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Power failure: a study of climate politics and policy under Rudd and Gillard

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posted on 02.03.2017, 00:59 by Chubb, Philip Anthony
Employing an innovative synthesis of policy network theory with an analysis of leadership types and wicked public policy problems, this thesis is a detailed analysis of the failed political strategies behind the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments’ attempts to introduce durable policies to price carbon emissions. The thesis is based on seventy-four interviews with politicians, political staff and public servants who were intimately involved in the climate policy development process in the years 2007 to 2103. Those interviewed include prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard; climate change ministers Greg Combet and Penny Wong; treasurer Wayne Swan; Greens leader Christine Milne; rural independent Rob Oakeshott; and government adviser Ross Garnaut. The narrative moves from the 2007 election, when both major parties went to the polls committed to pricing carbon, through Rudd’s proposed emissions trading scheme and its rejection in the Senate, to the development and implementation of the Gillard Labor ‘carbon tax’. It concludes with the watershed 2013 election, which was won by the conservative Liberal-National Party Coalition on the strength of its unequivocal promise to dismantle Labor’s carbon initiatives, a promise largely fulfilled in mid-2014. The narrative is told in two parts, the first of which deals with the Rudd government and the second with the Gillard government. Building on the work of UK scholars Compston and Bailey, the thesis proceeds from the understanding that governments are in a position to grant policy concessions to those who want them, such as opponents in legislatures, business and green groups, in return for political resources such as formal approval of the policy, cooperation with implementation, private investment in the economy, and political support. This insight informs the structure of the thesis, which is designed for the most part to facilitate the close examination of the strategic successes and failures of the two governments in the context of the conceptual framework. Each chapter focuses on how well or badly government has collaborated with major players in the pursuit of resource exchange - or whether it has collaborated at all. Throughout the thesis the narrative switches from Canberra’s insulated world of policy deals to local perceptions of the policies in the Latrobe Valley, a coal-dependent Victorian region where carbon pricing was expected to produce adverse impacts. While the Valley had unique characteristics, it was also representative of the extreme stresses in Australia’s industrial regions, where livelihoods would be hit directly by the reforms. The downstream experience of these communities, where fear of the impact of carbon pricing often flourished unchecked, and where the climate change scepticism that swept through the Liberal-NP Coalition in 2009 gained its start, provides a powerful lens through which to crystallise the strengths and weaknesses of national policy making and politics. The regions, including the Valley, are important in themselves, but they also demand study because they were the initial source of the fire that eventually consumed the moderate leadership of the Liberal Party and then the CPRS.


Principal supervisor

Paul Strangio

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

School of Social Sciences (Monash Australia)


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts