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July 17th 2011 print

Peter Smith

Lights, action, lies

Wayne to Julia: “Above all keep smiling vacuously, keep talking about pollution, keep talking off the point and skirting around the truth in that inimitably deceptive way you have, and talking down to people and asking and answering your own questions.”


The government climate infomercial they didn’t use.


Parliament House in background, fade theme music, closeup of a couple talking:

Julia (a redhead): But Wayne I made a solemn promise and you sort of did too. You said that it was hysterical to talk about a carbon tax.

Wayne (a hunk): Big-time economist Ross Garnaut thinks it’s a cunning tax.

Julia: Hold on Wayne, wasn’t it another economist mate of yours who gave you a cunning tax? The great big mining tax, so that dreadful Mister Negative called it. Bashed us over the head with it good and proper using the most unfair and outrageous hyper-bowl. Poor Kevin lost his way and suffered terribly. (The PM reaches for a tissue.)

Wayne: This is different; and it is so clever that once you see all of its implications it will blow your socks off. Anyway we don’t really have a choice Bob Brown and his green gang, who remember don’t share our delight in the everyday values of Australians, threaten to knock our blocks off if we don’t do it.

Julia: (The PM shivers.) Ok Wayne that’s a fairly persuasive point. Let’s hear about it; why is it so good?

Wayne: I can hardly speak I am so excited. It is really an invisible tax. It taxes a colourless gas; we’ll call it pollution, which nobody can see. That’s the real beauty of it. Because it can’t be seen we’ll need lots of agencies, authorities, programs, initiatives, schemes and funds to deal with it. Look we’ll need a Climate Change Authority, a Clean Energy Regulator, a Clean Energy Finance Corporation, an Australian Renewable Energy Agency, a roped in Productivity Commission, an Energy Security Council, a Remote Indigenous Energy Program, a Jobs and Competitiveness Program, a Low Carbon Communities program, a Low Income Energy Efficiency Program, a Household Energy and Financial Sustainability Scheme, a Carbon Farming Initiative, a Carbon Farming Futures program, an Energy Security Fund and a Biodiversity Fund, the list goes on and on. It’s so long I am sure I have missed some.

(Wayne takes a deep breath.)

Literally tens of thousands of new Labor-voting public servants will be needed to administer the new qangos and boondoggles and calculate how much of the invisible gas different businesses produce or alternatively don’t produce and how much different businesses will get for not producing it or producing less of it or for reducing it or to make up for being taxed for producing it and how much particular categories of people should get for paying higher prices because some businesses of our choosing are producing it being taxed and increasing their prices. I don’t know how much legislation and regulation will be needed. It will run into many thousands of pages.

Julia: That is truly amazing Wayne! It is a Labor government’s dream come true – billions of dollars coming in billions of dollar being doled out as we choose. If only communist Eastern Europe had of thought of it, the commissars might still be in charge. (The PM sighs.)

Are there any downsides? I mean how about breaking my solemn promise?

Wayne: Don’t worry, say something vague about the composition of the new parliament and pretend that everyone knew you were going to price carbon. Never ever mention the Citizens’ Assembly.

Julia: (The PM looks genuinely baffled.) What do you mean Citizens’ Assembly?

Wayne: That’s it PM, you’ve got it. Above all keep smiling vacuously, keep talking about pollution, keep talking off the point and skirting around the truth in that inimitably deceptive way you have, and talking down to people and asking and answering your own questions. “Do I think it will be tough? Yes I do”, sort of thing.

Julia: Will I get away with it Wayne? People don’t seem to like me out there in real Aussie land.

Wayne: We love you PM. Bob also said he’s very fond of you unless, as he said, you don’t do exactly what he wants. Then apparently he can turn very nasty, I don’t like to think of it. And the independents think you’re the bee’s knees standing as you are between their sudden and unexpected exalted state and feather-duster oblivion. Kevin doesn’t like you too much but we can’t please everybody. And the mainstream media will go along and find ways to like the tax and rationalise its pointlessness because they are mostly dyed-in-the-wool lefties and greenies and hate Tony Abbott and the Liberals. And we’ll put Abbott between a rock and hard place with all the goodies we’ll be handing out to make up for all the upheaval and damage we are causing.

Julia: Wayne, you might not be the brightest kid on the block but I think you’ve hit on something this time. It’s not important but did you say that it’s pointless?

Wayne: That’s the beauty of it too. Treasury predict that the tax will not reduce emissions of this invisible gas, called pollution remember, just its growth. We have lots of wriggle room. And we produce so little of it compared with China that nobody will notice anyway. Imagine, we are also going to spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars to buy permissions from overseas to emit the gas so that we can report better results.

Julia: You’ve even lost me now Wayne. Why on earth would we ever do that?

Wayne: Exactly! You’re so clever PM; you’ve nailed it in one. It’s so senseless that no-one will be able to get their head around it.

Julia: Wayne, I worry about the next election. It seems just too good to be true; voters might see through it all?

Wayne: Don’t worry, our hand-picked focus groups, from trendy inner-city suburbs and universities and government schools and theatrical and arty types and journalists and the ABC and university-educated union bosses, and including some very intelligent liberals like John Hewson and Malcolm Fraser or was it Turnbull – I get mixed up between the Malcolms – all said that you’re their gal, no matter how incompetent you are or what bizarre schemes you try to foist on Australia.

Julia: That’s a relief Wayne; I was worried there for a minute.

Cut, theme music with background shot of Parliament House as the couple embrace chastely in foreground under flapping Aboriginal flag as a kangaroo skips past. End.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics