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John Passant

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November 2011



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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)



The carbon tax: a descent into hell or the new utopia?

Much of the commentary on the carbon tax seems a little overplayed. It’s either the end of civilisation as we know it or some first step on the path to salvation.

The faction of the bourgeoisie and their politicians who oppose the carbon tax have managed to hitch on to workers’ entirely rational fears about having to pay more because of the tax. At a time when the share of national income going to labour is at its lowest since records began to be kept, that fear is understandable.

However, the household compensation package – the tax cuts and increased Centrelink payments  –  in the short to medium term will, if the Government and NATSEM analyses are right, actually marginally improve the living standards of most workers.

In the short to medium term.  That’s the rub.

A carbon tax, or its market twin, the emissions trading scheme from 1 July 2015, have as their logic imposing the cost of pricing carbon on workers. A pricing mechanism can only work if that happens.

After all, the whole basis of the neoliberlaism of the last 30 years has been to implement policies that favour the one percent and if needed attack the rest of us in an attempt to restore profit rates.

The carbon tax is born of that logic. Remember the GST compensation package? No, didn’t think so. It was eaten up by bracket creep, inflation and changed government policies over time.

Much of the carbon tax compensation package is merely a  return of the bracket creep of the last few years. Bracket creep arises when you go into a higher non-inflation indexed tax bracket. Even if that doesn’t happen your pay increase is eaten away because it is taxed at your marginal tax rate, not your (lower) average tax rate.

The sky won’t fall in when the carbon tax comes into effect on 1 July 2012. But it will over time increase the burden of pricing pollution on to workers, not the bosses and their system which creates and profits from greenhouse gas emissions. 

The carbon tax won’t do anything to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly. It might slow the rate of increase of those emissions.

When the move to an emissions trading scheme begins in 2015, then the pricing mechanism might begin to bite.

let’s look at the Euroepa scheme as a guide. The main beneficiaries of that scheme have been the banks who have manipulated the market and price to make easy money.

In the first two years of operation, the European trading scheme saw emissions increase. In later years emissions did fall, but mainly because the Global Financial Crisis cut production.  The scheme arguably had some but not a major impact.

It is the move to an ETS that the Labor Government hopes will produce a price on carbon that will really affect consumers, ie hit workers.

The Treasury modelling shows that without an international trading scheme emissions will rise 2 percent by 2050. With such international trading then emissions, Treasury predicts, will be cut by 80 percent.

The US, China and India do not have and will not have any carbon pricing mechanisms in place by then or have any plans to introduce such schemes. So the international trading market will rely on major but not the major players.

The European ETS might survive till then. Might. I understand the price has collapsed in the last few weeks.

The carbon tax and in 3 years time the ETS might be the spur to all that Coal Seam Gas exploration of late.

I want to side with those who think that the carbon tax will actually address climate change. But reality gets in the way.

To imagine the market will fix the problems intrinsic to the market is to live in a fool’s paradise.

The profit motive will trump people’s needs for a safe and clean environment every time. It is the relentless logic of the system to pollute, to treat natural resources as nothing more than a factor in production and hence something now with a price on it.

However the price on carbon – $23 a tonne of CO2 emissions – will not produce a move to renewables. The Greens know this.

Sarah Hansen-Young has said you would need somewhere around at least $100 a tonne to drive investment in solar generated electricity. Beyond Zero Emissions says wind farms will only become profitable at a carbon price of up to $70 a tonne.

Politically that level of pricing isn’t going to happen.

What the carbon pricing mechanism will do is lock in gas fired power stations. Gas, depending on which sort, produces much less CO2 emissions than other fossil fuels.

Certainly the Resource Minister Martin Ferguson has been arguing that the carbon price provides certainty for gas fired power stations and the Clean Energy Future propaganda from the Government pushes gas as the clean alternative.

In fact the predictions in the government’s material are from memory that 60 percent of our electricity will come from gas fired power stations by 2050. Only 18 percent will come from renewable energy by then. 

Global warming threatens the future of humanity. Tinkering with the price of carbon won’t change that.

It was Australian National University earth and paleo-scientist  Andrew Glikson who wrote in The Conversation that the consequence of the dumbing down of the debate was that ‘an irrelevant discourse ensues between those willing to undertake symbolic action and those who deny the science altogether.’

Symbolic action. That’s the carbon tax.

It’s time for a democratic revolution to challenge the rule of capital and its greenhouse gas emissions and to develop, in Glikson’s words, ‘a plan for the future’ and, quoting Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate science advisor of the German Government, save ‘the very life support system of this planet.’

Capitalism can’t and won’t plan for the future survival of the planet. We workers can. But to do that we have to democratically organise production to satisfy human need, not to make a polluting profit. That’s a revolution.



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Time November 15, 2011 at 2:44 am

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