Hoist by their own petard

Tristan Edis has a nice piece in Climate Spectator contrasting the many statements made by Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt (echoed by Bolt, Blair, Devine, McCrann etc) before the election about the impact of the carbon tax on the price of everything from airfares to supermarket goods with the reality that this impact was minuscule. The implication is that removing the tax won’t have anything like the broad effects on the cost of living that Abbott has promised.

It was this gap between rhetoric and reality that produced last weeks fiasco and the Senate, and may yet derail the government’s entire policy. Taking the government at its rhetorical word, Clive Palmer wanted the ACCC to ensure that all major firms, including airlines and supermarkets, rolled back the cost increases imposed as a result of the carbon tax. Greg Hunt assured everyone that the legislation would do so but it turned out there was no specific reference to anything but electricity. This was for the obvious reason that, in other industries, there was no cost increase to roll back.

All of this gives Clive Palmer, if he wants it, the opportunity to make whatever mischief he chooses. There’s no real way the government can deliver on its rhetoric about reducing the cost of living, so he can demand whatever he wants in the way of add-ons to their legislation.

36 thoughts on “Hoist by their own petard

  1. rog :@ZM
    Unfortunately the debate, in the public mind at least, has been lost

    I don’t believe that’s irreversible. We’re starting to see the social and political effects of unsustainable population growth in some counties already, often linked with price rises in basic
    goods and sharp decreases in living standards (Egypt??). A rapid escalation in worldwide refugee populations would make this more obvious, and this is mostly a question of when – it would seem to be underway already.

  2. rog, the “spectacular failure” of the Club of Rome’s predictions is entirely wrong and largely due to vicious misrepresentation by a small circle of activists, some connected to large industries.

    I agree with ikonoklast. We’re toast.

  3. @faustusnotes

    That’s an interesting website and on it the author warns that a similar scare campaign could derail renewables (similar to anti Rachel Carson, Limits to Growth or nuclear power).

    The recent comments by Rupert Murdoch (and by our own govt) against windmills coupled with the successful campaign to repeal the carbon tax indicates that a campaign is well underway.

  4. We can hope, rog, but I doubt it will happen. Not only are powerful forces working against renewables, but we need to get to a negative cabon balance in the majority of the energy and transport sectors to just stall warming. That is, complete decarbonization PLUS rewilding and some moderate form of carbon capture within thirty years. No policy instruments currently proposed are going to do that, and no democracy is capable of the steps required. We need some kind of international policy instrument that is tougher and more binding than the framework convention on tobacco control. That couldn’t kill smoking in thirty years, even in the most committed countries. And what are our mainstream politicians proposing? A small tax, and no significant measures to rein in the energy sector’s political, market or economic power.

    2c is locked in, I think, and we will probably not act fast enough to stop 4. We are toast.

  5. Newtonian,
    It’s a shame Graham Turner was purged from the CSIRO, I hadn’t heard that.

    Thinking of a 2013 paper by Erlich I read , I think there can be some problems with the literature, and I think its a shame there’s not more open public discussion of sustainability issues in the wider community, which could help move towards resolving some of those problems. I favour faster and more co-ordinated action on sustainability and climate change than tends to be discussed in the public sphere – but I think there are issues in terms of institutions, power, distribution, feedback etc The article by Erlich said we were entering or in an age of “Endarkenment” – which I thought was a problem because such nomenclature seems to signify the author does not recognise or admit the very real problems and wrongs undertaken by dominant groups in the Enlightenment or Modern project. I’ve been trying to read the latest work by Bruno Latour – An Inquiry into Modes of Being – which he posits as a ‘diplomatic’ anthropology trying to find out ‘how to compose a common world’.

    I think perhaps generally in wealthy countries since WW2 we have balanced internal tension through over consumption and by placing the large share of the burden of our over consumption on the poorest people in wealthy countries (eg. Migrant farm or textile workers), poor people overseas, and people who will have to cope with the results in the future. I think, accordingly, that efforts to reduce over consumption will probably have to find another way of balancing or resolving social tension. This would likely be place and community specific to some degree I would imagine.

  6. @Faustusnotes

    no democracy is capable of the steps required

    I disagree.

    I believe that a properly functioning democracy is capable of achieving just about anything required. Our problem is that we don’t have a properly functioning democracy. We have a neo-con right-wing duopoly serving an extremely narrow group of foreign elite interests all given the appearance of democracy by a similarly alligned establishment media class.

    Perfect example is the Iraq war – by far the vast majority of the people were against it but it went ahead, based on lies and later false justifications, anyway.

  7. @John Brookes

    I am always surprised when people say that Ehrlich (and his predecessors) are wrong. Right now the world is awash with refugees looking for an opportunity of a reasonable life. Surely the base cause of this is too many people?

    I suspect that when people say Paul Ehrlich was wrong they are referring to his 1968 prediction that “in the 1970s hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now” and that “nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate”. These predictions were clearly wrong, as hundreds of millions of people did not starve to death in the 1970s (or since), and the world death rate has declined, rather than risen, since that time.

    I also suspect that when people say Ehrlich was wrong that they are thinking of his lost bet with the late Julian Simon, over whether or not natural resources would become relatively more scarce during the 1980s.

    For the record (and to avoid confusing Newtownian) I do think that population growth presents a signficant long-run ecological sustainability problem, and I don’t endorse the views of Julian Simon.

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