Monday, 16 May 2011

The Great Aussie Carbon Tax and why I am not revolting

I am tired of hearing about polls about which party is “winning” in the polls. I am very tired of hearing that the carbon tax will ruin us. I am sick of an insistence that we need a government budget surplus. I am tired of hearing about the pink batt debacle. I am wondering about the discernment and common sense of the great Australian public at the moment. I am particularly wondering about the propensity to believe anything that appears in the media, particularly if that media is on the conservative side. And I have been wondering why such information is believed, and how this information is processed.

Did you know that there was no real increase in fires during the insulation scandal? I am serious. Yes, there were fires caused by carelessness and ‘cowboy’ installers. But there always have been. The insulation scheme meant more batts were installed in more houses, so the number of fires therefore rose. The percentage remained stable. If you want to check this, read the CSIRO’s report on it. The great beat up by media and Opposition would have us believe that the fires and the cowboys were as a direct result of government policy. There were not. Yet no one reported this, or bothered to report the CSIRO’s findings when it they released. The common perception remains that the scheme caused more fires and more deaths. It didn’t.

I am also tired of hearing about our ruined economy. Watch SBS news, and see how many nations are still in deep strife from the World Financial crisis. We are not. Why? Because the government was smart in its decisions. This is agreed by all our national economists. But is this the story we hear on the media?

And why must we have a budget surplus? What is wrong with a debt that can be serviced, but may also provide important and necessary works in our country? Who nowadays is not in debt? Why should governments not have managed borrowings?

Being up here in National Party country, the big thing reverberating around the paddocks and beaches is the carbon tax. My favourite local paper wants me to believe that a carbon tax will bankrupt me, that no other country has such a tax, and that the climate is really cooling. I was fascinated by this last statement, and immediately got online to look up the credentials of the climate change expert that they had hired for the anti-carbon tax rally, and who was making this assertion.

The first thing I found was a rebuttal of one of the expert’s papers by a climate change scientist who described it as possibly the worst paper ever written on the subject. The next thing I noticed was the same information about the expert cited over and over again by various small newspapers and conservative groups such as Quadrant. Even on the expert’s own website, there was no biography or list of qualifications, and when I read one of his papers, he cited his own ‘research’ as evidence. The best I could find in regard to his qualifications was a newspaper who stated that the expert was from Perth and had a BSc in geology.

Mmmmm. Expert? Climate change scientist? I think not, yet here he was last Sunday addressing a rally of people against carbon tax, acknowledged as a climate change scientist and expert. The earth is cooling, and CO2 is harmless. Everything is OK, and Labor are ripping you off for no reason. And according to the paper, apparently this crowd believed him. Why? A few minutes searching showed this man is probably a fraud. Even if the crowd had no access to the Net, the paper did. Why didn’t they check his credentials?

I also checked whether other countries had carbon taxes, as I was pretty sure they did. The United Kingdom has one. The European Union has one that covers all their member countries. Finland, Norway, Denmark have one. Even certain American states have one. And the list went on. So why did the paper say Australia is alone in this? And it was clear that no one had been bankrupted from it, as I found in the following article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The SMH reported on March 8, 2011 that

A European Union climate expert has described Australian opposition to a carbon tax as bizarre, diplomatically pointing out Britain's Conservatives were more co-operative in opposition.

Jill Duggan, who managed Britain's initial emissions trading scheme (ETS), said there was an incorrect perception that Australia would be going it alone if it put a price on carbon.

"The thing that struck me is how the debate has changed here and also that wide perception that I keep hearing that Australia shouldn't go first," she told reporters in Canberra today.

"Coming from Europe, that sounds slightly bizarre because there are 30 countries in Europe that have had a carbon price ... since the beginning of 2005." Ms Duggan also dismissed suggestions that a carbon price would push up electricity prices dramatically, arguing higher oil and commodity prices accounted for three-quarters of the 40 per cent increase in power bills during the first year of an ETS in Britain.

Job losses were also minimal, with the European ETS creating service-sector jobs in Britain.

"I don't think we can think of any jobs losses that are the direct result of carbon policy," Ms Duggan said.

Note that Australia has been called ‘bizarre’ for not doing what other industrialised nations are doing. The Sydney Morning Herald managed to do its homework, and this was placed on the AAP service. So why haven’t other media picked it up, and are in fact promoting the opposite? And why do people believe them?

Media Watch tonight pointed out the many of the reports of the cost of a carbon tax – in particular The Telegraph - cited a rise in power bills of around $200 a year. As MW showed, this is not based in fact. The group and the document they allegedly cited did not put a figure on the rise of electricity bills. It didn’t stop the Telegraph citing a figure, and I am sure their readers believed them.

Part of the answer came from watching Q & A tonight. Anna Rose, a splendid young woman from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition suggested that politics was too complex to be represented by a media bite of a few minutes, yet this was how much of the information on the electronic media is presented. Tony Abbott presents as a strong leader because he is black and white on issues, and delivers the aforesaid bites. Unlike Julia Gillard, he has no need to negotiate complex issues with others, he is not constrained by a power sharing arrangement, and he doesn’t have to make – and live by – the daily decisions of the Government. Life is more complex than Tony would have us believe. Politics is more complex than Tony’s spin. The truth is out there, though don’t look for it in Tony’s comments about a carbon tax.

What is the cost of this blind gullibility to our nation? To our planet? Even to our local communities? What are we at risk of losing when we blindly swallow these black and white minute long bites of bullshit?

An educated nation is in a much better position to survive than an uneducated one. A thinking nation will act smart. There is nothing to be gained by blind ignorance.

All you media types out there, you have a duty of care to tell the truth, to inform responsibly and to check your facts and sources. Don’t just go for that controversial angle or sound bite. It is time to give the whole picture, so everyone has access to the whole story. We don’t all watch obscure documentaries. Truth should be mainstream, not just found on the ABC and SBS. We deserve much better than what we are being dished up.


  1. well put,just who do we believe?

  2. Good question, Gordo. I think that we need to be prepared to do some research ourselves, and learn to differentiate between reliable information and information that comes from a biased source of any kind. Not easy, but with a little trouble, it can be done.