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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

make the polluters pay for the harm they cause « Previous | |Next »
February 9, 2011

Probably Gillard's big test of leadership in 2011 is her capacity to make headway on a carbon price – a job looking increasingly difficult as the Greens dig in on scrapping the Rudd-designed compensation packages for trade-exposed carbon polluters. Failure on this issue will damage her, badly, even though politics is now a spectacle.

At this stage Gillard is indicating that she plans to continue to subsidize the trade exposed industries big time. Is that what she means by achieving consensus?

MoirAParliament .jpg

Gillard's climate change policies are increasingly being reduced to putting a (low?) price on carbon and allowing the market to drive the changes in behaviour in response to changes in the prices we pay.

Without a price on carbon more new coal-fired power stations will be built and that will send the country’s emissions account higher ---and make it difficult for Australia to even meet its pledge to the Copenhagen Accord. That is a lowly 5% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020.

I find this reduction problematic, even though it with address the externality whereby coal fired power stations can dump hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (thereby making makes coal fired electricity far cheaper than it would otherwise be). Making the polluters pay for the harm caused by pollution is the right principle, and it will also raise lots of money to compensate households.

However, nothing is being said about removing the wide range of existing subsidies and tax concessions that work to artificially reduce the price paid for fossil fuels in Australia. The reduction, in other words, Gillard is displacing the complimentary polices that would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The argument of Richard Denniss and Andrew Macintosh from the Australia Institute in their Complementary or contradictory? An analysis of the design of climate policies in Australia is that:

Even if all of the contradictory policies that encourage fossil fuel use were removed, and a carbon price consistent with the harm that greenhouse gas emissions cause was introduced, a significant role for complementary policies would still be required.

What we have with the Gillard Government is the creeping cuts to the complementary measures - will this continue with the targeted energy efficiency and renewable energy target policies?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:17 AM | | Comments (3)


I was always amused by the principle espoused by many right wingers of 'user pays'.
So selectively espoused.

I often came across it with respect to national parks where it was used as a justification for having park fees rather than increasing direct government funding for parks.

My amusement was, still is, compounded by having been born and bred in a large rural city where the major employer used our air and water as a dumping ground for polluting toxic shit free of charge apart from the occasional donation of some well publicized trivial sum of money.

Although I haven't lived there for decades whenever I visit I can still see a pall of toxic crap floating in the air over the town and piles of dead fish floating belly up in the adjacent sea/dump is still a common occurrence.

There would be a major change in the economic price of many items and services in Oz if the 'user pays' principle was extended to those polluters who use our air, soil, rivers and waters as cheap dumps.

Rojo would find that irrigators, for example, would have to pay a bit more than they presently do.

The Coalition reckoned that it could swagger back into Canberra, tear the shaky Gillard Government apart, and be suddenly propelled into Government at the hands of an irritated, frustrated Independent (Rob Oakeshott?) Destabilising the government was going be a walk in the park.

But that hasn't happened. When question time finally rolled around yesterday the Coalition had nothing. A damp squid. The same today. They've lost the politics of the levy in parliament.

It looks as if the minority Labor-Green-Independent alliance is holding together. However, the Gillard Government is currently one by-election loss away from falling. All they need is for an ALP lower house MP to get sick, die, get prosecuted for corruption or get photographed in a gay brothel by the Daily Telegraph and the NBN, for instance, will very likely be consigned to history.

The NBN aint going to get built the way that the ALP says it is because they won't be in power long enough---it needs to win several elections in a row--because of the 10 year build cycle.

Abbott + Co are trying to run a no-new-tax argument. So they are trying to paint the flood levy as toxic and not needed because of the huge amounts of government waste. Its pound pound pound the same message---- a big spending wasteful Labor government.