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What Comes After the Carbon Tax

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

What Comes After the Carbon Tax

Andrew Ryan

No more carbon tax. All gone, finito, the Abbott government wants to kill us all.

NOT REALLY! Joking lol. I’m sure they don’t want to kill us all, they just wanna kill the people who can’t get jobs.

JOKING, lol. They don’t actually want to kill the unemployed, they just don’t want to support their right to eat every day while they spend 6 months looking for jobs that aren’t available, because the people with the majority of the money in this country don’t like having their wealth taxed to support anyone below their own income bracket.

I’d like to take a second to digress from the main point of this week’s column (carbon emissions and whatnot), and ask: At what point did the Australian idea of a “fair go” disappear from our cultural understanding? The fair go ideal was essentially a distaste for, and distrust in, traditional power hierarchies, and we were known around the world for it- especially in the early 20th century, when Australian soldiers caused all kinds of stirs due to their pluckiness in the face of authorities. But this fascinating (and charming) attitude seems all but dead. It must have died around the time that social hierarchies in this country became less obvious, more sneaky; around the time that the elite started to define what “fair” means. It can probably be traced to credit cards, or the Americanisation of our society, or something. Jus’ sayin’.

Anyway, so the government has been successful in eliminating the Carbon Tax.
From the mouth of our oratorically brilliant (JOKING, LOL) Prime Minister:
“This is our bill to reduce your bills, to reduce the bills of the people of Australia.”
Yep, reduce our bills Tony, it’s the only way; save us, you’re our only hope.
Here is some truth about the savings on our bills the government is facilitating through the elimination of the Carbon Tax:
“In the short-term, the average cost of living in Australia is set to decline by an estimated 550 AUD annually, as long as businesses pass cost savings on to consumers.”
That equals 10 dollars a week, AS LONG AS BUSINESSES PASS COST SAVINGS ON TO CONSUMERS. It’s not much of a saving, if it actually happens. And it was never much of a jump in our bills, was it? But anyway, they fulfilled an election promise designed to make the farmers happy because keeping farmers happy is important for votes, and fulfilling election promises make a lot of people happy because it’s seemingly quite rare these days (despite Abbott breaking other election promises), and now the Carbon Tax- which was totally effective in reducing carbon emissions, by the way- is being replaced.

The replacement is this: the creation of the Emissions Reduction Fund. Instead of financially punishing the big polluters for carbon emissions (thus encouraging them to not pollute so much) the government is providing financial incentives for businesses, to put it very simply, do as much (approved) green upgrading on their shit as they can.

As stated by Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment:
The White Paper captures a wide range of productivity enhancing activities which businesses think will be viable under the Emissions Reduction Fund. They include:
• upgrading commercial buildings
• improving energy efficiency of industrial facilities and houses
• reducing electricity generator emissions
• capturing landfill gas
• reducing waste coal mine gas
• reforesting and revegetating marginal lands
• improving Australia’s agricultural soils
• upgrading vehicles and improving transport logistics, and
• managing fires in savannah grasslands
Businesses, community organisations, local councils and other members of the community can undertake activities like these and sell the resulting emissions reductions to the Government.”

Straight up. And these things are actually (at least seemingly) pretty good for small business (and for the land- soil regeneration is fucking important for the future of our food production), though the choice of wording is a little concerning (“which businesses think will be viable”). The plan is that they will get cash for all the carbon emissions they can prove they will prevent themselves from creating, and then they have the benefit of a greener business. And that’s good. Community organisations can potentially benefit too, which is good, although the bureaucratic process necessary to make the things happen will no doubt be annoying to deal with. But you know, small business will probably be happy about this thing, and communities may find this thing quite helpful to do good stuff with.

And big business is happy about it all too, because the financial punishment they have been subject to under the Carbon Tax has been lifted. Their profits are back up a bit, and now they are free to do all the polluting they want, because they’re rich as fuck anyway, and there is no proper incentive for them to upgrade their shit to be more environmentally friendly. The price of the emission abatements won’t be enough to entice big business. It’ll no doubt be a pittance compared to the profits tied to unchecked expulsions of carbon waste in to the air; they don’t need that government money. Our biggest polluters have no REAL incentive to chill out on their emissions. The government has essentially just given them a big ol’ tick of approval to keep doing their thing, and this is a problem, an inherent flaw in this direct action plan to reduce carbon emissions.

Because of this flaw, the cynical Nostradamus-kid in me is tempted to predict that the biiiiiig businesses, the big corporate guys, won’t do shit… but at the same time, I have a feeling (or is it hope? goodlord I hope) that won’t be the case. We could definitely see some high profile examples of the big boys engaging with this Emissions Reduction Fund, supporting the government and being all “Yeah, this is way better than the Carbon Tax, look at us doing green upgrades to reduce emissions, well done voters of Australia, keep these guys in, they’ll pass on more savings to you, NO MORE TAXES”. But if this is the case, it’ll probably just be token efforts, and it won’t be done for the good reason- that is, for the health of our planet and the preservation of all life on it- it’ll be done to further the relationship of moneymoneyprofits between government and business. That’s cynical, I know. But I feel it’s a fairly realistic assumption.

There is a lot more to be said that relates closely to this topic: our relationship with China, their plans to massively reduce their future use of coal, their investments in sustainable energy, foreign sustainable energy businesses pulling their offices out of Australia in the wake of the Abbott government’s attitude towards solar and wind power (and the resulting loss of what could have been some great investment opportunities in Australian production and employment in this sector) … take a look at where our biggest carbon emissions come from and you’ll see that perhaps the government’s attitude is fucking ridiculous…

But I’ll leave it there for now. Hopefully this has been helpful for you. I suggest doing your own research, as always. Own research is good.