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John Passant

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October 2013
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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)



Labor and the carbon tax: will they or won’t they?

I live in Canberra, a supposedly a left wing town. It is more the town of comfortable middle class leftism than working class struggle, although the Liberals’ threat to get rid of 12000 public servants might spark some response. This is unlikely given the pathetic nature of what passes for a public service ‘union’, but it is possible if workers organised independently of the officials. I don’t see that happening at the moment.

Yet despite this reputation for being left wing our Federal Labor politicians are a conservative bunch. Gai Brodtmann, my local member, is from the right.

Senator Kate Lundy is Left but voted for Shorten, one of a number of the Left who delivered the leadership to the Right. Clearly the Left in the ALP is now nothing more than a job placement agency because it has nothing else to distinguish it from the Right.

Andrew Leigh, the MP across the lake, is an independent, supposedly a rank and file member. He is also a former Professor of Economics at the Australian National University and enthusiastically supported the Gillard government’s combined $3.8 billion in higher education cuts to a demo of over 100 ANU students at his Office.

In his role as Shadow Assistant Treasurer he was interviewed today about the Labor’s position on Abbott’s moves to abolish the Carbon Tax. Here is what Andrew told Sky News on Tuesday:

We said we would scrap the carbon tax, the fixed price period, and move straight to a floating emissions trading scheme. That’s something that we will be happy to vote for on the floor of parliament.

There is an ambiguity to that statement. It countenances scrapping the carbon tax without an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in place. Well, the legislation already does that. From 1 July 2015 under the law as it currently stands the carbon tax will go and an ETS will replace it.

In response to pressure from climate change denier Tony Abbott what Labor said before the last election was that it would bring that date for the ETS forward by a year, to 1 July 2014, if re-elected. That way Labor could say in the run up to the 7 September election it too supported the repeal of the carbon tax.

Labor wasn’t re-elected so the seemingly obvious position would be to oppose both the Government’s repeal of the carbon tax and their attempt to introduce the joke called Direct Action. That would see the ETS start from 1 July 2015.

Of course the change of the Senate on 1 July 2014 with an influx of nutters from the Palmer United Party and other fruit loops will see the Government have the numbers to abolish the tax the day after.

What Labor wants to avoid is being labelled carbon tax supporters over the next 8 months and blamed for electricity price increases.

In fact the main reason for price rises has been the need for the privatised providers to finally spend some money on infrastructure after years and years of under-funding. The tax cuts more than compensated, at least in the short term, for the anticipated impact of the carbon tax.

But Labor fear that Abbott might be on a winner with his latest slogan about Shorten, describing him as Electricity Bill and Electricity Bill Shock.

We need to be clear. Labor doesn’t have a commitment to the environment. It has a commitment to capitalism and getting elected. That means one conclusion some or even many of its parliamentarians will draw is that to get re-elected they have to abandon the carbon tax.

Certainly the Fairfax Press were reporting on Tuesday that Labor would dump the carbon tax and I think Andrew Leigh’s weasel words indicate the fix is on.  As Tom Allard and Mark Kenny put it in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Labor is expected to support axing the carbon tax, with senior figures – including leader Bill Shorten – now convinced that its case for action on climate change will be more easily sold if the politically toxic tax is abolished.

The more the irrelevant discourse between the Government and Opposition goes on, and the more the leaders of the major powers refuse to act, the more convinced do I become that capitalism cannot address climate change.

Capitalism is about short term profit. Sometimes the state steps in to impose longer term solutions on capital that benefit the whole system, but there is no supranational State body with the power to do or organise that in relation to the global threat that is climate change. Military and economic competition, especially between China and the US,  make any significant transnational agreement highly unlikely.

Attempts at a national level have been episodic and tied to markets and the neoliberal idea that adjustments to price (carbon taxes) or artificial trading markets in polluting permits (an ETS or ETSs) will solve the problem.

They won’t because pollution is an externality to production for individual capitalists and there is no capitalist mechanism to value the cost of the destruction climate change is and will wreak. Suffice to say that a carbon price of $23 a tonne of CO2 emissions wasn’t ever going to be enough to produce significant change. At best it would have locked in a shift to gas and locked in that fossil fuel for the next 50 years.

The move to an ETS and joining up with the European ETS would have seen the price drop to around the current $6 a tonne if implemented now. That’s not enough to scratch my bum let alone address climate change.

Yet a price of say $100 a tonne, while it would have made wind and solar power competitive with fossil fuel electricity plants, would destroy the economy.  First it would increase the costs of production (but only in Australia if it is not an international scheme.) Second, without price controls (something the Greens, labor and the Coalition, the parties of neoliberal capitalism are never going to do) such an increase would massively cut workers’ living standards and perhaps spark massive strikes to regain lost real wages, or destroy many workers’ lives with the consequent massive increase in unemployment and poverty.

System Change, not Climate Change

It looks to me as if profit and competition are the barriers to addressing climate change. If that is the case then only a democratic revolution of workers to run society to satisfy human need can address climate change. As the banners at some environmental demonstrations and eco-socialist conferences say ‘System Change, not Climate Change.’

To comment, or see what others are saying, hit the comments link under the heading. Comments close after 7 days.



Comment from Lorikeet
Time October 30, 2013 at 9:23 am

I think it would be much more intelligent to do away with both the Carbon Tax and the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme, as I believe they are just 2 of the mechanisms of global wealth redistribution, and therefore undemocratic.

It would be far better to encourage people to be less wasteful and to recycle and reuse various items.

I think we are far more likely to have the Debt Ceiling fall in on us than to become victims of the new Climate Change God.

The next thing you know, we could have Greenies wanting to sacrifice virgins into volcanoes, in the hope of avoiding another mini Ice Age brought about by a volcanic eruption. This might also double as a method of Population Control.