Horror movies, Cabinet Ministers and the Carbon Tax
Craig Emerson is one of the more sensible members of the Gillard Government. If you watch this ABC interview with him, you wouldn’t know it. His rendition of the old Skyhooks hit Horror Movie with words changed to reflect the fact that despite Tony Abbott’s warning of Whyalla being wiped off the map it survived.
His musical interlude begins about 1.50 minutes in. Horror movie right there on my TV indeed. You have been warned.
I blame the carbon tax for this madness. Technically I am right.
It is a case I think of ‘whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.’ But there is something deeper going on. The Labor Government is on a carbon tax selling mission against a background of support for Labor hovering at or below 30 percent.
The latest Nielsen poll shows hostility to the carbon tax is at its highest ever, and this in the week before its introduction. While Labor’s primary vote went up 2% to 28%, its two party preferred vote dropped 1% on the back of a drop in support for the Greens.
However the poll was taken in the week that both the Government and Opposition indulged in a racist carry on over refugees in the parliament, trying to outbid each other on who could be tougher on asylum seekers. It may be that people blame the Government for the failure to secure a ‘solution’.
The poll also shows that 5% think they will be better off after the introduction of the carbon tax. 51% think they will be worse off.
This is despite the fact that Treasury modelling shows that with the tax cuts and increased pension and other payments most households (about 90%) will in fact be a little better off. NATSEM modelling shows even bigger benefits for lower income earners.
Why this disconnect? It may be the Treasury and NATSEM analysis is wrong. That is possible, but they will be there or thereabouts so let’s assume that 90% of Australian households will be no worse off, if not slightly better off under the carbon tax, at least in the short term.
An alternative explanation is that the Abbott carbon tax scare campaign is and has worked.
However if people realise they aren’t worse off after the tax is introduced, Abbott’s tactics could rebound. People will see electricity prices going up, only partly because of the carbon tax but that is too subtle a point I suspect for most people to get in this age of misinformation, but they won’t notice the tax cuts.
This is reflective of something else. Although Australia has one of the best performing economies in the world, and we weathered the GFC relatively unscathed, people are mightily pissed off. They don’t feel better off.
And the reason for that? One reason might be that despite working longer and longer hours, (although the trend seems to have flattened now,) the rewards are going more and more to the boss. Capital’s share of national income is at its highest ever since records began to be kept and that going to labour the lowest.
In other words there has been a shift in wealth to the bosses from working people, a shift reflected in the fact that Australian society has, according to both the ACT and the OECD, become a more unequal and inequitable society since the early 1980s. For readers not familiar with Australian history, the Hawke Labor Government was elected in 1983 and the ALP was in power under Hawke and then Keating till 1996.
Of course the debate isn’t played out in those terms. It is couched in terms of increased living costs. When electricity bills arrive with their ten or 20% increase in prices (only about half of which is due to the carbon tax and the rest due to energy generators’ privatisation and the failure of the new owners and providers to spend enough on infrastructure) workers will blame the carbon tax.
There is something else in all of this. The compensation will erode over time, eaten up by bracket creep, changed government policies, cuts to social services, the increase in the household cost of living at rates greater than wages and ongoing rotten and underfunded public transport, health and education.
All of this is driven in the end by the decline in profit rates across much of the developed world and the rise of neoliberalism as an ideology and practice of wealth shifting to capital and the rich as one strategy to try and address that decline.
So it looks like the advisers to Minister Emerson at least have been saying he needs to find a way out of the impasse and what better way to get his message noticed, to ‘cut through’ in message management speak, than to make a fool of himself on national TV?
I look forward to other Ministers following suit. Julia Gillard could perhaps croon about Kevin Rudd with ‘Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone’ or perhaps ‘Breaking up is hard to do’.
Rudd could reply with a rousing rendition of ‘Achy Breaky Heart’, while for Wayne Swan the song of choice might be ‘Taxman’.
For Peter Garrett, Minister for School Education, and former front man of Midnight Oil, what better song than his own band’s ‘Beds are burning?’ You know Peter, the one that includes these words:
The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back
How is that coming along now you are a Minister in a Labor Government?
The fact remains however that no matter how much of a song and dance Labor make over the joys of the carbon tax, they are doomed. The carbon tax is the specific focus for general working class dissatisfaction and anger with long hours, inadequate pay, poor social services and Gina and Clive on TV every night flaunting their wealth.
What better epitaph for this Labor Government than ‘the Battle Hymn of the New Socialist Party’ ?
Here are the words to the Leon Rosselson song:
BATTLE HYMN OF THE NEW SOCIALIST PARTY
The cloth cap and the working class, as images are dated.
For we are Labour’s avante-garde, and we were educated.
By tax adjustments we have planned to institute the Promised Land
And just to show we’re still sincere, we sing The Red Flag once a year.
Firm principles and policies are open to objections;
And a streamlined party image is the way to win elections.
So raise the umbrella high, the bowler hat, the college tie
We’ll stand united, raise a cheer. And sing The Red Flag once a year.
It’s one step forward, one step back. Our dance is devilish daring
A leftward shuffle, a rightward tack, then pause to take our bearings.
We’ll reform the country bit by bit, so nobody will notice it
Then ever after, never fear, we’ll sing The Red Flag once a year.
We will not cease from mental fight till every wrong is righted,
And all men are equal quite, and all our leaders knighted.
For we are sure if we persist to make the New Year’s Honours list.
Then every loyal labour peer will sing The Red Flag once a Year.
So vote for us, and not for them, we’re just as true to NATO,
And we’ll be calm and British when we steer the ship of state-O.
We’ll stand as firm as them *
To show we’re patriotic gentlemen *
Though man to man shall brothers be, deterrence is our policy.
So raise the mushroom cloud on high, within their shades we’ll live and die.
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we’ll sing The Red Flag once a year.
* these two lines sung to tune of “send her victorious, happy and
glorious” from God Save the King.
Copyright Leon Rosselson