The primary obligation of the Australian government is to serve the Australian people. This means that policies should only be enacted where they are in Australia’s national interest.
Unfortunately, the Discussion Paper appears to take it as a given that pursuit of international emissions reduction policies is in Australia’s national interest. However, the drafters of the document have failed to demonstrate this is the case. Indeed, the document doesn’t use a net benefit framework, and implicitly assumes that actions by Australia can have tangible effects on the global climate. In effect this is assuming the result.
The lack of a net benefit assessment is a part of a growing and worrying trend in public policy making. Policy makers largely assume that there is an inevitable arch of history, which, in the environment context, will end in a net zero emissions world. The role of government, in this view, is to push Australia as hard and fast to that perceived inevitable end point. Because the objective of a net zero emissions economy is presented in moral terms, even as a do-or-die ultimatum, tangible costs incurred along the arch are not considered relevant.