Where I Weigh In On The Carbon Tax

11 July 2011
It's been a tough few months for those of us on this side of politics - trying to defend the carbon tax without the firm details of how the thing was going to work. Yesterday all was revealed -  a carbon price of $23 a tonne applying to the top 500 polluters only, exemptions and assistance for high emissions high trade industries (worth $60,000 a job to the steel industry), generous compensation for just about everyone.  I'm outraged.

Outrage is the emotion du jour. It would hardly have mattered to great heaving slabs of the population what the details of the carbon tax package were, they were against it. Tony Abbott appeared on Neil Mitchell's Melbourne radio show this morning, declaring Tony Abbott: "I am here to attack the carbon tax, not to explain it." Mitchell replied "But you have no detail?". Laughter. And we see measured, thoughtful responses like this one from the Herald Sun website (and being the responsible journalists they are, I'm sure they've reported this and provided the IP address to the AFP). The generous tax breaks make no difference - they simply don't believe Gillard or Labour on this.

In light of this, I'm pretty disappointed myself. Since whatever was announced would have been rejected, I would have liked to see a carbon tax that would have hit all households not solely relying on government benefits for $10 a week at least - and not handed it back. Seriously, if you can't afford just over a dollar a day for the sake of the planet, your budget is seriously skewed somewhere. If you really, really can't afford it, then you'll make changes in your budget to reduce your consumption - which is what needs to happen anyway. Miranda Devine would have you believe that despite climate change being a leftist fantasy, most families are doing every last little thing they can to reduce their environmental impact. Nonsense. Look at all the pleasure drives, loaves of bread put in plastic carry bags, misused recycling bins, lights on at 1pm, all over the country. Petty little things yes but they all add up. How much prosperity as a nation do we need? We've gotten this far on an orgy of overconsumption and overpackaging, and now it's time to put the brakes on just a teeny little bit. We don't even need to slow down, just accelerate slightly less.

And the tax can go to infrastructure projects, renewable energy, replacing the jobs that thew doomsayers are convinced will be lost and building the public transport everyone agrees they cannot possibly lose. I have no idea why Labor hasn't gone down this road. If everyone is going to hate you anyway, why the caution? why not take steps to really make a difference?

Too bad if you're sick of all this - the media blitz is in full swing. Sadly when it comes to the future of the planet, it seems many people's first thought is "how will it affect me?". The Prime Minister is looking to assure, and Abbott to terrify, "Australian families". How do you get to be one of these families, I wonder? As a mother of almost-one, I don't have (nor do I intend to) the mandatory three kids you need for the Murdoch press to seek your opinion on this issue. DH doesn't drive a ute or work in a trade, we don't have a mortgage, I'm not and won't be a stay-at-home mother, and of course we don't live in a marginal seat (actually we do live in a marginal seat. But the margin is between Greens and Labor). Both the major party politicians and the press only care about a certain type of family. But that's nothing new.

I think Mungo MacCallum has said it best so far - "the primary objective - the great moral, political and economic challenge of our times - is to be all but submerged in an indiscriminate pandering to the greed and self-interest of as many people as possible." But we'll see if the government can pull this off. They've got two years, if they don't give in to Abbott's megalomanic demands for another election. I guess it's a start.


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