It’s probably a bit late in the show but this still needs to be said: IT IS NOT A BLOODY CARBON TAX.
Did you say NOT a carbon tax? We’re going to need a bigger bottle. DIGITALLY ALTERED IMAGE
I know what taxes are. I see them every day in too many manifestations. They are everywhere, but there is no trace of a tax on carbon in the 18 pieces of legislation which will be debated in Parliament from today.
Now, I have on rare occasions come across speeding fines – penalties designed to encourage me to drive at acceptable speeds. The “clean energy” legislation has what closely resembles a speeding fine, except in this case it is intended to encourage acceptable levels of carbon emissions.
It is not a tax on carbon, just as a speeding fine is not a tax on cars.
You wouldn’t know it from what the Opposition has been saying for the past 12 months, and even the Government has surrendered to the word “tax” to describe its carbon pollution pricing scheme.
But that doesn’t make it correct, and it doesn’t mean voters are being appropriately informed about what Opposition Leader Tony Abbott calls the “toxic tax”.
What it does mean is that when the Government says the carbon pricing issue has already been talked through to exhaustion, it is referring to itself, not a significant section of the public. The Government still has a lot of explaining to do.
Yesterday I was asked by an articulate and aware young person whether the carbon tax would be itemised on receipts in the same way as the GST? She quite clearly believed it was a fixed levy on goods and services paid at point of sale.
And there are anecdotal reports of people expecting that from July 1 next year the carbon tax will be deducted from their wages every payday.
This is testimony to the single-minded and singular campaign by Tony Abbott to demonise carbon pricing. He has outplayed the Government at every step.
The critical point was the accusation that Prime Minister Julia Gillard had lied by saying before the election that no “carbon tax” would be levied under her Government.
By the time the new Gillard Government got around to addressing the accusation it had lost the issue. It could spend months in a semantic argument about the word “tax”, which would make it seem out of touch, or carry its wounds into the broader climate change debate.
Tony Abbott made sure they had no option but to wear the tax tag.
That battle lost over one little word should add to any Labor concerns over what might happen in the debate over the thousands of words in the 18 carbon pricing bills.
The Government could rightly believe it has the numbers to pass the legislation, with a majority of cross-bench MPs in the Reps and all the Greens in the Senate lined up as support.
But it could win the legislation and lose the politics.
Julia Gillard yesterday said history could be swift to judge the carbon pricing with approval, as it did with Medicare and compulsory superannuation.
But on past performances, Tony Abbott might still be able to make the carbon fines a negative in two years time when the next election is scheduled, even if it is by using what Climate Change Minister Greg Combet yesterday called “misrepresentation and outright deceit”.
If after four years of explaining itself on carbon pricing Labor still can’t convince people it isn’t creating a new tax, it might have difficulty getting though the positives of its policy.