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John Passant

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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Follow the Maldives Kevin

The Maldives is going carbon-neutral in the next ten years.

The 385,000 people who live on 200 of the 1200 islands that make up the nation will meet all their energy needs from green sources such as solar and wind power and coconut husks.

If nothing is done globally to address global warming, rising sea levels will swamp most of the Maldives over the next 100 years.

Experts who developed the plan estimate the $1bn cost will be recouped in 10 years.

The Maldives will get the cost back through privatising the Government owned electricity monopoly.

The dangers in doing this are manifest. First the market is to solve the problems the market created.  Unlikely.

Second the privatised monopoly will ratchet up prices.  The Islanders will pay for this, not the big polluters around the world.

Third, if major polluter countries like the US and China and Australia don’t stop polluting the Maldives will disappear.

The Maldivian action is not just symbolic.  The Maldives is leading the world and urging us all, especially the developed countries, to follow. 

The rest of us should do what they are doing – set out the goal of being carbon neutral and do whatever it takes to get there and sustain jobs. 

As the Maldives – a poor country reliant on tourism and fishing – moves to being carbon neutral, rich countries should no longer be able to say they can’t afford to do anything.

But that is precisely what the rich West is arguing. The economic crisis will only provide further cover for doing nothing.

Under the lie of jobs, jobs, jobs the politicians in the West will say it is too soon to do anything.  For them and the polluters they protect anytime is too soon.

But, as  Jonathon Neale argues in Create climate change jobs and save the planet, the world can create green jobs – if we realise this is something we all must do together whatever pricing signals the market sends. 

The market is the enemy of addressing and then stopping climate change, not its friend.

As the Maldivian President wrote: ‘Going green might cost a lot but refusing to act now will cost us the Earth.’

Here in Australia Kevin Rudd has set a 5 percent reduction target by 2020 through Emissions Trading if no global agreement is reached. 

 This will not reduce carbon pollution at all but add to it.

Kevin Rudd won’t follow the Maldives unless we force him to. 

A visionary politician would go to the people arguing for a green revolution, a revolution creating millions of jobs to build solar panels and wind farms in Australia.

Our Prime Minister is the Mr Magoo of climate change.

It is time for leadership, for one western developed country to adopt the goal of carbon neutrality now and work for it as soon as humanely possible.  Australia can be that country.

But as Labor’s Emissions Trading Scheme shows, Rudd will defend the old industries and their profits ferociously.

The need is urgent.  Let’s push Rudd to act.

 Green jobs and green energy are the future, and the future is now.






Comment from john tons
Time March 18, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Whilst I agree with the sentiments I suspect that this is one bridge too far for Kevin. What may suit his persona more is the development of an energy descent Plan – instead of bolting climate change solutions on to an existing, failing economy lets see whether or not he can construct a plan that makes Australia sufficiently resilient so that we are not so vulnerable to factors beyond our control.

Comment from John
Time March 18, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Thanks john tons.

I suspect Rudd is actually bolting the ETS on to existing economic models, models which in my view have failed or are failing.

I’ve been reading the CRPS bills and EMs. As an outsider it is hard to see wood and trees. The general overview is OK, but does anyone know of any really good layman’s introduction and explanation of this material?

Even for a tax lawyer like me this law is pretty complex. I just hope this is because I am an outsider looking in for the first time, rather than because it is inherently complex. I suspect from what I have begun to read that it is inherently complex.

What are the arguments – in 100 words or less? – for and against a carbon tax? Any good pointers?

And why not a carbon tax instead of an ETS? Can you protect or insulate the poor and working class consumers from such a tax?

Comment from Ian Westmore
Time March 18, 2009 at 5:56 pm

John, IMO a carbon tax is even worse than Rudd’s useless ETS because only taxes far beyond what any government would be prepared to impose are likely to have an effect.

When a barrel of crude more than doubled between July 2007 to July 2008 from around $US60-00 to $US145-00 petrol and diesel consumption dropped by only 2-3%.

How high a tax would you need to force a 25% reduction in energy use? 500%, 750% 1,000%, 2,000? What about to force a 80-90% reduction in emissions? It won’t happen because any government that tried would be out of office before their tax had an impact.

You’re right. With the right person selling the benefits, voters would welcome an effective ETS (which the proposed one isn’t). But I don’t believe Rudd actually cares much about it. To him climate change is mostly a political problem not a matter of life and death. If the ETS gets rolled in the Senate, which seems likely, don’t count on him fighting tooth and nail to get it up.

The best hope is Obama who has already signalled that countries that don’t act will find themselves on the outer both politically and economically with threats to impose a pollution tax on their goods. However, whether he can actually translate words to action remains to be seen. Frankly, I skeptical. 🙁

Comment from John
Time March 18, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Thanks Ian.

I hadn’t thought much about the level of tax. Frightening figures you suggest.

Part of the problem I guess is that demand for some carbon products are inelastic, especially if there are no real alternatives (like decent public transport.)

So a real green program would include the development of alternative energy – and fund it perhaps in part through a carbon tax on polluters.

I agree about Rudd. He sees this in political terms alone, not survival in the medium to long term (shortening rapidly).

I argued in a mini-post some time ago that Obama might develop green protectionism in the form of a tax or tariff on goods from countries which don’t adopt global targets and act on them.

You have more up to date information that backs up my guess.

I think the threat itself might be enough to engender a climate of agreement. let’s see.

Imagine Australia being the subject of such action. I wonder how that fits in with the free trade agreement?

Comment from juan
Time March 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Hi John
Point taken about Ian’s: “How high a tax would you need to force a 25% reduction in energy use?” Like you, I am not an expert on ETS or IMO. I am not even a tax lawyer. I suspect that there is something fishy going on there! I think certain things just have to be explained in a language we can all follow. As I understand it, if we (john citizen) suddenly went all green and left our cars at home, got solar hot water heaters, PV cells, grew our own tomatoes and so on, big polluters would be able to trade in the carbon credits we (john citizen) earns, at a cost, of course, (it seems that they can buy cheap carbon credits from developing countries, but that’s another story). So the polluters can go on polluting to produce what? goods that we no longer want because we have all become greenies? Take the example of China. It is often accused of been a great polluter, and there is no question that China pollutes a lot. But, who are they producing for? Is it for the wealthy western countries with their insatiable appetite for gadgets? One could go on like that. But what I really want to say is that it seems to me that the biological fate of the Earth is umbilically joined to the social and political fate of the people that inhabit it. That is, without revolution there is no solution. What was that that Marx said about ecology? “For a century and a half England has indirectly exported the soil of Ireland, without even allowing its cultivators the means for replacing the constituents of the exhausted soil” . Does it sounds like our (not too distant) future carbon traders? Penny Wong, for one, seems very comfortable with the proposition. Lets throw the bastards out, but who do we vote for?

Comment from John
Time March 19, 2009 at 8:46 am


I believe it is true that our ETS system is a cap and floor system. (The Australia Institute for example argues this well.)

This means that if we as individuals reduce our carbon footprint the big polluters get to use the extra we have saved. That’s the underlying rationale I think for the pink batts fit out.

We need to be careful about thinking the problem is excessive consumption from the well off West.

Many of the consumer products from China etc that workers purchase are necessities – white goods, small household appliances, clothes and so on, or quasi-necessities like computers, TVs, DVDs etc.

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