I have long supported a price on carbon. Scientists know what is happening to the planet and have plenty of peer reviewed evidence. As I am an English and History teacher with no scientific qualifications, I tend to trust people who are qualified in such things. In this, I differ from the former History and English teacher from the Kings School who has a radio show, the mathematics grad who writes a column and that journalist fellow from the Mornington Peninsula who has been given his own TV show (reputedly) by a second generation miner who doesn’t like the idea of paying more tax. It shouldn’t be a discussion. But the current reaction to the carbon tax has made it a discussion.
Australians hate paying tax. The sensible GST causing all sorts of panic in 1993 was evidence of that, as was the hysteria surrounding the same tax in 1998. It’s a good tax which has been a vast improvement on the previous sales tax model. This tax, however, has created even more hysteria than the GST. That’s because I suspect most of the people who oppose it like their short term money more than they like the long term health of the environment. A chunk of those opponents would therefore also be ready to accept any “argument” put by a climate change denialist that it’s an unnecessary measure.
The irony of all this is that these “working families” won’t be paying the tax. It’s not a tax in the traditional sense – the tax word is related to fixed nature of the carbon price for the first 3 years of the scheme. For most of us, the tax will relate mostly to energy costs – because even petrol is being excluded from the tax.
This carbon tax, I suspect, should appeal to the famed “bogan” to the max. There’s a whole range of compensation payments and taxation changes that is meant to be a siren song to those people who “aspire” to have more money. It’s families that receive the compensation, not singles. There’s a bigger lift in the tax free threshold, so there’s more scope for a part time job to be undertaken by the second income earner without having to pay tax. And, surprising as this may seem to many, the rich of the outer suburbs enthusiastically took up the offer of the Rudd Government in helping to fund solar panels. Drive down Englorie Park Drive, Glen Alpine – one of the highest concentrations of McMansions – any day and you’ll see a heap of them, saving money – especially now, as their lower energy consumption from the grid won’t be caned by the carbon tax.
The messaging of the ALP, then, should be about the taxation reform and the “real” costs to the “working families” and say that the side benefit is a long term environmental benefit. The money first, the environmental stuff second. And also tell them that mining jobs don’t affect them in the slightest. Because they don’t. This week’s offer made to Macarthur Coal tells us that it’s business as usual in mining land – all they were waiting for was certainty and we have that. The reality of this carbon tax is that it hasn’t touched the middle class welfare system started by Howard and Costello. There’s still that system of compensations and payments that working families that earn a combined income of $100,000 and above actually don’t need.
Then there is Tony Abbott. The more I hear about the “Direct Action” plan, the more I think it’s pure DLP central planning. The DLP love a central planning idea – after all, the Catholic Church is a massive centrally planned organisation. The idea of using taxation revenues to compensate the reformed polluters is very Catholic, in that it’s almost as if the polluters are being rewarded for having their mea culpa moment and their return to the flock. I am also amused by the idea of funding a range of oddball environmental experiments. It sounds like those plans in the late 90s where independent and state schools were falling over themselves to invent some kind of environmental project, in order to attract Howard pork barrelling money.
The analysis of the carbon tax must run alongside analysis of Abbott’s “Direct Action”. It’s not enough anymore for Abbott to just say no. This is why the disingenuous opinion piece in The Drum composed by Erin Riley is seriously flawed. It tells us that it’s the overcompensation in the carbon tax that is “making her a Liberal” – whilst she ignores the Abbott plan and the Howard/Costello middle class welfare system. If Riley was serious about being a swinging voter, she would have included analysis of Liberal taxation and welfare policy and how it rates next to this tax reform. I suspect, though, that she isn’t serious about her Road to Menzies House conversion.
Fortunately, though, we do have people comparing the packages – Peter Van Onselen sees the vapidity of Direct Action and Peter Martin showing just why it’s dangerous nonsense for Abbott to write off economists as easily he does climate science. When I heard Abbott saying that, it made me more fearful of an Abbott Government, simply because he really does seem to have little idea of the complexities of economics and is dedicated simply to enforcing his 1960s DLP view of the world on the country, where life and money were simpler things.
For what I have seen, however, the carbon tax “debate” has had large dollops of stupid. There was this outburst from Prue McSween and there’s the usual stuff from Jones, Hadley, et al. But that is Australia, to an extent – if it’s about losing money, we are immediately in outrage. It’s better to switch off sometimes.