Don’t Follow Leaders, Watch The Parking Meters

The dispute over the Greens apparent intention to oppose a more progressive tax system has heated up again, on Facebook and elsewhere, especially given indications that the proposed return to indexation of petrol excise will be passed, as it should be. In combination, if pursued, these policies can be presented, with some justice, as pandering to the self-interest of the stereotypical Greens voter: high income, inner city, with no need to use much petrol.

I haven’t seen anyone defend the pro-rich tax policy on the merits, but I’ve had vigorous pushback from people whose views I would generally respect, taking the following lines

* Labor is doing the same thing, why pick on the Greens
* The policy may be right, but it’s being advocated for the wrong reason (deficit fetishism)
* The policy may be right, but it’s being put forward by the wrong people (evil Abbott government)
* This is only a small step, we need something much bigger and more comprehensive

I’ll respond to these points over the fold, but for the moment I want to observe that these excuses, or minor variants, can be and have been made for every policy sellout in the history of politics. No one gives them the slightest credence when they are put forward by people who aren’t close allies.

The fact that so many intelligent people are willing to buy this sort of case when it’s put forward by the Greens is evidence of the proposition that none of us is immune to the kinds of biased thinking that have completely corrupted the intellectual base of the political right. Fortunately, I think, the left as a whole is more self-critical, so that this kind of reasoning gets a tougher run. But for me, this emphasises the importance of not being aligned with any political party to the extent that loyalty clouds my judgement on the issues. That doesn’t immunise me from various kinds of biases, but at least it helps with problems like this.

Responding briefly to the substantive points, such as they are

* If the Greens want to be held to the same standards as Labor, that’s their choice. Given a choice of two vaguely left parties driven by political expediency, I’ll vote for the one that has a chance of winning government
* The second and third points imply that the Greens should reject everything the government does in pursuit of its fiscal strategy. That will be totally undercut if they (rightly) support the indexation of petrol excise
* If the Greens had a serious prospect of forming a government, there might be some point to going for a comprehensive strategy, and holding off until that could be implemented. As it is, they can only choose to support or oppose government policies (and of course even this is true only until the new Senate takes office).

78 thoughts on “Don’t Follow Leaders, Watch The Parking Meters

  1. Albanese rightly points out that re-indexing the fuel excise is regressive:

    It’s a regressive tax because if you live further away from where you work and you don’t have public transport options, you’ll pay more and you’ll pay it every week.

    It is also regressive in so far as fuel costs represent a greater proportion of low income wages. It will have a serious impact on anyone living in rural areas, where there is no weekly price cycle, where the fuel is always at the top of the price range. The impact on people living in remote areas will be hardest hit. That’s anyone living in remote areas of the NT, WA, Qld and SA and probably a fair chunk of NSW too unless you qualify for rebates. The majority of the population in those areas doesn’t qualify for these rebates.

    So it is going to cost more to get the rellos to hospital and the kids to school and food from the shops and to socialise or be engaged with your community because in the bush, where there is virtually no public transport, all of the above usually means lots of kilometres.

    Of course, we should all drive more fuel efficient cars like the Renault, or Citroen, that doesn’t provide a spare tyre, not even a skinny emergency one. That’d be useful. And instead of using a four wheel drive to transit sticky clay roads, we could stay in town for a week or so till the road dries out; or we could park at the flooded ford and walk across a swing bridge to then carry the groceries four kilometres to the house. There are heaps of people with disabilities living in the bush where the low cost of housing compensates for the absence of services. They’re all going to be getting much more exercise, it seems, and a good thing to, the welfare bludgers.

    The absurdity of a tax on a tax appears to have escaped most. We will be paying an inflation indexed tax on the GST we already pay on fuel. The states are being goaded to demand an increase on the GST which will spiral the cost of fuel, with excise, into an unaffordable range for many people who simply cannot do without autos.

    Ridiculous.

    The only thing more ridiculous is the Green’s total political ineptitude in not seizing this opportunity to oppose the tax with a view to causing a parliamentary crisis during the current Senate.

    Hopeless. Not only will I never vote Green again, I’ll be actively dissing them at every opportunity, which is a turn around for a veteran conservationist and environmental campaigner.

  2. Your tenacity is impressive, Fran, but I’ve followed the debate reasonably closely, and I can report that no-one, except obvious Greens partisans, buys the “process” line, and many of those are under the incorrect impression that the Greens are going to oppose the Budget outright.

    Everyone I’ve read who actually cares about inequality regards this as a disaster, especially now that it seems Labor will move back to the Left of the Greens on economics. Not of course, that Labor is going far Left at all, but a party that votes for lower taxes on the rich isn’t even in the centre.

  3. @Fran Barlow
    I’ve realised there may be another reason why I’ve repeatedly failed to understand your position.

    I agree with you that good process is important, but what I didn’t give enough thought to was that maybe we don’t have the same reasons for thinking good process is important.

    I know why I think good process is important; why do you think good process is important?

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