Imagine that it’s 2006. The new Australian Prime Minister Dr Brendan Nelson has been convinced by reading this post at Troppo Armadillo that global warming is a really significant problem that requires urgent government action. Nelson is seriously considering taking the nuclear option, being aware that nuclear power is the only current mature, generally available, base load electricity generation option that doesn’t create greenhouse gases. He is seriously considering:
(a) committing Australia to a large-scale adoption of nuclear power generation; and
(b) taking up a flippant suggestion by Greenpeace, and agreeing that Australia will store free of charge the nuclear waste from overseas nuclear power plants that use Australian uranium. The suggestion has previously been made seriously by the uranium industry.
The PM is aware that the current cost of nuclear power generation (inclusive of amortization of capital cost) is around twice that of coal-fired plants, but he has also been told that the cost relativities are much more equal if a carbon tax is imposed on all industries emitting CO2 to the atmosphere. As a classical liberal, Nelson is attracted to the idea of implementing a carbon tax to force CO2-emitting industries to internalise the real costs of their operations, and thereby letting the market decide which is the best technology, while also taking decisive action against global warming, in contrast to his supine predecessor John Howard.
You are a government consultant, and you are asked to provide the PM with a one-page (400 words at most) briefing paper on why the government should or should not introduce Nelson’s plan. You’ll need to keep your argument succinct but logical, because Nelson will have your briefing paper assessed by departmental and ministerial office experts who will inevitably rip it to shreds if you advance unsound propositions. This would mean you would never again get a lucrative government consultancy, and would be forced back to the ignominious (if occasionally pleasurable) role of commenting gratuitously and ineffectually on a blog somewhere.
The PM has appointed Troppo Armadillo as the official receiving centre for consultants’ briefing papers, and you should post them in the comment box here. Your cheque will be in the mail. Trust us, we’re the government.
PS – Dr Nelson has chosen this method of submission partly so consultants become aware of each others’ submissions and can submit later addenda responding to competitors’ submissions. However, being the polite small “l” liberal that he is, Nelson reacts very poorly to abusive, needlessly combative advice. Hence any subsequent responses will need to be restrained and logical if you hope to remain on the lucrative approved consultants’ list. OTOH, Nelson also appreciates a good joke (with Abbott, Costello, Downer and Ruddock in his Cabinet, that’s probably fortunate). So tastefully humorous responses may be a good tactic, as long as the dignity of other consultants is given reasonable respect. It’s a fine line.