The cherished self-image of Australians as tough, rangy, boundary-riders resistant to authority, government and brain-washing has taken a dive with rallies to support, of all things, a new tax on carbon emissions.
Not just any new tax, but a tax introduced with a lie, one which will impact directly on the country's manufacturing industry, fuel costs and standards of living for no detectable benefit. My U.S. history is a little weak, but I don't believe rallies have ever been held in the U.S. in support of a new tax, least of all a highly regressive one which will have a crushing effect on international competitiveness and domestic employment, and whose only reason is a more-than-questionable belief in man-made global warming.
At least, so far, the pro-tax rallies are not very big, and those attending (with predictably pretentious names like the Australian Youth Climate Coalition) are not remarkable for the high quality of their intellectual debate. (And just what is this worldwide thing lefties have against baths, anyway?)
The left-of-center Gillard Labor Government, firmly controlled by the far-left Greens who hold the balance of power, was elected with the repeated promise that no such tax would be introduced.
To illustrate just how mad it is, it is proposed that Australian coal-fired power stations will be taxed, but coal shipped from Australia to power stations in China will not be -- make sense of that if you can. This is probably the first time in history, anywhere, that a tax has been imposed where stopping industrial development is not seen as a possible unfortunate side-effect, but as its express and central purpose.
There are several points to be considered:
There is no evidence of significant global warming, the reason given for the tax, and indeed some evidence of global cooling. Further, there is no evidence that human activity has any appreciable effect one way or the other.
The tax is aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions (though carbon dioxide and carbon are continually confused in the debate). Carbon dioxide is not only present in the atmosphere in small quantities anyway, but is vitally important for the survival of life on Earth. Plants breathe it as animals breathe oxygen and it is pumped onto plants to help them grow.
The amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by all human activity is extremely small -- most of it comes from volcanoes -- and of that the amount emitted by Australian industry is infinitesimal. The nations with big carbon dioxide emissions, such as China and, increasingly India, as well as the long-established major industrial economies, are not contemplating any such tax.
The government first denied there would be such a tax at all. It then claimed that the tax will act as a disincentive to emit carbon dioxide. It now claims -- make sense of this if you can! -- that it will compensate industry for the disincentive it has created! The compensation will, of course, come from the taxpayers, who will already be hit by across-the-board increases in the standard of living and by the consequent decline in Australia's international competitiveness, not only in manufactured goods but in agricultural products and all manner of exports.
In attempting to justify the tax, Prime Minister Julia Gillard comes out with near-gibberish about re-writing shopping lists or something:
"In the consumer end, where there will be some price impacts, people will be standing there in the supermarket with the household assistance in their hand. As a result of pricing carbon pollution, some products will be relatively more expensive. Products that have less embedded carbon pollution will be relatively cheaper. Now, people can go in and keep on buying the same old products, or they can respond to those price signals, buy the things that are relatively cheaper with less carbon pollution in them and send a signal back to business 'you know what, consumers like to buy things with less carbon pollution in them', and businesses will respond to that price signal, too."
This, as commentator Tim Blair put it, sounds half patronizing and half Soviet Union. The Prime Minister was then asked:
"[A]ssuming that that all works, there's then the issue of what will all this actually achieve? If the argument that Australia's emissions are only about 1.5 per cent of global emissions, and the 2020 aim is to reduce our emissions by 5 per cent. Now I'm not sure what 5 per cent of 1.5 per cent is, but I'm sure it's not a lot. What's the point of this whole thing? That's what a lot of people are asking."
She replied, quite falsely:
"Well, the point of this whole thing is to say to ourselves the truth, which is we are big emitters of carbon pollution by world standards. Per capita, per head of population, we are the biggest emitters of carbon pollution in the developed world."
As with all such matters, the first question to be asked is: who benefits? The answer is obvious; Government bureaucrats who will have careers created policing the new tax and flying to endless international conferences, plus the Greens who, in addition to being able to pander to their own fanaticisms, are looking forward to a chance to prove it is they who really run Australia. There are already hate-campaigns being stirred up against opponents of the tax as "deniers" who allegedly want to see Australia converted into a flooded wasteland.
The government and the Greens along with their Ovine supporters do not, however, seem to be having it all its own way. Popular demonstrations against the proposed tax are springing up and in them it is possible to see the beginnings of an Australian Tea Party.
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