Vote for pollution. Are we too stupid to deserve democracy?

So Tony Abbott claimed that Labor getting absolutely booted out of NSW was a rejection of Federal Labour’s push to a carbon tax. In other words it was all his doing – now that he’s told us we’ll all be paying more for just about everything if we introduce the carbon tax.

Sure Tony. the election result had nothing to do with a dozen years of corruption, lies, mismanagement and incompetence. (Personally I voted  for the “no Parking Tickets’ party – it was very clear that my vote wasn’t needed here). Even Barry O’Farell seemed to be unimpressed by Tony’s ridiculous claim which of course stole some of State Liberal’s thunder on the victory night. Unfortunately Tony’s irrational populist anti-carbon tax stance is finding favour beyond just the confines of the silly right, and is not at all helpful in trying to find the best way forward to

Let’s just take a step back..this is a tax applied to the worst industrial polluters whose objective is to incentivise investment in cleaner technologies and free up cash in the meantime to help deal with environmental damage. How can that possibly be seen as a bad thing? How can we not set ourselves on a path where investment in new plant is more effective when it uses clean technologies?

Part of the problem is those nasty dirty industries – cheered on by the Liberal Opposition –  saying they’ll simply pass on the cost of the tax to the consumer. I have a problem with this…called capitalism. If you put your prices up, I buy from the cheaper guy… isn’t that how it works? And if the other guys has lower costs because he manufactures cleanly ie at a lower tax rate and can therefore afford to offer a lower price,  then mission accomplished, everybody wins. as the Prime Minister said “It’s a simple idea in principle, if you make polluters pay when they polluet then they’ll reduce their emissions. It’s the language business understands”.

Of course, the dirty industries are not happy. The MD of Brickworks came out today saying the tax would cost the company $8m. This is a company whose net profit is one the up…to $117m. My question is this: why can this company which emits 400,0oo tonnes of CO2 each year not take on the cost of cleaning up its act.

According to the CEO of the Grattan Instutute,  about 92 per cent of the Australian economy uses or produces so little carbon or uses so little electricity, that a carbon price of $35 will have an impact of less than one and a bit per cent on its costs..(not) much relative to the impact of labour wage rates, exchange rates, interest rates.

Or this from Elaine Prior, an analyst at Citi: “Our view is that the likely sort of carbon scheme that we’re going to see won’t be enough to make industries unprofitable unless they were pretty marginal to start with. I know that there has been some concern for some industries, particularly steel, that there could be some problems there. That’s not really how we’re seeing it.”

Of course there are some truoble spots, steel and aluminium will be hot pretty hard. Those industries say the trade will simply go offshore to markets where polluters get away with it tax free.  Yes there will need to be some spot solutions, yes there will be some pain and readjustment.

But as voters is that enough for us to vote for continued pollution? And as industries is that enough for us to throw up our hands in defeat?

Per capita we are after all a major global polluter. As voters we need to see past the oppositions shallow appeals to our pockets and the government needs to maintain the focus of the debate on reducing pollution rather than allowing the opposition to hijack it into an argument about personal tax cuts which they are busily and effectively doing.

People and companies in every country resist higher taxes. Yet Sweden and Denmark have applied carbon taxes, or their equivalent, and are now among the most emission-efficient economies in the world.


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