A long time coming …

… but the legislation for a carbon tax/fixed price emissions scheme has finally passed the House of Representatives, and is assured of passage through the Senate. Assuming the government can survive that long, it will come into force at the beginning of 2012-13.

Before any analysis, some (qualified) congratulations are in order. The Greens (with my support at the time, for what that was worth) took a big gamble in rejecting the badly-compromised Rudd-Turnbull deal, and have contributed to the passage of a much better bill now. Still, it turned out to be a long-shot. If the Gillard government had either won an absolute majority or lost to Tony Abbott, there would be no carbom tax. Kevin Rudd laid a lot of the groundwork, but failed to call a double dissolution, which he would surely have won, when the first version of the emissions trading scheme was blocked. Malcolm Turnbull has been a voice of sanity throughout, but still voted the party line. Last but not least, Julia Gillard, having almost succeeded in killing the whole idea in 2010 demonstrated her skills in getting an exceptionally contentious piece of legislation through, despite disastrous polls and the most fragile conceivable majority.

Now, a bit of a look towards the future

Now that the legislation has been passed, the doomsayers who predicted economic ruin will be put to the test. Will the businesses who have claimed catastrophic effects cease investment or een shut up shop altogether? Will the economy go into a tailspin? Unless the global economy collapses at the same time, these predictions are going to look sillier and sillier as the date for the tax approaches, and even sillier once it comes into effect. On the other hand, benefits like the increase in the tax-free threshold will be obvious to all.

So, if the government can run its full term, they have a much better chance of re-election than it might seem at present. Abbott will be shown up for the fraud he has always been, as will the entire right-wing commentariat.

But getting there is a big problem. Getting this legislation passed was a big achievement, but a great many voters will never forgive Gillard for the promises she made before the election (and semantic disputes about whether it’s a price or a tax won’t convince anyone who doesn’t want to be convinced). I remain of the view that she could do most to salvage her place in history by gracefully stepping aside once the bill passes the Senate.

62 thoughts on “A long time coming …

  1. Toxic Tony is looking increasingly desperate. If the government goes full term rope a dope, intended strategy or not, will be complete. The hair shirted one will have beaten himself to a standstill or have bored his demographic stiff. After all, his demographic must be somewhat attention deficient. His sustained outrage and hectoring is already nothing but risible.

  2. Gillard could step aside, if they found a good candidate to replace her in the Labor party. Combet is a possibility, but his profile needs to be built up first. Of course, the greatest mistake now that they could make is to recycle Rudd. Rudd doesn’t seem to have learnt anything at all. The first step in his rehabilitation would be to apologise to his colleagues for forcing them to give him the bullet; clearly it wasn’t an easy thing for them to do, given how long they left it. Rudd is good at apologies. A simple public televised one, should be enough.

  3. but a great many voters will never forgive Gillard for the promises she made before the election (and semantic disputes about whether it’s a price or a tax won’t convince anyone who doesn’t want to be convinced).

    A lot may never forgive the ALP either.

  4. I only disagree with you on the politics of Gillard stepping aside. One more change of leader, and the ALP will be wiped out regardless of who replaces her. Rudd should never have been deposed, but another swing on the leadership merry-go-round will prove to the electorate that the role of PM of Australia is a toy of the party machine.

    If they hold their nerve from here, they may yet claw back enough when the electorate sees the sky remains in place.

  5. Yes it was a stunning political strategy to call an ETS with a fixed price a carbon tax. you do not buy permits under a carbon tax nor can you buy and sell said permits.

    Those ALP strategists are absolute geniuses.

    Before this fiasco people were not particularly fazed by the ETS. Now they do not like a tax!

    After implementation it will , like the GST worries, fade away. Unlike with the GST there is no BAS to cause great angst which is why the Liberals are increasing hysterical in demanding an early election.

    Still given this lot couldn’t sell a beer on a hot day you have to wonder what they will say after it is operation and people realise they have been wood-ducked as it has less that 1/5th of the impact of the GST.

  6. The problem here is that Tony is getting his way with fear campaign and the media sides with the liberals (I give my respect to Fairfax for being what I consider as the most neutral media in Australia at the moment).

    Not a great deal of Australians knows how exactly the economy works which I understand because making a living is not easy and they don’t have much thing to do researches and studies. Tony’s proposed policy so far will not work, abolish mining tax which generates government revenue, direct action policy which no reputable economist supports, Pacific solution which had been proven that it’s not working, and WorkChoice which is a step towards the traces of America. And he is saying that he is going to give tax cuts, run budget surpluses while abolishing mining tax which generates government revenue? Abolishing mining tax would attract more foreign investment, puts pressure on the AUD and future damages the service and manufacturing industry. I really hope the hypocrite Tony won’t come in to power in the next election to stuff up the economy.

  7. a) The sky will not fall in and those who claimed it would will look silly and marginalised. Hopefully they will leave the policy discourse altogether (wishful thinking, I know…)

    b) Labor will lose the next election, espeically if Tony Abbott is replaced with someone half-sane, not because of the carbon tax per se, but because they’ve managed to make even their bravest, most principled policies look sneaky and lacking in credibility (to say nothing of their sneaky, lacking-in-credibility policies).

  8. Gee, it’s been said for a long time that Labor likes to put in a female leader when they know they are going to lose the next election anyway. Now Prof Quiggin thinks you don’t even have to wait for the election: install female, get legislation which is unpopular through, then she should gracefully resign and make way for a male again.

    Well, that’s the way it’s going to look, isn’t it?

    If the tax is going to be unpopular in 18 months time, I don’t see that it is going to be any less unpopular under an alternative to Gillard. All of the replacements strongly support it, there is no way they can distance themselves from it.

    I just find it a remarkable thing that the PM who is actually finally achieving long delayed major reforms is being told by Prof Q that she should really go before any possibility of reaping political benefits of finally achieving things.

  9. If Gillard should choose to stand down, it might send some kind of right message to the electorate – if the tinting in the media lens doesn’t invert it into the wrong message. Which the Murdoch press for a start will assuredly do, with the rest are so bereft that they’ll try to jump on the wagon and try to do the smearing of Gillard and successor even ‘better’ in an act of journalistic one upmanship.

    I don’t know that there is any winning strategy for Labor with a significant proportion of the electorate encouraged to disbelieve climate and emissions are a problem and believe that Labor efforts to fix said problems are pointless. Or can be persuaded to believe that a mining industry riding so high on exceptional profits would slow their activities and stop employing people over the piddling amounts in a resource rent tax or in a carbon tax that doesn’t even cover the emissions of the coal and gas mined for export, just the process of mining it).

    What won’t work is a leadership spill. Or backing down on the policies it’s been implementing. Should Abbott self-destruct or his party members who do trust our scientists on climate (surely there are more than one) cease keeping heads down and mouths shut and act like it’s actually a serious threat to the Australia they profess to care about, the situation might change. And that’s probably the only course open for Gillard and Labor – keep working, avoid making regrettable utterances and hope the Libs shoot selves in foot.

  10. Personally – for those that accept the 5% reduction by 2020, this is a sour outcome. The 5% target was based on 2000 levels (496.1 MgT). The current annual rate is 542 MgT. The target is therefore around 470 MgT.

    We can assume, with the tax, the rate of reduction will stay at the present -0.6%, even if the population increases. The quarterly figures are a bit concerning.


    But for those who think less than 5% per decade is tokenistic, and while the two elephants in the room are ignored (1. Third World rights to modern living standards, 2. population increase) all this fuss is merely the initial learning curve society has to go through.

    To reach 470 over 9 years requires an average cut of 1.5% per year (after growth damage).

    Does the Carbon Tax have this force?

    If not we need bigger community campaigns and new techniques to control our fossil fuel capitalists.

  11. If Julia Gillard does anything worthwhile it is because it is expedient for her at the time. Gillard has no public interest values and believes in nothing (carbon tax included) other than her own advancement. She is an opportunist through and through. She will change her tune, turn her coat and lie through her teeth constantly. In all that, she is no different from 95% of all Labor and Liberal politicians. Tony Abbott btw, is worse.

    We ought not to forget that Gillard conspired with union bosses who betrayed the workers and the mining bosses to replace Rudd and axe a tax at the behest of the capitalist mining bosses. Gillard and the professional union bosses are the enemies of working people. The entire Labor party has also (long since) shown it is not the party of the workers in any shape or form. If the Australian people develop any sense, they will destroy Labor and Liberal at the ballot box. Both govern only for the corporate capitalist boses. The continued shift of income from workers to capital is unsustainable and will cause serious problems in our society if not reversed. The continued poor response to environmental and sustainability issues also needs to be addressed uregently. Otherwise we are heading for total disaster.

  12. While nobody honest and informed would confuse me with an ALP sympathiser I think it would be churlish and mistaken not to note that today’s vote was won by a government with the barest of majorities 12 months ago, and in the face of the most systematic, ubiquitous and sustained campaign of lying in Australia’s history, backed actively by the Murdochracy and their yappy puppies from Fairfax and #theirABC. Much of the boss class trolled the regime too, or remained at best silent, and even within the government camp, we know that there were dissenters.

    Yes, the regime’s ineptitude ensured they would do this the hard way, and they’d not have dared but for The Greens but in the end, they got it done, just. For this they get a pass, along with points for resisting everything the MBCM and their boss class gang threw at them.

  13. Poor sentence construction has scambled some of my meaning. The relevant sentence is better rendered as;

    We ought not to forget that Gillard conspired with union bosses (who betrayed the workers) and the mining bosses to replace Rudd and axe a tax at the behest of the capitalist mining bosses.

    or even simply as;

    We ought not to forget that Gillard conspired with union bosses and mining bosses to replace Rudd and axe a tax at the behest of mining capital.

  14. @Chris Warren,

    Re: the third world’s “right” to modern living standards – while I am the first to deplore inequity and the iniquities caused by uneven development, the developing world do not have a *right* to live in an environmentally unsustainable way, any more than the first world has a *right* to live unsustainably (we don’t – we’ve lived beyond our means for far too long); any more than I have a right to take out a loan that I and everyone else knows I can’t pay back, just because other people have in the past taken out loans they can’t pay back.

  15. We saw a glimpse of the future with the rabble of bloated senile delinquents screeching their disrespect from the public galleries. That the Speaker did not eject them was, in my opinion, contemptible. When they emerged, bellowing and gesticulating, their bloated visages contorted in rictuses of rage, it emerged, unsurprisingly, that the average age was 70, and the average IQ somewhat less. In other words the offspring of the union of John Howard and Alan Jones, the Dunning-Krugerites who see Barnaby Joyce as an intellectual and Abbott as the Mad Messiah. They will now run amok, and if you think that this carbon pollution bill will survive an Abbott landslide, which News Corpse and the other denizens of the Rightwing MSM sewer will do all in their power to achieve, then you are dreaming.

  16. Not to put too fine a point on it, it s***s me to tears that the demographic most vocally opposed to climate change mitigation are, having derived astonishing economic benefit from unsustainable development, going to die soon, leaving the legacy of climate change to their grandkids.

  17. @Dan

    I suppose there is always the right to equality (whatever it is).

    If this destroys the climate – then this is what will happen. China, South America, Indonesia and India (and later Africa) all want modern lifestyles for their population.

    As I see it, the real agenda for greenhouse gasses is ‘per capita’ emissions.

    The only solution is the impossible one – large reductions in Western lifestyle – this will only be politically possible when it is far, far, too late.

    Whoever is around in 2080, will inherit a violent, untreatable, climate wasteland all because we have allowed capitalists to exploit cheap fossil fuels for competitive advantage without costing in costs for future generations.

  18. PrQ said:

    and semantic disputes about whether it’s a price or a tax won’t convince anyone who doesn’t want to be convinced

    Certainly they won’t while the ALP continues to run dead on the matter. They have to put the question — how many people voted ALP based on the idea that there would be

    a) no carbon price under Gillard — this astonishing view with her famous quote reworked with “price” for “tax” was put by the trolling Adam Spencer to Albanese yesterday on 702AM

    b) who voted for them thinking there would be no carbon “tax” but who were OK with an ETS, but think this isn’t an ETS but a tax so she broke her promise or don’t like the fixed price permit phase so much as to see this as a breach but didn’t mind the one in the CPRS of 2009.

  19. To Mulga Mumblebrain – the realities of the current and likely future composition of the Senate, under plausible estimates of likely outcomes and the time frame required to get a double dissolution suggest that getting the legislative package abolished will take some substantial time and as they say a week is along time in politics

  20. Ikonoclast :
    If the Australian people develop any sense, they will destroy Labor and Liberal at the ballot box.

    At every election for a hundred years Labor and the Liberals between them have received the votes of a majority of Australian voters. Like everything else, this can’t last forever, but I see no signs in current circumstances of its coming to an end.

    Personally I don’t attribute the pattern to the Australian people’s having no sense, but if that’s your opinion, Ikonoclast, then I suggest you’ve got no real choice but to get used to living among people with no sense.

  21. @J-D

    Given that the modern Liberal Party (an oxymoron if ever there was one) dates from the 1940s …

    OK I’m cheating, as it had antecedents in the UAP, Nationalists, Free Traders etc …

    The more substantive point though is that politics, at least at the level of party identification, owes more to notions of personal identity, one’s fears and angst and tribal hatred and hopes and dreams and desire for belonging rather than any properly worked out “sense”.

    There is a degree of reasoning involved, but which part one supports is much more about who you think you are. Generally sensible people often compartmentalise parts ofg their lives and one can’t read back apparently absurd choices in these parts of their lives to infer radical lack of sense.

    Ikonoclast is venting frustration — one we all feel when we see evident wrong being repaid with political support — but if (as most of us here do) one wants the system to be more pluralistic, one must find new models of identity-within-community with which one can identify. If these become accepted and can be mapped to new political parties with programs that seem at worst plausible, “reason” will justify these programs. That of course, is much easier said than done. And if it were done, we would need a political system which would not force these people back into the old Column A or Column B choice.

    I suspect that both major parties are increasingly seen as lacking legitimacy. The polls notwithstanding, the new support for the LNP is likely to be soft, based as it is on FUD.

  22. This carbon emission reduction scheme, passed through the HoR, may still come unstuck if the government itself falls before the senate has a chance to pass the relevant bills. If the legislation becomes law but the government is wiped out at the next election, the Liberals may claim it gives them the mandate to repeal/reverse the laws. The Liberals and their National counterparts have behaved atrociously up to now, so I don’t believe I’m paranoid in thinking they are still hunting for any weak links in the current government, for any dirt/mud they can throw to screw up the government. I doubt the Liberal opposition will give up easily.

    Personally, I think that Julia Gillard must be kept as the PM when heading into the next election; removing her, especially after successfully passing the carbon “tax” legislation, would just signal to voters that Labor is internally uncertain of itself and by extension, is wishy-washy instead of being strong on leadership. Removing her after as good a demonstration of leadership as a modern PM could hope for would just play straight into the hands of the opposition; it would abnegate all the good work of the Labor/Greens/Indep coalition government, and for what? Nope, it is far better to stick it out and to build upon the leadership mettle shown thus far. Chants of “JuLiar” or “Julia the witch” already sound febrile and juvenile, and lacks legitimacy; all this reflects poorly upon those who continue such rubbish.

  23. http://candobetter.net/NoMoreCoalExportsI have sympathy with very few of those who are so stridently denouncing Julia Gillard’s Carbon Tax.

    True, the way she went about introducing is questionable from the standpoint of democratic principles, but those who are against the Carbon Tax seem to want us to believe that Earth is not facing an environmental crisis which could well threaten threaten the life support system that sustains human life.

    Without getting into the scientific argument, when the conditions which support life are so rare in the Universe and those which support the sort of complex life forms which exist on Earth are rarer still, it defies common sense to think we can materially change our plane a much as we have done in the last three centuries and continue to do so at an an even faster rate without putting at risk the very conditions which sustain life.

    We have substantially altered the concentration of the Earth’s atmosphere by having dug up and burnt much humankind’s nonrenewable endowment of fossil fuels that took at least tens of millions of years of sunlight and terrestrial biological and geological to produce.

    How anyone can know for a fact that these changes to Earth’s protective atmospheric blanket won’t cause runaway global warming is beyond me. Given that our very future and the future of our children and descendants is at stake, it is surely most imprudent to assume that we can continue to quarry and export coal iron and other non-renewable natural resources at the accelerating rate that the likes of Qld Premier Anna Bligh and our leading ‘free market’ economic ideologues would have us do.

    My own problem with the Carbon Tax is that it is, at best, a small fraction of what needs to be done to make human civilization truly sustainable.

    If the Carbon Tax were to be adopted, even if comprehensively at the international level, does anyone seriously imagine that it will somehow induce the market to reduce, to any worthwhile extent, activities that are now consuming non-reneawble resources?

    Just go to the rubbish tip and ask for how many more decades they believe we can continue to extract the resources necessary to manufacture all the artifacts — thrown out hi-fis, computers, TVs, fridges, cars, furniture, toys, etc. — and packaging that has ended up there?

    How is this going to stop manufacturers continuing to manufacture and sell at an enormous cost to our natural capital, so many artifacts that are designed to fail after only a few years and which become inoperable when parts and batteries are lost because they refuse to make these compatible with similar artifacts?

    Does anyone imagine that we could go on the way we are for more than a hundred more years?

    David Montgomery’s “Dirt – the Erosion of Civilisations” of 2007 shows past civilisations — Mesopotamia, ancient Greek civilisations, Rome, the Chaco Anasazi of North America. etc., which did not dig up dug up coal, oil and metals still only lasted hundreds of years, so could not be considered sustainable.

    If they had dug up and wasted coal, oil and metals and deforested at the same rate as 21st century human civilisation does they not have even lasted that long.

    Any Government which does not attempt to make human civilisation at least as sustainable as those past failed rural civilisations once were is not serious about sustainabilty.

    Gillard’s Carbon Tax is only a token pretence of an attempt to achieve sustainability and nothing more.

    Any serious sustainability policy would comprise at least:

    1. Reuse of food and drink containers rather than the phony recycling schemes that our council rates are wasted to pay for.

    2. Inducements, possibly including laws, to force manufactures to cease planned obsolescence and the deliberate manufacture of artifacts with incompatible parts, particularly cables and batteries. If cars and motorcycled built at the start of the 20th century can still be run today, why, with the improvements in science and technology can’t cars be built to last centuries? Why can’t cars and motorcycles be handed down to our children and grandchildren instead of being consigned to the tip or scrap metal?

    3. Real town planning so that it is not necessary for so many to spend as much of their days and waste so much petroleum traveling to and from work, educational institutions and amenities.

    4. Proper planned public transport so that we don’t have to won our own car to commute. End the Taxi license plate speculation scam so that taxis can be affordable to ordinary people and taxi drivers can earn a livable income in a 40 hour week and not a 72 hour week.

    5. Outlawing the destruction of native forests to to manufacture paper.

    6. Preservation of bio-diversity. Stop destroying forests and other natural habitats, which other species need for their survival.

    7. End the population growth/mass immigration Ponzi scheme. It is a lie that Australia’s prosperity needs more people. Any honest measure of people’s wellbeing would show that our prosperity, on average, as well as our sustainability, decrease as we add more people. Only a minority including property speculators and landlords gain and gain at everyone else’s expense through population growth.

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