Doomed Planet

Climate speak

I heard Tony Windsor on ABC radio on Friday last week. He was brought in to comment on his challenge to business to come up with their own version of the “carbon tax” if they didn’t like the Government’s. He was reported as saying “put up or shut up” to BHP. He told us that all the business people he had spoken to agreed that something must be done about climate change but then didn’t like the proposed tax. He obviously found this unsatisfactory and frustrating, hence his challenge.

It was so painful to keep listening to such drivel wrapped up in homilies. I forced myself as some kind of penance for past sins perhaps. It was particularly galling when the guest immediately following Windsor said how good it was to listen to such commonsense. Mon Dieu! Maybe he was a family member.

Windsor actually thinks it is up to BHP and other businesses to come up with the design of a tax that will keep everybody content. If that is at all possible which, of course, it isn’t; that is the Government’s job Tony! Moreover he believes that all the business people he talked to actually believe that something must be done about climate change because they said so. Does he not understand that they would be burnt as witches if they told him it was all bosh?

Rob Oakeshott was reported as saying that he would rely on evidence rather than his constituents’ views in determining his position on the tax. Apparently he thinks it would be “populism” to do otherwise. Oakeshott regular regularly puts on his Uriah Heep guise to explain he knows little but will rely on experts and their evidence, as though this will cut through different views and reveal the truth. It won’t Rob.

Why not talk to Bob Carter and other like-minded climate scientists (there are thousands of them) who will tell you that there is no compelling evidence of material man-made global warming, or social scientists who have looked at the evidence, like Bjørn Lomborg, who will tell you that taxing or pricing CO2 is not an effective way to tackle the problem if it exists. You will soon find out that there is no well laid out scientific pathway to the truth. There is only you Rob. And maybe, just maybe, the commonsense of your constituents is worth considering over Tim Flannery’s flummery when you are weighing up your decision.

How did we get to a point where Windsor and his regional sidekick Oakeshott are calling the shots on the CO2 tax and as complete mavericks who regard themselves as wiser than their constituents? Churchill apparently said of Atlee that he was a modest man with much to be modest about. What would he have said, I wonder, about the regional duo? Presumably, that they are not nearly modest enough.

Greg Combet doesn’t seem modest enough either. Going under the title of minister for climate change and energy efficiency, which must be the best example of doublethink since Nineteen Eighty-Four, he wants to tax the hundred top polluters and feels confident that this will benefit Australia. According to Combet pricing CO2, which he calls pollution, will “unlock investment in clean energy and create jobs, and drive investment into low-emissions technology”.

How would Combet know this? The design of the tax is not settled nor the compensation arrangements. There has been no analysis published, and probably won’t be, of the incidence of the tax when it is applied. Who actually will pay it? Companies in the end result don’t pay tax, people do.

Some companies will pass it on to their customers who may in turn pass it on. Others facing import competition might have to absorb the tax. Who will then pay it and in what form. Shareholders may suffer – no-one cares about them of course – or employees through lower wages. Some businesses might need to downsize and sack employees. Never mind, Mr Combet, rather like those retrenchment consultants, will presumably explain that this is an opportunity gained not a job lost. There will be a green job waiting. All those solar panels and windmill parts will be required and all you will have to do is to migrate to China for the opportunity.

Presumably too Mr Combet will go on to try to convince us all that black is white; that costlier energy will generate jobs throughout the whole Australian economy. On that basis $60, $100 a ton of CO2 will be even better than $20. A boundless beneficial future of CO2 taxation awaits.

Welcome to the world of climate speak. In this world, taking away Australia’s comparative advantage in cheap fossil fuels will be good for us. All those constituents in the electorates of New England and Lyne and the coal miners and manufacturing workers who are a tad suspicious and concerned about this should relax. From their elevated positions in the scheme of things, and with the benefit of many experts, Windsor, Oakeshott and Combet know better than you what’s good for you.

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