How not to sell a carbon tax

God help the Gillard government with someone like Wayne Swan trying to explain the carbon tax:

Mr Swan is now distancing Labor from the term “carbon tax” and accused Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of lying about how it will operate.

“What we’re talking about here is an interim price which some people describe as a carbon tax and they can do that legitimately,” he said.

“It’s just that it doesn’t operate like a traditional tax; it is not deducted from your pay packet or anyone else’s pay packet, it comes from the big polluters.

“The money from the big polluters is then paid to assist householders and industry.

All this does is give Abbott and the media the opportunity to say that Swan and Gillard are contradicting each other on whether it’s a tax or not.  It IS a tax in every sense, not just an impost that “some people describe as a carbon tax”.  It was certainly necessary to correct any misconception about its incidence, but surely Swan could simply have said: “This is a tax that will only be levied on large polluters like power generators and iron and steel smelters.  It won’t be levied on ordinary citizens or small businesses.”

However, the real problem is leaving Abbott with an open field to sow fear and confusion by failing to make public any detail at all of the proposed scheme.  Climate Change Minister Greg Combet encapsulates the government’s current “strategic” position:

Mr Combet says the Government will continue to explain the basics about the tax and it will not be rushed into announcing the finer details.

“It is important I think, when you are making important areas of reform such as this, that you put out your broad policy intentions,” he said.

“It’s the same thing John Howard did in fact when announcing support for an emissions trading scheme in July 2007.

It may have escaped Combet’s attention that John Howard lost the 2007 election and only ever announced an ETS half-heartedly in a futile bid to eliminate it as a negative for the Coalition campaign.

He wasn’t actually trying to sell or introduce an ETS and would no doubt have been more than happy if he’d been re-elected and the promise sank without trace.  Moreover, Howard could get away with not announcing any detail because he was facing an opponent with essentially the same policy, who he could be confident would not attack him aggressively as Tony Abbott is doing to Labor.  If Combet’s strategic thinking is typical  then God help the Labor government on that front too.

The other justification Combet provides for giving Tony Abbott a free kick is:  “We’ll be doing the detailed work in consultation with all the stakeholders.”

However it shouldn’t be too difficult to craft a form of words that clarifies the government’s intentions but leaves enough qualifications to enable negotiations with “stakeholders”.  How about something like this?:

  1. The carbon tax will be imposed at a rate between $20 and $26 per tonne of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
  2. It will be imposed only on big polluters like power generators and iron and steel smelters.  It won’t be paid by small businesses, families or individual Australians.
  3. The flow-on price effects of the tax for most individuals and families are estimated at (say) $300 per year.  Low income earners making up to about $30,000 per year will be fully compensated for that amount either through the tax system or by increasing pensions and benefits.  Those earning between $30,000 and average weekly earnings will be compensated at a slightly lower but still substantial rate.  People earning more than average weekly earnings should generally be in a position readily to take a range of measures to adjust their consumption patterns to ensure that their cost of living does not increase.  Those are the adjustments Australians must make if we are to successfully combat climate change.
  4. Goods for export (including steel and aluminium) will be exempt from the carbon tax.
  5. Goods imported from countries which don’t impose a carbon price of a similar amount to Australia will have the Australian carbon tax imposed on them.
  6. Any workers displaced from polluting industries paying the carbon tax will be eligible for generous government-funded retraining and income support for up to 2 years.
  7. It has not yet been decided whether petrol and diesel will bear a carbon tax, but if they do it would only be to the extent that the prices of these fuels fall below their current levels.((This might antagonise the hair shirt brigade among the Greens.  They should be forewarned of the government’s position but then fought toe-to-toe on this one.  Imposing a carbon tax on petrol (at least without directly countervailing reductions in fuel excise) would be political suicide. ~ KP))  There is no doubt that petrol prices will continue to rise in the longer term whatever the government does, and we will not be taking any action which makes those prices rise more rapidly than would otherwise occur.  Those inevitable price increases over time will provide enough of a “market signal” for people to progressively convert to less polluting vehicles.
  8. The government will also be moving to introduce progressively tighter regulations on maximum carbon emissions of new vehicles, while giving manufacturers enough time to adjust their plans.  The aim is to have all new vehicles within 5 years producing not much greater carbon emissions than a  Toyota Prius does today.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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42 Responses to How not to sell a carbon tax

  1. hc says:

    I almost exactly concur with your suggestions (1)-(6). Tax the consumption of carbon emissions in Australia. Emphasise that firms providing nontraded goods – generators – will pay the tax in full. I think it is not necessary to make revenue from this charge redistributive since this is much better carried out via the income tax if sought.

    On point (7) who cares? A $20 per tonne CO2 tax works out at less than 6 cents per litre. This morning in Melbourne petrol was $1-49. The issue iws whether this measley charge should be absorbed in the fuel excise. I think it should not be because the fuel excise is not indexed. Eventually as carbon prices grow the extra carbon charge will become significant.

  2. Ken Parish says:

    Harry

    I agree that the piddling price effect of a carbon tax on petrol prices will certainly be dwarfed (and is currently being dwarfed) by general price rises over time. But this is an aspect where any government concerned about political survival is going to have to make expedient compromises. It simply give Abbott a major chink for a scare campaign that unfortunately but inevitably will fool lots of people.

    In any event, at least arguably vehicle emissions are more effectively addressed by direct regulation of emission standards at point of manufacture than by taxing sale or consumption. I think it’s more important to get a workable scheme introduced than to insist on policy purity.

  3. Patrick says:

    It may have escaped Combet’s attention that John Howard lost the 2007 election and only ever announced an ETS half-heartedly in a futile bid to eliminate it as a negative for the Coalition campaign.

    Best written dry tone in a while, love it.

    On fuel, I think they should embed any carbon tax in the excise at a rate that delivers an initial tangible cut and then raise it as the price drops, strategically.

  4. Catching up says:

    “However, the real problem is leaving Abbott with an open field to sow fear and confusion by failing to make public any detail at all of the proposed scheme. Climate Change Minister Greg Combet encapsulates the government’s current “strategic” position”

    The details will come in good time. How long can a scare continue to have any effect, especially when it is based on the very least a straw argument.

    It maybe OK to attempt to scare the community but you will need facts to keep the fear going.

    What you are in danger of is becoming the boy who called wolf or Henny Penny’s the sky is falling down. The reality is that without substance, people stop listening. The other alternative is to ratchet up the abuse and name calling, which in itself leads to going over the top, turning the public off, as is beginning to happen now.

    Somewhere along the line, an effective Opposition has to prove it is capable of governing and that they have the skills and policies to do so.

  5. Victor Trumper says:

    Ken,

    The more accurate statement is that it is a tax but it isn’t a carbon tax.

    At present the ALP should simply be saying this will reduce carbon emissions via higher prices and encourage cleaner energy sources.

    They haven’t got anywhere near to 1 as yet although they could use information such as this to assist them however I am afraid they seem incapable of even selling ice-cream on a hot day.

  6. Fyodor says:

    Somewhere along the line, an effective Opposition has to prove it is capable of governing and that they have the skills and policies to do so.

    Ha! Forget the opposition, how about the government? When are we going to see our government demonstrate that it is capable of governing? Rudd-Gillard has been the worst government inflicted upon Australia* in decades.

    This tax is sheer economic lunacy. IF – and it’s a very big “if” – Australia were able to introduce such a tax as part of a multi-lateral move on CO2 emissions, it might make sense, politically if not economically. However, for Australia unilaterally to impose such a distortionary tax churn, with real economic consequences, for no gain on “climate change” is simply daft.

    Leaving that rant aside, Ken, you are kidding yourself if the average punter is going to accept that the tax “will be imposed only on big polluters like power generators and iron and steel smelters”. And those horrible big polluters * boo, hiss * are not going to pass on the cost? Yes, it might win some votes from the religious left, aka Teh Greens, but this is not going to win over the swinging voters who deserted the ALP at the last election. FFFS these clowns are bowling melons at Abbott.

    This tax is just another fucking stupid policy, incompetently sold, from a terminally inept government.

    * NSW exception applies, as always.

  7. conrad says:

    I can’t understand why they announced it before deciding on all of the details and rammifications. If you can do it in one article, I really can’t see why they can’t.

  8. Ken Parish says:

    Fyodor

    “However, for Australia unilaterally to impose such a distortionary tax churn, with real economic consequences, for no gain on “climate change” is simply daft.”

    Both the economists and common sense indicate that a carbon tax can and will achieve changes in people’s carbon-emitting behaviour, even if they are fully compensated for the price effects of the tax on them. That is because they can keep the “compensation” while avoiding the impact of the tax by changing their consumption patterns (e.g. using low energy mini-fluoros, turning off electric appliances when not in use, walking, cycling or using public transport where reasonably possible, driving more conservatively and switching to a lower emissions vehicle next time you buy a car etc etc). Thus compensating for the price effects of the tax isn’t just “churn” as you claim. Nor is it correct to say that there is “no gain on climate change” for the reasons I just explained. You could only sensibly deny this if you deny the reality of pricing and price signals in a capitalist economy.

    “And those horrible big polluters * boo, hiss * are not going to pass on the cost?”

    Of course they are, and no-one is denying this. In fact, as I’m sure you realise, that is the whole point of a carbon tax (or ETS) If prices of energy and goods produced by high carbon-emitting technologies did not increase then a carbon tax would not be effective to change consumption patterns and thereby reduce carbon emissions. However, the impact of higher energy input costs on most goods and services will be quite small, because the proportionate contribution that energy costs make to their overall cost structure is also fairly small. Economists’ estimates of the average price impact of Rudd’s ETS was that it would increase prices by around 2% i.e. a much smaller tax than the GST, and with lower income earners at least being compensated for the impact of the tax.

    “Average punters” are perfectly capable of understanding all this if it’s competently explained to them, and if those explaining it continue to debunk the sort of deliberately misleading Abbott propaganda nonsense that you’re peddling in this comment.

  9. murph the surf. says:

    Fyodor has good point – this plan in isolation from a multilateral agreement looks more to be about appeasing domestic political considerations.
    Why not develop the plan then sell it internationally to establish it’s credability?
    Still the ALP can say they are leading the world in equity redistribution and addressing historical imbalances regarding past levels of eCo2 emitted.
    There must be some votes which will respond to this plan and be attracted back from the Greens.

  10. Ken Parish says:

    There is no need to wait for a uniform multilateral agreement if Australia’s carbon tax is reasonably moderate in size (at least until there IS a fairly general multilateral regime that includes China, India etc), exempts exports and is imposed on imports from countries that don’t have a comparable carbon tax or ETS. This is merely a plausible-sounding but spurious excuse for doing nothing, commonly advanced by people who simply don’t believe that AGW is real despite the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence to the contrary.

  11. Paul Montgomery says:

    What are the politics of a decision not to put a carbon tax on exporting shyteloads of coal to India, as Baillieu is about to start doing? Doesn’t that offset all the other domestic gains of a carbon tax in a global sense?

  12. Fyodor says:

    Both the economists and common sense indicate that a carbon tax can and will achieve changes in people’s carbon-emitting behaviour, even if they are fully compensated for the price effects of the tax on them. That is because they can keep the “compensation” while avoiding the impact of the tax by changing their consumption patterns (e.g. using low energy mini-fluoros, turning off electric appliances when not in use, walking, cycling or using public transport where reasonably possible, driving more conservatively and switching to a lower emissions vehicle next time you buy a car etc etc). Thus compensating for the price effects of the tax isn’t just “churn” as you claim.

    You’re assuming that the system will compensate efficiently as you imagine. That’s a big assumption. If, as is likely, the system is badly designed there will be bugger-all incentive effect, with no change in behaviour and a truckload of tax churn. Unless people are materially better or worse off as a result of the tax effect on their consumption decisions it’s arguable that there will be ANY effect on Australian CO2 emissions, let alone global emissions.

    Nor is it correct to say that there is “no gain on climate change” for the reasons I just explained.

    Really? How much climate change will be averted as a result of this boondoggle?

    “Average punters” are perfectly capable of understanding all this if it’s competently explained to them, and if those explaining it continue to debunk the sort of deliberately misleading Abbott propaganda nonsense that you’re peddling in this comment.

    First, I agree that “average punters” are perfectly capable of understanding all this – and never implied otherwise – which is why I’m confident that they will see this tax as a total waste of time and money for no good purpose other than using other people’s money to fuel the warm inner glow of the environmentally sanctimonious.

    Secondly, what “deliberately misleading Abbott propaganda nonsense” am I supposed to be peddling?

    There is no need to wait for a uniform multilateral agreement if Australia’s carbon tax is reasonably moderate in size (at least until there IS a fairly general multilateral regime that includes China, India etc), exempts exports and is imposed on imports from countries that don’t have a comparable carbon tax or ETS.

    This is no need to do it NOW-NOW-NOW, either, given the triviality of Australia’s mooted contribution to “climate change”. “Pour encourager les autres” is one of the dopiest reasons I’ve ever heard in support of a fiscal policy.

    This is merely a plausible-sounding but spurious excuse for doing nothing, commonly advanced by people who simply don’t believe that AGW is real despite the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence to the contrary.

    What’s wrong with doing nothing? What will happen if Australia does not impose the “carbon tax”? The Earth burns to a crisp a couple of seconds earlier? Bad karma?

    There is no such evidence for the AGW hypothesis; it is contested and unproven.

  13. murph the surf. says:

    Spurious for some perhaps but the politics of this issue looks just as significant as the conceptual purity of chasing a particular piece of legislation.
    Possibly damaging the Liberals in the public debate looks like one benefit of this piece of drama.
    I don’t think masses of other countries have to be involved – but why the rigidity about the use of international review in the process of developing the plan?
    It looks like this will ongoing and developing complexity for many years and Australia’s schemes will be modified by the response from other countries so why not engage them as part of the solution now?

  14. W.G. Grace says:

    On point (7) who cares? A $20 per tonne CO2 tax works out at less than 6 cents per litre. This morning in Melbourne petrol was $1-49. The issue iws whether this measley charge should be absorbed in the fuel excise.

    hc. Don’t people make decisions at the margin?

  15. Victor Trumper says:

    conrad,

    this government does not have a majority in either house.

    Thus they first have to gain agreement on simply doing something about Carbon emissions. After that they then have to agree on the price and effect.

    Fyodor,

    you seemed to have missed the information of the last proposed regime which would have reduced carbon emissions here. If prices rise then there must be some effect or are you arguing as the opposition is implying that prices will rise dramatically impacting households and companies but this will not affect anyone’s behaviour

  16. Fyodor says:

    Fyodor,

    you seemed to have missed the information of the last proposed regime which would have reduced carbon emissions here.

    Possibly, but I have also missed your point, if you had one.

    If prices rise then there must be some effect or are you arguing as the opposition is implying that prices will rise dramatically impacting households and companies but this will not affect anyone’s behaviour

    Prices rise for lots of goods without much effect on consumption, particularly for staples like electricity supply. It depends on the magnitude of price rise and elasticity of consumption.

    Are you Homer Paxton?

  17. Victor Trumper says:

    Yes I agree you have missed the point.

    your last paragraph shows you are unaware of what the models predicted for the CPRS.

  18. Ken Parish says:

    Yes it is Homer. He’s moved on from dead economists to dead cricketers.

  19. Victor Trumper says:

    Mr Parish,

    You are making an assumption.

    The said person is both an Umpire and qualified cricket coach whereas I am merely a fan.

  20. Fyodor says:

    your last paragraph shows you are unaware of what the models predicted for the CPRS.

    Does it, Homerkles? Show, don’t tell. With sources.

  21. JC says:

    Are you Homer Paxton?

    Is the pope a catholic.

    Homer

    Jason S brought to light that you’re always adopting dead people’s names. Stop it, as even the dead have a right to lay peacefully.

  22. C.L. says:

    Bring back Homer to Catallaxy!

  23. JC says:

    On a serious note , this vid of a Berkeley professor’s lecture is worth seeing. He believes AGW is man-made but thinks there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

    Why?….. Developing world’s emissions.

    China’s emissions alone will be 5 times that of the US 2006 levels in 2050. Even if China sticks to its target of reducing carbon intensity by 4% per year absolute emissions there will dwarf anything else.

    How? China’s emissions are growing at 10% absolute. If we assume 4% reduction through emissions intensity, it still leaves 6% growth in absolute terms.
    Example:

    Use 100 as the base for 2006 with a 6% compound growth rate for 44 years (2006 to 2050). That puts the 2050 figure as 1299 (or 13 times higher than the US 2006 level) even with a 4% intensity rate. In the vid Muller of course doesn’t put it that high; he goes for around 4 to 5 times higher obviously because China’s economy will eventually slow down a little.

    Keep in mind this for China only and doesn’t account for that other huge monster just over the border (India), nor does it include other emerging economies.

    We could shut off all emissions in the west and wouldn’t account for zilch in carbon reductions over the course of the next century.

    The imperative is to therefore come up with advanced technology which produces abundant energy that walks though the price of coal.

    There is only one at present and it looks like nuke power fully scaled up and left un-hobbled with penny ant regulations.

  24. Alan says:

    As a thought experiment, if there were a multinational agreement on the table, does anyone seriously imagine that those saying ‘wait for the world’ would then support climate change action?

  25. wizofaus says:

    JC: except that China and India are two countries particularly prone to some of the most immediate effects of global warming, primarily through glacial melting. There’s no particular reason to believe Chinese or Indian governments are likely to be even more myopic than Western ones have shown themselves to be.
    However I do agree with you re the need for abundant cheap clean energy, and there’s no question nuclear will be a significant part of the equation. But the idea that it’s going to happen super cheaply by somehow convincing people we can get rid of the regulation that currently exists to ensure nuclear power can be delivered safely is rather fanciful. OTOH, carbon taxes make nuclear a decidedly attractive investment.

  26. Victor Trumper says:

    Mr Fyodor,
    if you care to read any of this then you maybe enlightened.

    You should already have read and known about it if you wish to adopt such a supercilious position

  27. JC says:

    wizofaus:

    JC: except that China and India are two countries particularly prone to some of the most immediate effects of global warming, primarily through glacial melting.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a huge freaking long term problem. But until those dudes in the emerging nations figure out that they get hurt with AGW it won’t matter what we, the US, Europe and Japan do, as they will continue to emit and emit in huge amounts.

    If we’re going to intervene in the economy it would be better offering 30 year tax holidays to nuclear operators in the advanced economies and that way we could begin to see serious heavy duty economic scaling that would drop the installation cost down materially. The cost of fuel for these suckers is smallish in comparison to the upfront capital cost.

    AGW is a technology problem. Morality ought to be left out.

  28. JC says:

    As a thought experiment, if there were a multinational agreement on the table, does anyone seriously imagine that those saying ‘wait for the world’ would then support climate change action?

    There would be no choice if the big guys went. Copenhagen failed because we couldn’t reach agreement with China and the rest of the emerging bloc.

    The Obama administration was prepared to offer China a cut of 80% in US emissions by 2050 and all China needed to agree to was 4% annual intensity reductions and the American condition to allow inspections. The Chinese agreed to the 4% but walked on the inspections. The Americans were prepared to allow the Chinese absolute levels to rise. This obviously suggests they can’t be trusted in this sort of agreement as the inspection issue busted the deal.

    There can’t be any international agreement when you have the constituencies in the emerging economies wanting to live like we do, so the only real solution is serious, heavy duty technology advance otherwise we adapt.

  29. Fyodor says:

    Mr Fyodor,
    if you care to read any of this then you maybe enlightened.

    You should already have read and known about it if you wish to adopt such a supercilious position.

    Supercilious? *arches brow* Moi?

    I read it the first time, O Great Sage, Equal of Kevin, and you have failed to enlighten me as to where my last paragraph shows that I am “unaware of what the models predicted for the CPRS”. Again: show, don’t tell.

  30. derrida derider says:

    The inability of this government to sell a message is stark. In particular they don’t seem to have anyone who can (in a previous Minister of mine’s favourite phrase) “put it into pub talk”. This lot would never call a program “Work For The Dole” or “Baby Bonus” – it would be “Labour Market Activation and Employment Measure” and “Post-Natal Incentive and Compensation Program”.

    All they need say is “Your power bills are going to be higher, but we’re going to pay the money back to you. If you use less power than the average person, you’ll come out ahead. If you use more than average, you’ll come out behind.”

    Back that message with a really simple – even if not perfectly fair – compensation package (say a flat rate tax credit and a flat rate pension top-up, which you call “Energy Saving Reward”) and you can wave the rest away as detail which you don’t have to go into much on TV, dismissing the other lot as whinging bores.

  31. Victor Trumper says:

    Mr Fyodor,

    IF you read the report then you would know it was in one of the volumes. The Government used various models. Indeed the chapter was quite extensive

    You clearly need to read it a second time.

    I agree with DD. HE appears to be on the money as you say.

  32. Fyodor says:

    IF you read the report then you would know it was in one of the volumes.

    WHAT was in WHICH volume?

    WHICH volume “shows” I am “unaware of what the models predicted for the CPRS”?

    Stop blustering and deliver the reference.

  33. Victor Trumper says:

    You didn’t read it at all as it is the central piece of the report and anyone who can merely look would be able to determine which chapter it is in.

    you do have a rather very long nose

  34. Victor Trumper says:

    you will read in the pertinent chapter

    ‘Both the Garnaut Final Report and Australia’s Low Pollution Future presented results from a combination of three top-down, computable general equilibrium (CGE) models: the Global Trade and Environment Model (GTEM), the G-Cubed model, and the Monash Multi Regional Forecasting (MMRF) model.’

  35. jtfsoon says:

    Homer
    Are you ‘Toozing’ Garnaut now?

  36. JC says:

    He’s got you there fyodor. I was hoping for your sake he wouldn’t bring up the G-Cubed model. It’s over, you need to concede defeat now.

    Homes, what a beastly act. No one survives a debate once the G-Cubed model is introduced. So unfair.

  37. Fyodor says:

    You didn’t read it at all as it is the central piece of the report and anyone who can merely look would be able to determine which chapter it is in.

    you do have a rather very long nose

    A “rather very” long nose, Homerkles? Are you calling me a liar? Confirm or retract.

    Given you’ve failed to substantiate your assertion your hypocrisy is ridiculous.

    you will read in the pertinent chapter

    ‘Both the Garnaut Final Report and Australia’s Low Pollution Future presented results from a combination of three top-down, computable general equilibrium (CGE) models: the Global Trade and Environment Model (GTEM), the G-Cubed model, and the Monash Multi Regional Forecasting (MMRF) model.’

    Yep. I read it. How does it “show” I am “unaware of what the models predicted for the CPRS”?

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  39. W.G. Grace says:

    Yep. I read it. How does it “show” I am “unaware of what the models predicted for the CPRS”?

    Why is it even relevant? “Trumper” thinks it is like a talisman he can use to dispel debate he’s too lazy to actually do. It wouldn’t be a bother if he actually read a little.

    Of course if you read a little you’d know Frontier Economics trashed the CPRS modelling. The net result was no emissions reductions and a costly, damaging series of entrenched interests.

  40. Fyodor says:

    Of course if you read a little you’d know Frontier Economics trashed the CPRS modelling. The net result was no emissions reductions and a costly, damaging series of entrenched interests.

    Yes, I read that too. I actually went through FE’s assumptions with Danny Price, who was excitedly miffed that his preferred model didn’t get up. The possibility of bias did occur to me, though these modelling jobs are always more bullshit than science and the BQ rises exponentially with the forecast horizon and political sensitivity.

  41. Tel says:

    It’s just that it doesn’t operate like a traditional tax; it is not deducted from your pay packet or anyone else’s pay packet, it comes from the big polluters.

    When people hear that, they instantly recognize they are being treated like idiots, of course it will add to the price of consumption, especially electricity.

    2. It will be imposed only on big polluters like power generators and iron and steel smelters. It won’t be paid by small businesses, families or individual Australians.

    Obviously it will be paid by small businesses, families and individual Australians. Hands up all of us who aren’t customers of electricity generation and steel production. Anyone round here live in a mud hut? This sort of blatantly misleading statement fails to win anyone over. The dumb punters are just a fraction smarter than that.

    6. Goods imported from countries which don’t impose a carbon price of a similar amount to Australia will have the Australian carbon tax imposed on them.

    As I said, the price of consumption is set to rise. The objective being to discourage consumption, we could call it “austerity” but that’s a naughty word so call it “green” instead.

    All they need say is “Your power bills are going to be higher, but we’re going to pay the money back to you. If you use less power than the average person, you’ll come out ahead. If you use more than average, you’ll come out behind.”

    Very good, but this would require the federal government to actually speak to citizens on the level. You know, not try to outsmart them by talking in cunning circles. So when Tony Abbott calls it “carbon tax” because, you know, that’s what it is, and then Gillard wastes everybody’s time (including her own) splitting hairs about exactly whether it is a tax or not, then Tony wins “pub talk” cred, and Labor come away looking shifty and untrustworthy.

    Thing is, Tony Abbott (as a seasoned fighter with a few scalps hanging from his belt) does what all successful fighters do and studies his opponents. He knows full well is the last thing they will ever deliver is openness, transparency and straight talk to their audience.

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