Apologies in advance to those with fixed views on a carbon tax. It is time the majority of Australians had a say. Well over half of us have shifted from supporting carbon pricing leading into Copenhagen to now opposing. In early 2008, my seat of Bowman had the highest carbon trading scepticism of seats polled by the Climate Institute; at 16 per cent. It now runs at nearly 70 per cent and it helps to remember why.
Let’s deal with the shame issue up front. Most Australians have little interest in national shame, be it border policies, the apology, shame about our live exports or the fact we mine and smelt.
Most Aussies are tired of being told by the elite we should be ashamed of our per capita emissions. We don’t leave our vehicles on in the garage at night. Our emissions correlate perfectly with our wealth, our energy intense export profile and that with the world’s second lowest population density; we travel further. I see no shame in that
We are sceptical of the European Union and their rules on everything. They have weird trade protection quotas, which actually undoes the great work their foreign aid provides. We are unmoved by their guilt trips on how we manage our borders, because the jury is still out on their approach. No shame there either.
We are in the lead pack of nations on renewable energy, neither out in front nor lagging. I don’t want to fall in a hole like Spanish solar, nor have a €75 billion feed-in tariff like Germany which delays the onset of global warming by nine hours.
Our massive trade competitors like Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and Chile may be poorer, but we don’t want them taking our commodity jobs and investments in the name of ‘a climate solution’. Massive miners like the US and Canada are actually walking away from action.
No US Presidential candidate will take a carbon tax to the 2012 election. The UK is ultimately part of the EU and much like them, so we understand them joining in. But in our part of the world, the vast majority of south-east Asia watches us tax ourselves for the inputs they value add and export world-wide. The emissions according to the EU are ours.
The world reaches agreements not by going it alone, but through coalitions and confidence-building. We don’t sign landmine treaties on day one; we get everyone on the page and sign together. In fact, once you sign up, you actually surrender much of your diplomatic suasion.
It’s the same with trade negotiations. Nothing was achieved by simply dropping trade barriers and feeling good about ourselves. It is a painstaking and detailed process and Australia should depart from that approach with caution.
With 16 new or increased taxes from this Government, why can’t the 17th (the climate tax) be in place of an existing one (Norway replaced part of its payroll tax and called it a carbon tax) to reduce the cost of living burden. Why should we give our PM nine billion dollars a year to hand around as she sees fit, when much of the last $110 billion was spent so poorly during the crisis? (Surely I don’t need to list the programs).
There is not even a whiff of a carbon tax among our top three trading partners or among any of our commodity competitors. Outside the EU, nations like Singapore, Korea and New Zealand are hardly likely to move in on our share of export markets. Being brutal, Australia’s carbon tax announcement has led to no new nations contemplating one. So the momentum argument lacks just that.
China is busy selling the world cheap solar panels and replacing old dirty coal-fired power stations at the end of their life with new ones. But that isn’t emission trading. Even India’s a dollar a tonne on carbon is economically negligible. Far from inspiring others to join us, going it alone generates hundreds of commercial asymmetries which our competitors will rationally perpetuate by not acting.
The other great irony is that Australia’s ‘compassionate left’ appear unmoved by possible job losses at home. Back in 2007, they railed that ‘not a single worker be worse off under (certain) extreme laws’. Suddenly losing an industry or two, reducing growth, viability or new jobs barely rates consideration. Union bosses will always back a bad Labor Government over any Coalition alternative, so they happily abandon their own members and support the tax.
Last, there is the NBN argument, that we are wealthier if we transform our economy early. But solar power still costs 42cKwH, well above the residential tariffs we pay of 28cKwH and 6cKwH for coal. It is equally the case that others do the heavy and expensive lifting and Australia capitalise on new technology when it is cost-effective.
‘There will be no tax under the Government I lead’ will be Gillard’s political obituary. Some jest that Bob Brown leads, others wonder if it was naked deceit, or just a post-election strategy to appear to be a ‘conviction politician’ Gillard’s best excuse for the deception has been that she never foresaw a hung Parliament. So name the cross bencher who gave Gillard an ultimatum of ‘deliver on a carbon tax or I join Tony Abbott?’ The answer is no one.
After an impressive career in Opposition, too few days in the Lodge and facing a resurgent Tony Abbott, Gillard simply panicked on that pre-election Wednesday. That’s OK.
But given the choice between a promise to 22 million people and a pet policy, she chose the latter. That’s why an overwhelming majority of middle Australia remain sympathetic to the climate issue but want nothing to do with the PM’s new tax. (source)