“Carbon Tax” Successful Reframing at its Best

I got into a debate over the weekend with a family friend. I learnt fairly quickly that nothing I said could alter the frustration the other felt over the “carbon tax”. This included pointing out an absurdly obvious fact; it’s not a tax.

I shouldn’t need to say it, but we all know the basics of tax. Put simply, a tax collects a fragment of one entity’s wealth for certain reasons, from establishing a “common wallet” to fund public based goods and services to the outright repugnant sequestering of wealth and lands by yesteryears lords and kings to pay largely for their lavish lifestyles.

What we have with carbon is unrelated directly with wealth, but instead the amount of greenhouse gases one’s activities are responsible for. A carbon neutral business could laugh themselves to the bank, because they do not pay, per unit, for their emissions. What we have on carbon is a price paid to emit. It is a price on carbon.

It continually amazes me how the most vocal against the price on carbon tend to want a market-based strategy; when that’s exactly what they bark so feverishly at! At the same time, they tend to be silent in the face of the real cost increases with power supply, of which, the carbon price is small.

As stated above, the cost effective approach is to reduce the emissions one is responsible for or, in other words, reduce one’s overheads! The price on carbon is a good place to start.

Yet, as I found over the weekend, no matter what I said, the word “tax” stuck. People hate tax, obviously (but one wonders how much this hatred compares to that six-month old pothole that has not been repaired due to a loss of public revenue) and so labelling it the “carbon tax” is a wonderful tool to mislead people into thinking that a portion of their hard-earned money has been swiped by the federal government against their will.

In reality, the price on carbon is essentially avoidable. And, if it works well, eventually it would fade itself out of existence.

I’ve harped on about it, however, the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan is entirely funded by the taxpayer, either through increasing taxes or by removing standing services instead. Either way, it is an initiative entirely funded through the taxpayer’s expense. It is, unavoidable regardless how small your carbon footprint is. It is the true tax paid by everyone.

It remains, however, that the spin, “carbon tax” has seem to have worked, without any rationale behind it.

Associating a market-based strategy with mythical overbearing government propaganda has, in this case, switched off the minds of many, to crassly parrot back the same absurdities time and time again.

The Coalition has continually called it a “big fat tax” on everyone and “the economic wrecking ball” (that never was), with Greg Hunt dedicating a blog to the “carbon tax”. Christopher Monckton, too, has enjoyed this bandwagon with his latest tour; Carbon tax, climate scam, Agenda 21: can democracy survive all three? Lord Monckton does due diligence.

The “carbon tax” stands as a success campaign to mislead and ultimately undo the standing political leadership within Australia. It has been an excellent political manoeuvre that threatens to lead us well and truly to a carbon tax paid directly by the taxpayer. Sitting on the sidelines to this crazy affair, I’m amazed at how well the opposition have successfully plugged this bait and switch. They could put many marketing gurus to shame.

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4 responses to ““Carbon Tax” Successful Reframing at its Best

  1. The Coalition have cynically mis-represented the carbon price for three years, aided by the Murdoch and Fairfax press, and also the ABC who promote the meme that the Prime Minister lied about the carbon “tax”.
    PM Gillard did not tell a lie. In her speech before the 2010 election, she stated that she wanted to put a price on carbon followed by an emissions trading scheme, at that time known as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the CPRS. This was reported by two senior Murdoch minions on August 20, 2010:-

    Julia Gillard’s carbon price promise

    by: Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan
    From: The Australian
    August 20, 2010 12:00AM
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/julia-gillards-carbon-price-promise/story-fn59niix-1225907522983

    **** JULIA Gillard says she is prepared to legislate a carbon price in the next term.

    It will be part of a bold series of reforms that include school funding, education and health.

    In an election-eve interview with The Australian, the Prime Minister revealed she would view victory tomorrow as a mandate for a carbon price, provided the community was ready for this step.

    “I don’t rule out the possibility of legislating a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a market-based mechanism,” she said of the next parliament. “I rule out a carbon tax.”

    This is the strongest message Ms Gillard has sent about action on carbon pricing.

    While any carbon price would not be triggered until after the 2013 election, Ms Gillard would have two potential legislative partners next term – the Coalition or the Greens. She would legislate the carbon price next term if sufficient consensus existed.– ****

    The only difference is the year she nominated; other than that let’s see what has been achieved, and this is not a complete list by any means. It looks like the list at the beginning of the article above…

    Climate change legislation tick
    school funding, = Gonski tick
    education tick
    health. tick
    NDIS + Disability Care tick
    NBN = under construction tick

    Not a bad effort given that the hung Parliament was expected to collapse before Christmas 2010.

  2. Gillard explains carbon scheme
    http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2011/s3148281.htm

    Australian Broadcasting Corporation
    Broadcast: 24/02/2011
    Reporter: Heather Ewart

    ***** HEATHER EWART: With this carbon tax – you do concede it’s a carbon tax, do you not?

    JULIA GILLARD: Oh, look, I’m happy to use the word tax, Heather. I understand some silly little collateral debate has broken out today. I mean, how ridiculous. This is a market-based mechanism to price carbon.

    HEATHER EWART: Well with this carbon tax then, it does seem certain that fuel and electricity prices will go up. How are you going to be sure that you can compensate for that, especially for low income earners?

    JULIA GILLARD: Well, can I say this is a market-based mechanism to price carbon. It has a fixed price period at the start, a price that will be fixed. That is effectively a tax and I’m happy to say the word tax. *****

    Leading up to this part of the interview, the PM mentioned “carbon price” five times but that wasn’t part of Heather Ewatt’s agenda, even though the Prime Minister repeated at the end of the interview, “Well, can I say this is a market-based mechanism to price carbon.”.

    No, no, no. It was a carbon tax according to Ms Ewatt and her husband Barrie Cassidy later wrote proudly about this interview.

    Is the carbon tax battle over?
    By ABC’s Barrie Cassidy
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-07-14/cassidy-is-the-carbon-tax-battle-over/2793726

    Updated Thu Jul 14, 2011
    ****** With the benefit of hindsight, would Julia Gillard be better off now if she had pedantically insisted a price on carbon is not a tax, but a charge?

    The argument would have obsessed the media for a while and annoyed a lot of the electorate. But over time, it would probably have faded.

    After all, there is a half way reasonable argument that the Government is not taxing the 500 companies who pollute the heaviest, but charging them for doing so, in much the same way householders are charged – and not taxed – for the power they use.

    That would have been a massive exercise in hair splitting. But look at what the grudging, what-the-hell, concession has cost the Prime Minister in credibility and ability to prosecute a case.

    It’s instructive to look back on the first time she conceded the scheme amounted to a tax. It was February 24, this year, on what was then the 7.30 Report.

    Host Heather Ewart: “With this carbon tax – you do concede it’s a carbon tax, do you not?” *****

    Mr. Cassidy later had another go:-
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-03-30/cassidy-labors-fate-and-carbon-tax-hindsight/3922204

    It’s time the Cassidy/Ewatt team sailed off into the sunset!

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