Australia’s carbon tax and the political circusBy Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon Jul 14, 2011 7:18PM UTC
The carbon tax campaign has been making headway like a rambunctious political circus. Dennis Atkins, The Courier-Mail’s national affairs editor, has described the issue as political rather than an issue of policy. He noted it exemplifies the fundamental division between the pro- and anti-Government factions as more public debates are coming up. On Thursday night, Opposition leader Abbott held a public forum to address his “scaremongering” in Brisbane.
The campaign began last month with Hollywood celebrity Cate Blanchett appearing in a community group’s advertisement urging people to “Say Yes”— followed by “a political superstar and a procession of economists, scientists and clergymen in between” who support Julia Gillard’s carbon price, Atkins observed.
All these hullabaloos could have ceased when Professor Ross Garnaut, the government’s principal climate change adviser, sealed his endorsement. However, even Gaurnaut was dismissed by the fiercest opposition to the policy— Abbott.
Abbott further insulted the nation’s economists who are backing the carbon tax. Fairfax Media has quoted Abbott as saying, “most Australian economists think that a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is the way to go… Maybe that’s a comment on the quality of our economists rather than on the merits of the argument.” Abbott was a guest speaker at the Australian-Melbourne Institute Growth Challenge conference in Melbourne last month where he ridiculed Labor’s “market-based mechanism”.
This week, Abbott’s remarks have boomeranged. Economists trounced Abbott in favour of Gillard at the Annual Conference of Economists in Canberra. A survey was conducted among the economists in relation to their opinion on the carbon tax. About 59 percent agreed or strongly agreed to the Labor’s tax plan against a minority vote of 27 percent who disagreed, Fairfax media reports.
The Economic Society of Australia President Bruce Chapman considers the tax plan as a “very basic economics to reduce negative spillovers from economic activity such as pollution,” the report added.
Abbott has long mounted his scare campaign. He argued that the carbon levy will destroy many industries including steel, cement, aluminum, motor and, eventually, heavy manufacturing.
Behind Abbott are the “big polluters” (as Gillard calls them) and related industry alliances. The Australian Trade and Industry Alliance, meanwhile, have announced to spend about $10 million on a campaign to scrap the carbon plan. The alliance is made up of organisations including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Minerals Council of Australia, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the Australian Coal Association, the Plastics and Chemical Industries Association and the Australian Logistics Council, Australian media reported.
Another climate skeptic stole the spotlight— Lord Christopher Monckton. Described by the press as obnoxious in his manner, he was already banned from speaking at functions in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth. Mockton has called Gillard’s climate change adviser “Facist”. Earlier this month, an ABC radio presenter based in Sydney hung up the phone on Monckton.
Fairfax quoted Monckton as saying, “It was quite extraordinary….It was a live broadcast interview that the ABC requested, but it was really quite a malevolent and hostile tone the host was taking.” The Australian newspaper noted many are disgusted over Monckton “whose views are unpalatable”.
Monckton, a global warming skeptic, will meet the press at the National Press Club in Canberra on July 19 and will debate economist Richard Denniss, head of the left-leaning Australia Institute think tank.
GetUp!, a left-wing activist group has reportedly booked 100 seats for the event which has exceeded the club’s 280-seat capacity— and more people are queuing to book in.
The Australian reports that bookings may have already exceeded over 130 seats, and “support for a carbon tax is running far higher in the capital than the rest of the nation”.
The Greens, meanwhile, tagged Abbott as a hyperbole campaigner. Greens Party Leader Bob Brown has challenged Abbott to a public debate and has been waiting for the opposition leader to set the date and time.