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BY ROGER HANNEY

As Minister for Water and the newly-created, highly-complicated portfolio of Climate Change, Penny Wong needs Jedi-like powers. So when she, as Minister and a South Australian politician, declared nothing could be done to save the Lower Murray, she must have meant something else.

Since her declaration in early August, local and national campaigns have gone into overdrive, with increasing pressure for government intervention and new solutions being proposed almost every other day.

It even looks like something might get done, because she said nothing could be done. This may have been her intent; a government forced to act by public and media mandate, rather than forced to push stronger action against resistant irrigators and industries.

But maybe it wasn’t. You just don’t know.

And that is the genius of federal Labor’s environmental policy.

This is not the brazen ’80s when a Prime Minister fought against state premiers to save the Franklin River or to stop Queensland exporting whole islands to Japan. From ’96 onward at least we knew everything Howard’s minions did environmentally was pure evil.

Now we have politicians more into committees than commitment. Elected with a massive mandate, they mistakenly treated Brendan Nelson as though he was credible, a precaution that kept his 5c discount on the front pages for nearly six weeks.

We were promised bullying trade union leaders who’d spend half their time destroying corporations and the other half too drunk to remember they’d been in a strip club. That’s the party I put a 2 next to.

Instead we have policy by upset. People got upset about Wong’s Murray comments, so now the ALP might do something. Carbon reductions have been designed not to upset the people who most need upsetting, like coal exporters, power stations, and forestry.

Speaking of forestry, heroic environmental inaction by Peter Garrett may yet prove to have been political Kung Fu. It looks as though the proposed pulp mill in Tasmania may disappear without any help from the Rudderment. Unless they help it not to, which they might.

But you just don’t know.

It reminds me of something Peter Cook once said: that it’s a fine line between clever… and stupid.