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article imageOp-Ed: Australia’s carbon tax set to pass after pathetic 'debate'

By Paul Wallis     Oct 14, 2011 in Environment
Sydney - Australia is about to pass its controversial carbon tax, complete with what is arguably one of the most pitiful “debates” in Australian history. That ain’t good. In fact the level of debate was downright embarrassing.
The logic in favour of the carbon tax is to charge polluters and so reduce emissions as these fossilized industries move bravely into the 20th Century level of emissions control. Australia is either the biggest or one of the biggest per capita polluters on Earth. It’s either us or the US, depending on your source.
The logic against the carbon tax comes direct from the USA. It’s a tax, therefore it’s bad. It’ll drive up costs, therefore it’s bad. It’ll affect the big companies, all of which are racking up record profits, so it's a form of communism.
This is on the basis of $23 a ton of carbon. Some debate. For that $23 you could buy a meal at KFC, or park in Sydney for a few minutes in your gas guzzler. The ton of carbon, however, could also fill up a few thousand people’s lungs quite nicely.
What’s gone missing in the “debate” is the fact that pollution, by definition, is poison and that waste products are by definition proof of inefficient systems. Carbon pollution was recently identified by Australia’s peak scientific body CSIRO as one of the primary sources of microparticulates which can get straight into tissue.
That’s OK, apparently. Pollution is one of the world’s leading causes of death. During the Industrial Revolution, it was responsible for some of the most appalling living conditions ever seen on Earth. What’s truly hilarious in a black humour sort of way is that even the environmentalists have left this out of their basic script.
Typical of the heavily scripted public “debates” around the world, Australia’s Green movement has been focusing on “emissions and global warming” rather than the original core issue of anti-pollution measures, the sheer toxicity of pollutants. Most carbon emitting sources, particularly coal and oil, emit a range of toxins that make cigarettes look like lemonade. Sulphates, trace elements, heavy metals, you name it, and you’ve got a good chance of soaking in them in most human environments.
I did an article on Hub Pages a while back called Pollution- Genocide by any other name. From the reaction, I gather most people don’t and that politicians in particular were asleep in high school. Carbon combustion produces among other things a healthy range of carbon monoxide, which is merely lethal, as well as a range of other fun things.
So the logic of the debate is that:
1. It’s necessary to tax polluters to try to persuade them to stop poisoning the population
or that
2. It’s OK to poison the population and they shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege.
That’s a “debate”? If someone dumped a ton of something in your living room and told you that there was a reasonably good chance that the material would kill you, would payment make you feel better?
It’s an indication of the sheer mediocrity of public debate that the most basic issues aren’t even understood, let alone mentioned, in debates about carbon pollution.
The equation is that however important the issue, the more evasive the information becomes. The Opposition hasn’t strayed from the cost and tax rhetoric, and the Government hasn’t sold the tax effectively on any specifics, like living a bit longer without the pollution.
Meanwhile the rest of the community, meaning those able to get their press releases into the news media and quite definitely nobody else, have been having their say, and it’s not a lot more impressive:
From The Sydney Morning Herald:
The Australian Food and Grocery Council says the carbon tax will cut up to $250 million in profits annually from the food manufacturing industry.
The government should help the industry become more efficient in reducing carbon emissions and thus cut its costs, the council says.
It released analysis today that suggests the tax would cut an average 4.4 per cent from its members' profits after it is introduced in July 2012
So yet again, “free enterprise” aka “free lunch for life for corporations with public money handouts”, is miraculously incapable of doing anything about its own business operations. Great. That figure of 4.4 percent means that profit is about $6 billion per year, and none of that can be spent on efficiency and reducing its exposure to the tax, according to the industry itself?
If a total stranger was running a business, came up to you in the street and said, “Excuse me, I’d like to dodge all financial obligations to operating my business and leave you with the bill,” which is what this amounts to, how’d you feel about it? Because that’s what happens with any environmental measure. Never mind the basic requirement for business efficiency, let’s pass on the costs. So far this approach has a 100% success rate, globally. Apparently they stop being free enterprise the minute there’s any money involved and like America’s impoverished billionaires, come begging for more money.
In fairness, the food manufacturers are the least of the offenders in this regard. The theory seems to be that any business can be as energy and emissions inefficient as it likes, and that the public, fools that they are, will carry the costs if they’re forced at gunpoint to upgrade their obsolete systems.
This is the general rhetoric:
Spend money on a filter that may actually cost a few bucks and save ourselves from paying that $23 a ton? Never! We’re much too intelligent for that. We may not be able to do basic arithmetic or find Waldo, but we’re smarter than the politicians. We may spend more time talking about our genitalia (or other people’s) than doing business or competing with our senile trade rivals, but we know what we can get away with.
… And people honestly believe that the carbon tax is some sort of fatal blow at capitalism, freedom of speech and the right to wear absurd policies in public. The truth is that it simply proves these idiots can’t even understand the basics, and aren’t even trying to understand them.
Look, you hicks- Stupidity is its own reward. If you can’t understand basic numbers, go back to writing education policies. It’ll be safer for Australia’s bottom line.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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