Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why can't Rudd do a carbon tax?

With the Federal election likely to be called this year, probably in August, the Rudd Labor government is now in campaign mode.  Consequently, its policies and focus are directed toward positioning themselves for winning the election and not much else.

The campaign strategy discussions may have unfolded something like this:

What will be our core platform for the election?
  • Let's do health, education, economic responsibility and the national broadband network
  • We will lob a new health funding model on the States and bully them into submission  so we appear tough and forceful
  • We can trade off avoiding the Global Financial Crisis claiming we saved Australia from financial ruin
What will be our main issues to defend for the election?
  • We completely flubbed it on climate change when Copenhagen turned to custard, and we had no plan B - so lets keep blaming the Greens for not supporting the industry-friendly CPRS - and the Liberals for sidestepping our skillfully crafted wedge when Turnbull went under and Abbot took over
  • We aren't doing too well on environment either, with native forests still being destroyed, the Great Barrier Reef dying, the Orange Bellied Parrot and a few other species rapidly heading towards extinction - so lets get Peter Garrett out there handing out money for a few good causes in the States. 
  • The housing insulation scheme killed for people and turned it a fatal farce.  Can't remember why we gave this to the Environment Minister Garrett when he and his department know nothing about building matters or managing large scale projects. So let's take it off him and give him a bit more money to throw around.  And send him to the back bench after the next election.
  • Clear the decks.  We have a few backflips to get out of the way.
  • Backflip 1  (Kevin Rudd) - the need for urgent action on climate change "the great moral challenge of our time" - the CPRS (emissions trading) now on hold until 2013
  • Backflip 2 (Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd) - avoid scrutiny of Government advertising by the Auditor General by announcing a $38 million, taxpayer funded political advertising campaign., despite it being “a cancer on our democracy” and a clear commitment from Rudd that this would not happen., 
Then some polls were released indicating that Kevin Rudd had burnt most of his political capital in a very short space of time and his support plummeted, with opposition leader Tony Abbott seemingly now capable of winning the next election.

Let's run a scare campaign on Abbott - like Howard did on L Plates Latham.  Let's even compare Abbott to Latham.  Brief to all ministers - keep saying "Tony Abbott would win an election if one were held tomorrow".

Now we need to get back onto our core platform.  

We have an exposure on the economy - we are now seriously in debt with a large deficit.  Lets cherry pick from the Henry Tax Review something that will help us back on track to a budget surplus.  Let's go with the Resource Super Profits Tax - will lob it out there and have some biffo with the mining companies.  This will give Kevin Rudd another opportunity to demonstrate his strong leadership style, and will offset some of the fallout from gifting $8 billion via the failed CPRS to large corporations making millions out of fossil fuels.

Well, that worked, sort of.  We got the media off climate change and even backflips, but those mining companies sure have gone troppo.  Now a bit of a stoush and ritual combat is turning into another problem for us - no consultation with stakeholders (like health reform), and back benchers in marginal seats with mines getting restless.  Let's hang tough for another couple of weeks then reduce the RSPT rate a bit to shut them up.

*** End of script as at 15 June 2010 ***

This reads a bit like a script from the Hollowmen.  But then truth is stranger than fiction.

Here are a few things that should have happened:
  • Negotiate with Greens and two Coalition Senators in the Senate to get a carbon tax in place - this would apply across all industries, not just mining, and the funds can be directed towards transitioning to a low carbon economy
  • Remove perverse taxes that encourage fossil fuel use - such as car leases that require minimum kilometres to be driven, the diesel fuel rebate, and sundry others
  • Allow tax deductions and/or salary packing for people who cycle to work
  • Ditch the $2billion+ corporate welfare funding for "Clean Coal" /geo-sequestration pipe dreams that defy the basic laws of physics and direct this towards a 100% clean energy program based on concentrated solar with salt storage and wind power.
  • Commence a very fast train project to link Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.
  • Introduce national building standards for 6 Star Rated buildings and retrofit of existing building stock (and keep Peter Garrett away from it)
  • Protect native forests from logging to keep the carbon they store where it is, secure our water supplies and provide habitat for endangered species.
I am not holding my breath for any of this.  But I am astounded by the failings of our political system and our major party politicians to deliver sensible policies.

They are intent of just playing politics, striving to get into government, then just pfaffing around when they get there.

*** Script update at 15 June 2010 ***

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appeared on the 7:30 Report on Monday night.  He appeared to be in damage control mode forcing some smiles, rapidly blinking and appeared uneasy.  When questioned about the Resource Super Profits Tax, the mining industry campaign against it and the date of the next election he mentioned that the election could be delayed until March/April 2011.  

"Yeah, well we have an election due by whatever it is, March or April next year and we only have three year terms. You've got to use the time effectively. "

So it seems that the nascent election campaign in progress may be drastically rescheduled.  Then again he may go early to avoid Tony Abbott gaining more support.  

I wish he would just bring a carbon tax and get on with it.

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Ben Courtice said...

It's probably not your main area, but a key backflip of this government was over the "we will tear up WorkChoices" promise. I think they tore up 1 or 2 pages of the whole omnibus bill and that's about it. Currently a construction worker in Adelaide is going on trial for refusing to attend an interview with the ABCC Inquisition. This should not be happening considering how much the unions did to put Labor into power! Whether the unions will ever hold them to account is another matter, the unions tend to be run by ALP sycophants that make ACF look good.

Grant said...

A major problem that many of your wish list have in common is that they will increase the cost of living for the majority of Australians. For example, unless you excise electricity/gas out of any carbon tax, the vast majority of Australians have told both political parties that they would be sacked if they implement any ETS type scheme (Labor subsequently conveniently put the ETS on hold). This feed back has been sourced by both private polling and public sources. Coal fired enegy generation is also an issue that is bubbling underneath, with an expected population increase of over 60% in the next 40 odd years, Australia must have a base load increase of around 40+% during that time. As nuke power seems to be on the nose, and the experts agree that renewables will not be able to meet the increase in base load requirements, nobody in the Greens appears to have provided a method of meeting the expected baseload requirement increase while at the same time reducing emissions. Unfortunately for the Greens, they do not appear to have grasped that changing Australians energy consumption patterns will take many decades, and any actions to speed up change beyond what, the vast majority, especially in the mortgage belts will accept, will result again in Government being severly punished at election time. Governments polling has identified this and therefore no Government will take actions to rush change. The Greens could push for Governments to move business out of CBDs as public transport cannot cope with existing loads, and will not be able to be expanded to cover major projected increases. Moving businesses out of CBDs will also reduce the emissions of people who currently have to drive to CBDs. Anyway there are many possibilities for emission reductions, but the Greens seem to only focus on change that will directly impact the majority, and in many cases will not be accepted by that majority.