone bonkers, at least the Tory part of it. How could any credible political party elect a man who has such a casual relationship with principle an whose past is littered with bullying, sexism, egotism and self-promotion to such an enormous degree? Abbott is surely the least electable prospect on the Liberal horizon, part from that comedian Kevin Andrews. And now the debate will start in earnest over climate change, with the Trogs like Nick Minchin able to peddle their anti-intellectual, pro-business scare-mongering to the public at large. The only result will be to annihilate the liberal wets in the Senate at the next election , with the Greens left holding the balance of power. Thank God that looney Protestant proxy, Steve Fielding, will be sidelined. But sucked in, Joe Hockey: Shrek was too clever by half.

Ross Gittins had some sensible comments in his SMH column this morning. Some extracts…

Scaremongering over the trading scheme is worse than the fear campaign against the GST. Don’t be fooled.

It is pathetically easy to frighten people about the consequences of complicated economic changes. Labor did it to the Liberals over the introduction of the goods and services tax, now the Libs are returning the compliment with the trading scheme.

The scaremongers claim the scheme is a form of disguised taxation. That’s true. It would force up the price of energy (though not petrol for at least the first three years) because most energy generation uses fossil fuels that cause large emissions of carbon dioxide.

Making fossil fuels more expensive is intended to encourage us to use them less wastefully, insulate our homes, switch to solar power and so forth. It’s also intended to encourage electricity generators and others to switch to low-emission sources of energy.

It’s said that the cost of electricity is built into the cost of everything we buy, so all prices would go up. That is true, but exaggerated. For most things, the cost of electricity is a small proportion of their retail price, so this effect will be a lot smaller than the scaremongers lead you to believe.

Would a lot of jobs be lost and a big hole knocked in economic growth? No. The changes would be quite gradual and would mainly take the form of some emissions-intensive industries growing weakly or stagnating while other, low-emissions industries expanded more strongly.

Joyce keeps saying this new tax will do nothing to reduce climate change. That’s a half-truth. It is true that, since only a reduction in global emissions will affect the climate, Australia’s contribution to global emissions is too small to affect our climate or anyone else’s.

But this is why our Government would reduce our emissions by only 5 per cent of their 2000 level by 2020 in the absence of action by other countries. Such a modest target is hardly likely to wreak havoc in our economy.

The scaremongers want you to believe that foolhardy Australia is going first in cutting emissions, leaving us open to exploitation. It isn’t true. The Europeans and some others already have schemes running and in the past few weeks many developed countries have announced what they are prepared to do if an agreement is forthcoming.

And the sooner we get started, the less the disruption to the economy. The main way reductions will occur are by businesses and households opting for more energy-efficient or low-emission models when it comes time to buy a new car, electrical appliance or hot-water heater, build a new home or replace a worn-out power station.

So the earlier we get the scheme started, the more we can avoid the tragedy of people making new, long-term investments in polluting technology. It has suited the interests of people on both sides of politics to cause us, or allow us, to be misinformed about the consequences of an emissions trading scheme. Don’t be anyone’s dupe.