“Democracy is dead,” they cried, wielding blow-up baseball bats. “Today is… the worst day of the rest of our lives”. Radio rager Alan Jones blustered: “The notion of global warming is a hoax… this is witchcraft.”
I dun made this myself. Pic: AFP
“Extreme wingnut and proud of it,” boasted one man.
Well, at least one of the weekend carbon tax protesters was telling the truth.
There are some valid reasons to oppose carbon pricing. Some people think the price per tonne is too high, some think it’s too low, and will not work to encourage behavioural change by big polluters. Some think that Australia’s carbon emissions are so puny compared to the rest of the world there’s no point. Some people think it is not worth the potential pain to businesses or individuals.
The latest Nielsen poll shows two thirds of Australian voters oppose the tax. But it’s a solid bet that many oppose the pricing for bad reasons. Unsound reasons. Alan Jonesy type reasons. So in the interests of improving the quality of debate, here’s a list of some dodgy justifications for opposition to the carbon tax:
1. Because the Prime Minister is ‘Juliar’.
Some may think the use of the moniker ‘Juliar’ or ‘Joooo-liar’ indicates a mature and sophisticated political mind. But really it’s both puerile and shows a misunderstanding of the word ‘lie’. A lie is an intentional deceit. What Ms Gillard did – once her motley crew was formed post-election – was break a promise.
This isn’t just semantics. She was forced by circumstances beyond her control to change her plans. So anyone who is against the carbon pricing system because ‘she lied’ and therefore ‘democracy is dead’ is resting their argument on false foundations.
2. Because human-caused climate change is bunkum.
It’s not. There is a scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change and that it is an enormous threat. Scientific theories may differ on how much of climate change is our fault, and what the actual effects will be, but not the core fact. There is a Nobel prize for any scientist who could debunk this theory; it would be a mind-blowing finding and would change the course of humanity. It hasn’t happened.
Those noises that whisper in your ear that it’s not happening are just the hootings of vested interests, amplified by an innate resistance to change. You may not think carbon pricing is the answer to climate change, but thinking that you know better than the science is another very wobbly plank to rest your argument on.
3. Because it’s just another tax.
No one likes being taxed. But we quite like healthcare and education and roads. They’re a necessary evil. The fixed carbon price isn’t exactly a tax, but it sort of acts like one.
It picks on about 300 of Australia’s biggest polluters, punishes them for polluting, tries to get them to change their ways. So either they pollute less and therefore pay less, or they try to pass the cost on and risk losing customers.
A market-based mechanism for reducing carbon is broadly seen as the best option. It’s an attempt to change behaviour – not ‘just another tax’.
No one knows for sure what will happen now – whether some businesses will suffer, who will be worse off, who will be better off once the carbon price and compensation flow through. We don’t know whether Mr Abbott will be able to repeal the tax once he gets in, whether his own plans for tackling climate change will work.
There’s a lot to talk about, and the less time we waste on dodgy reasoning and name calling, the better.