Unimpressed as I am by Labor Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership, they (and she) remain far preferable to the alternative. For an illustration of what’s on offer, let’s look at Tony Abbott’s claim (repated on quite a number of occasions) that a $40/tonne carbon tax will double the price of electricity. For coal-fired electricity, CO2 emissions are around 1 tonne/MWh for black coal (a tonne of coal generates about 2.5 tonnes of CO2, and also about 2.5 MWh of electricity), and a little more for brown coal. So, a $40/tonne tax implies an additional cost of 4c/kwh. Electricity prices vary a lot, but currently the standard retail rate in Queensland is around 20c/kWh, so the price increase would be around 20 per cent for households. Businesses that use large amounts of electricity pay lower prices and would therefore face a higher price increase, but since the generator cost of electricity is typically more than $40/MWh, no one paying a market-determined price would face a doubling.
What’s really striking about this is that it occurs in a context where Laurie Oakes is questioning Abbott about his credibility. The next question, referring to previous inconsistencies is “But, isn’t it important if you become Prime Minister, that Australians can believe what their Prime Minister says?”. Oakes is pretty good on who said what and when, but he lacks the basic arithmetic skills and policy background to call Abbott out on an obvious lie. And if Oakes doesn’t think it’s important to understand basic facts about the policy issues, you can bet the same is true of the rest of the Canberra Press Gallery, who hang on his every word.
fn1. Probably there are some aluminium smelters on cosy deals from the 1980s and 1990s paying prices below generator cost, but the odds are they would have tobe compensated in any case, whether or not this is justified economically or socially.