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Monday, June 20th, 2011 02:54 pm
From these articles:

"Mr Abbott [...] says the Australian people should be able to vote on one of the biggest economic changes in Australia's history."

You what?

Well, of course. Let's have a plebiscite about this tax. Just like the one we had about the GST.

Oh, hang on. There wasn't one.

There was a lot of horse-trading between the various state governments and the Commonwealth government, and there was one hell of a lot of political bargaining between the various parties in the House and the Senate. But there wasn't a plebiscite. The idea of asking the Australian people about whether they'd like a brand new regressive[1] tax imposed on them wasn't even floated - possibly because the Powers-That-Be in Canberra knew perfectly well that the answer would be somewhere between "no" and "hell, no!" So we just had the Liberals engaging in a lot of horse trading with the minor parties and independents in the Senate (Senator Brian Harradine? Remember him?) and making the decisions for us based on what they thought we'd like (which led to such thoroughly logical things as condoms and safety razors being GST free, but feminine "sanitary articles" being taxed).

What about some of the other things we weren't asked our opinions of - things like going to war in Iraq; going to war in Afghanistan; participating in the "War on Terror" (what, nouns are a threat now?); the various "solutions" to refugee issues which mainly consisted of "White Australia Policy II"; the health insurance industry subsidies (aka "Medicare levy discount"); WorkChoices; the continuing "deregulation" of the Australian media - little things like those? Should the ALP have been able to stand up and say "we want a plebiscite on this" about every single issue?

I think one of the things Mr Abbott has forgotten is this: Australia is a representative democracy. This means instead of spending $69 million on a giant opinion poll of the Australian public over every single damn issue, we spent that $69 million once every three or four years on a bunch of smaller opinion polls about which person is going to represent our opinions over in Canberra. It's what the parliamentary system is for. We had an election a year ago. The results of that election still stand, even if Mr Abbott thinks the majority of the Australian public got it seriously wrong.

We had our plebiscite a year ago. We voted in a hung parliament rather than a simple majority of either party. We heard both leaders make commitments to work for a "better, less adversarial solution" to the problem of law-making. Funny how only the ALP seems to be keeping those commitments. Mr Abbott, your party doesn't appear to be willing to fish, or to cut bait - so why should we be listening to you?

[1] Regressive taxes are the ones which take a bigger proportion of your income the less you earn - and a 10% sales tax on most goods and services is definitely something which takes a proportionately bigger chunk out of a lower income, as opposed to a higher one. This is because people on a lower income spend a larger proportion of their income on inflexible (unchangeable) expenses - things like food, water, power etc - than people on higher incomes.

PS: For those wonderful people on the comments thread of the second article I listed who strongly implied that the GLOBAL problem of GLOBAL climate change isn't something Australians can (or indeed should) address by internalising the cost of pollution to our polluting industries, I have one simple question: in your opinions, who should be making the changes, and when?

I'm strongly of the opinion that the problem of global warming is somewhat like the problem of emptying the oceans - "every little helps". Someone has to try something. Someone has to go first. Why not us, and why not now?
Monday, June 20th, 2011 12:32 pm (UTC)
There's a lot of argument about what the best method of dealing with the externalities of power generation and manufacturing that produce greenhouse gasses is. But we are running out of time for the 'perfect' solution. What we need is to start having some solutions implemented. The carbon tax, which imposes extra costs on those people who pollute may indeed increase prices of those things. But provided there is some compensation to those who are living on the edge financially speaking, it now will give them the option of choosing cleaner options for power and so forth, because they will now be comparable in price rather than significantly more expensive than the dirty power and products.

And you are right that we have to start somewhere. If everyone waits for everyone else to start, then nobody will.
Monday, June 20th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
The carbon tax will do absolutely nothing to reduce the carbon pollution being emitted by the biggest producers - they will simply pass on the entire cost to the end consumers - us - and go about their merry business. The only way the tax will have an effect on emissions is to totally prevent them from passing ANY cost on - if they have to absorb and wear the tax, they will very quickly find lower-cost options and options that do not attract the tax.

This tax is simply another impost to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Monday, June 20th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
Sure, if you choose to buy from the polluting producers. The point of the carbon tax is that they now have to pay for some of the cleanup. The externalities that their pollution is causing that they are not currently paying for. It doesn't limit the pollution as much as a properly done ETS would, but that's for the future. The point of the whole carbon tax thing is that it now means that the things that appeared to be cheap because they were dirty, but weren't cleaning up their mess, are now equivalent in price, or close to, those things which are not nearly as dirty or polluting. So, if two things are now equivalent in price, and one is a dirty technology and one is a clean one. Which will you pick to spend your money on?
I know which I will. I'm already choosing cleaner technologies where I can.
Since the tax is combined with some compensation for those who do not have high incomes, it will mean, at least for the short term, that people will be able to choose cleaner sources who have not been on a level playing field up until now.
Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
For many things we have no choice but to buy from the polluting suppliers (think gas and electricity. I think they're pretty essential to life, don't you think?) and therefore we will be hit with massive increases as they pass every cent of their increases on to us. They will not wear any of it. I'm not talking about place where we will actually have a choice (I bought my Miele frontloader because it was cleaner technology - high efficiency, low water use, low power use etc) - I'm talking about products and services we have no choice over. You can bet your boots that Alinta and Synergy will be boosting the end-price to consumers by the full amount of the carbon tax, knowing full well we can't go anywhere else (since solar is still cost-prohibitive for the vast majority of people).

Compensation will more than likely be doled out the way the nice little payments were for the GFC - those on Centrelink payments and those paying tax (up to a certain point) - but the catch for non-Centrelink recipients, like the incentives payment, will be you must be a family i.e. you must have kids to get anything approximating the real increase. Anything else will be a token amount, and only for those already earning an income. People like me will miss out - again - so our single-income non-family will be worse off again - or I will be forced to get a job that will make me sick all over again, just to make ends meet. We're almost at that point now with everything going up so much (our rates are going up 12% this year - 7% more than any other council in the metro area).

Yes I'm cynical - about the government, about their intentions, about their truthfulness and transparency - or lack thereof. And there's no propaganda in the world that can change that.