Australian PM faces toughest test on carbon tax

Jun 05, 2011 By ROD McGUIRK , Associated Press
Australian PM faces toughest test on carbon tax (AP)
Supporters of a controversial carbon tax gather at a rally in Sydney, Sunday, June 5, 2011. Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard faces her toughest political test to date as she tries to sell the nation on a carbon tax that would lead to higher power prices while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

(AP) -- Australia's leader faces her toughest political test to date as she tries to sell the nation on a carbon tax that would lead to higher power prices while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

An increasingly vociferous debate on the issue is dominating headlines and talk radio and could make or break the center-left government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who ruled out putting a price on pollution during her campaign and has slumped in opinion polls since she floated the proposal in February.

The conservative opposition has relentlessly attacked the proposal in parliament in recent weeks. Supporters hit back in the past week with a $1 million advertising campaign featuring Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett and other celebrities endorsing a carbon tax.

Backers demonstrated in major cities across Australia on Sunday, which was World Environment Day.

The back-and-forth is confusing voters rather than helping them understand the issue, said Australian National University Norman Abjorensen.

"The problem with the public debate is it's just full of static, half measures, half truths and distortion," he said. "The poor old average voter out there trying to get a clear message on this is really struggling. The waters are very muddy and getting muddier every day."

The government has struggled to fend off criticism, even as it negotiates with various interest groups and independent lawmakers to try to hammer out the details of the plan by early July.

The proposal is complex. It would make major polluters pay for every ton of carbon dioxide that they emit from July next year. The revenues would be used to help businesses convert to cleaner energy and to give pension increases and income tax cuts to low- and middle-income households to help offset anticipated higher costs - both for electricity and for groceries and other goods that would become more expensive to produce.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott's portrayal of the plan as "a great big tax on everything" that would cost coal miners and steel workers their jobs has proved easier for the public to grasp and won favor with most of Australia's highest-rated radio talk show hosts.

Blanchett became a target after appearing in the advertising campaign funded by environmental groups and unions. Opponents of the tax called the Sydney-based actress a multimillionaire who is out of touch with the concerns of average Australians.

Blanchett said she expected the attacks in the bitterly divided political environment.

"Yes, I've been fortunate in my career, but that's no reason not to stand up for something that I deeply believe in," she told The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

"I can't look my children in the face if I'm not trying to do something in my small way and to urge other people," the mother of three said.

The public debate is heating up. At the Canberra campus of Australian National University, for instance, several leading climate scientists, economists and policy researchers who support a carbon tax have been relocated to more secure buildings due to anonymous threats against them, The Canberra Times reported Saturday.

On Sunday, several thousand people turned out in central Sydney to show support for putting a price on pollution. Some said they felt had to counter the increasingly negative tone of the debate.

"It can be quite intimidating to hold these views," said Michael Rowland, 47, a television director who held a sign that read, "The meek will inherit a warm earth." "If we're all together, we know it's normal," he said.

Rallies were also held in a handful of other Australian cities as the government negotiates with the Green party and independent lawmakers on key aspects of the plan.

Business groups have warned they could not withstand a carbon tax higher than 10 Australian dollars a metric ton ($12 a U.S. ton). The Greens, whose support is essential to the tax being endorsed by the Senate, argue for a rate four times higher.

The government's chief climate change adviser, economist Ross Garnaut, recommended a price of AU$26 a metric ton ($31 a U.S. ton) in a recent report.

He also said that 55 percent of the carbon tax revenue should be given to households. The government is not obliged to follow Garnaut's advice and immediately ruled out his recommendation to restrict compensation to people earning less than AU$80,000 ($85,000) a year.

The Greens also oppose business demands for billions of dollars to help the worst polluters make the transition to a cleaner economy.

Gillard's deal must win the approval of at least three independent legislators if it is to become law. "We probably haven't seen Julia Gillard display extraordinary political skill, and this is going to require political skills of a very high order," Abjorensen said.

Abbott's conservative coalition vows to repeal the if it wins the next election in 2013, but analysts say that might prove difficult if many voters would lose tax cuts and pension increases.

Australia is one of the world's highest greenhouse gas emitters per person, because of its heavy reliance on coal for electricity. The government has vowed to reduce Australia's by 2020 to 5 percent below 2000 levels.

---

Associated Press writer Sarah DiLorenzo contributed to this report from Sydney.

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Gilbert
3.4 / 5 (10) Jun 05, 2011
Australia is really falling behind the rest of the world on this issue, if you know anything about Australian politics, you would know that Tony Abbot and his conservative party are really blocking change for a political motive, and not for the benefit of the Australian people.
Bog_Mire
2.7 / 5 (7) Jun 05, 2011
we are becoming the isolationist angry red neck island who want to hide from the rest of the worlds problems and pretend they do not exist.
M_N
2.9 / 5 (9) Jun 05, 2011
For those who aren't familiar with Australian politics, in 2010 the Labor party went to an election promising NOT to introduce a carbon tax. Earlier this year they back-flipped and indicated they would actually introduce a carbon tax after all, against the wishes of the majority of the Australian public.

As a result, they are headed for a massive defeat in the 2013 election. The current opposition has promised to repeal the carbon tax when they get back into power.
dogbert
2.1 / 5 (11) Jun 05, 2011
... Tony Abbot and his conservative party are really blocking change for a political motive ...


Since AGW punishments are politically motivated for the redistribution of wealth, it is inevitable that the opposition would be a political expression.
omatumr
1.8 / 5 (10) Jun 05, 2011
As a result, they are headed for a massive defeat in the 2013 election


Congratulations!

Now even the APS is abandoning the myth promoted by world leaders, Al Gore, the UN's IPCC, and their army of government-paid climatologists!

Finally - years after Climategate exposed that data had been hidden, ignored, manipulated to support this myth - the American Physical Society announced the establishment of a "New Topical Group on Climate"

www.aps.org/units...ndex.cfm

To seek "a better understanding of the mechanisms, magnitudes, and timescales by which anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic processes affect climate, including for example, greenhouse gases, solar variability, and unforced influences such as internal modes of variability."

The June 2011 APS announcement is here:

www.aps.org/publi...roup.cfm

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
Egleton
2 / 5 (8) Jun 05, 2011
I love the carbon tax. At last I will be rewarded for making morally sound choices.
Let the polluters pay my tax for me.
tigger
2.3 / 5 (6) Jun 05, 2011
Australia IS a land of red necks, intelligence is derided. Australia prefers football and 'mate ship'... mates... yeah, don't stray too far from the pack or you're a target, don't over achieve or you're a 'smart arse'.

Innovation isn't well supported here, so often potential innovation is lost to over seas markets.

Julia, you're trying to do the right thing... but honestly, this country is full of sheep who honestly think 'Lord' Monckton knows what he's on about. You'd be better off going down in a blaze of glory by sledging the fundamentals of capitalism and explaining to the sheeple why they don't want the tax and dissolve the political argument in doing so. You know as well as I do that you'll never have a leg to stand on while you're still playing inside the system, the system itself is flawed... capitalism can't deal with this problem... layers of tax to force a social change won't work in this case.
ereneon
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 05, 2011
Here is a better idea. Instead of actually taxing carbon, just label the products with the amount of pollutants that the product is responsible for, sort of like pollution nutrition facts. Then consumers can decide for themselves. They seem to already have a plan for calculating emissions, so this would only be one step further than that, but with minimal government interference. If consumers see two bottles of water in the store, one that is imported and has high emissions, and one that is local and has low emissions, I think the difference in sales will be enough convince companies to clean up.
It is one of the biggest lies in the world today that you need big government to be green or responsible. Just put the power in people's hands and let them figure it out for themselves.
dogbert
2.3 / 5 (12) Jun 05, 2011
Here is a better idea. Instead of actually taxing carbon, just label the products with the amount of pollutants that the product is responsible for, sort of like pollution nutrition facts.


That would make sense if the goal were the reduction of CO2. Since the goal is redistribution of wealth, your proposal will never be adopted.
ereneon
4.8 / 5 (5) Jun 05, 2011
I agree. Sadly, I think there are many good solutions that actually solve problems without ulterior political motives that will never even be discussed. I guess that is what happens when the same powerful interest groups finance both of the political parties.
M_N
3 / 5 (8) Jun 05, 2011
Julia, you're trying to do the right thing...

Nonsense - she LIED to the Australian people only days before the election, promising not to bring in a carbon tax. In reality, she's being controlled by the maniac Australian Greens party, who seem determined to trash Australia's economy for no environmental benefit.
KillerKopy
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 05, 2011
Just tax more, AKA throw more money at the problem that will fix it... people have to want to change you cant force things on a free people. Are people not taxed enough? I freaking doubt the majority of Australians want more taxes.
jsa09
3.1 / 5 (7) Jun 05, 2011
complain about Australian CO2 output even though as a country total it is less than 5% or global output. World CO2 output will increase by more than 5% next year.

That means Australia could cut CO2 emissions to zero and still have zero effect on global CO2 production. I am all for cutting Anthropomorphic influence on the natural environment but Australia should not be a pioneer in this area.

Australia should instead keep talking to the bigger producers and offer to follow them in reductions if that is what they do.
Bog_Mire
2.4 / 5 (7) Jun 05, 2011
jsa what do you mean: "Australia should not be a pioneer in this area."? Australia is, in fact, one of the last to catch up with the notion.
As a wealthy small nation that is incredibly wasteful and polluting for it's small population I would say the need for us to set a good example is obvious.
As far as the debate go, sadly there are lunatics and conspiracy fetishes such as Dogbert out there who truly believe the nonsensical sewerage that spouts from their mouths polluting the impressionable minds of those too lazy or wilfully ignorant to do their own research and make their minds up based on good science rather than such bullshit anti-establishment egocentric me-isms as we see from the Dogberter.
astro_optics
1.7 / 5 (6) Jun 06, 2011
I predict that in 5 years "GreanPeace" will be declared a terrorist organisation and banned worldwide except in North Korea.... it takes that long for the leftist governments to be kicked out... and extreme green politics to be kicked out!
Peter_Cook
3 / 5 (9) Jun 06, 2011
I am sick of the whole "she lied to the Australian people" rant. I wouldn't vote for a politician if I thought they were incapable of changing their stance due to reinterpretation of the available evidence. Her party looked at the evidence and decided they had been wrong in the past and that the Carbon tax was a chance to set things right. It's called adaptability. If political parties were cars would you choose one that only let you change the direction of the steering wheel once every 3 years and then only between extreme left and extreme right?

Also to me it does not matter if we are a small country on the world stage. We are an incredibly gluttonous country and and regardless of climate change issues we need to show some restraint for our own social, economic and individual health.
Bog_Mire
3 / 5 (5) Jun 06, 2011
Great points Peter_Cook, I lament the fact that the conservatives will use this issue to play wedge politics (gasp) and gain power on the back of the lack of the average punter's ability to see the science for what it is. Said conservatives will then say they have a mandate to do nothing on climate change apart from invest in a few wind farms and recycling plants.
Australia will fall further behind and fail in it's moral obligations to clean up its act. I for one am surprised and disappointed at the bitter hatred so many Australians show towards our current Government's attempts to be genuinely reformist in this crucial fight for the future of our entire civilisation. I never thought we could become so self centred and sheepish a people. Our future generations shall suffer the consequences of being a water deprived island in an already hot and dry climate.
Bog_Mire
2.4 / 5 (5) Jun 06, 2011
one other point - if they where truly conservatives the Liberals would be all for a carbon trading scheme that imposes a cost on polluting industries - it is good economic sense. Alas they are no such thing. They merely lick their finger, stick it up and see which way the wind is blowing and what course of action is likely to buy them the most swinging votes. Tony Abbott has flopped from saying climate science is crap, to saying it might be real to now saying we should enter into no form of carbon pricing because we can't make a difference.
A true conservative would recognise the danger to the economy and act to prevent destabilisation.
Gilbert
2.7 / 5 (3) Jun 06, 2011
jsa. your made up data are just another example of the problem here. There are 195 countries in/on this world. Of these Australia ranks 15th highest for total amount of carbon emissions (1.35% of world). Australia ranks 12th highest for emissions per capita. All good/bad so far.

Australia's population is roughly 22.5 million.. which gives it the 50th highest population.

How can you compare this to a country like china or india?! Their emissions per person are magnitudes less than Australia's.

But oh dear, you can use fancy words like "Anthropomorphic" (which by the way is actually incorrect usage of the word. You meant to use the word Anthropogenic),
"back-flip", now this is a big one "economy". Well.. you all know lots it seems, alot more than an economist, a scientist, and definitely alot more than an anthropologist...
astro_optics
1 / 5 (5) Jun 06, 2011
If you Greenies are so keen on "cleaning up the word" why don't you try to enforce the quotas per surface area of the country as that's the true measure how something is polluted or not, not per capita.. When you measure thing per capita you have a very different agenda behind it!
Gilbert
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
well by that logic doesn't it make sense to make our population equal across our surface area, and therefore our emissions per surface area would be proportional as per capita?
Bog_Mire
3 / 5 (4) Jun 07, 2011
astro_optics, we Greenies......... *sigh*
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (39) Jun 12, 2011
"I predict that in 5 years "GreanPeace" will be declared a terrorist organisation and banned worldwide.." - Astro-Turd

I have little doubt that your irrational and emotive ranting makes you feel better for a time. It allows your irrational emotive subconscious to override your fear center and bolster your self worth by imagining that you are more powerful and more influential than you are.

Your behavior is completely irrational of course, bordering on complete insanity.

Most of us here prefer to live in the reality based community that you have divorced yourself from.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (39) Jun 12, 2011
"Now even the APS is abandoning the myth promoted by world leaders, Al Gore, the UN's IPCC, and their army of government-paid climatologists!" - OmaTard

Laughable nonsense from a clown who thinks the sun is a Neutron star, and who has claimed that astronomers will never advance until they admit that they can not see stars.

You need to see a shrink Tard Boy.

toyo
3.3 / 5 (8) Jun 12, 2011
I don't see the value in discussing, let alone preparing for, eventualities which can't be proven.
Let's first find out what the level of confidence is in these dire predictions of 'global warming'.
All discussion seems to presume that the science has been 'proven' and, as a scientist, I can tell you Climate Science is just a mewling infant, with many, many years of study required before it can make any sort of credible prediction.
Read the last IPCC report and notice that whilst carbon dioxide doubling on its own MAY increase temperature by 1 degree, the UNKNOWN effects of particulates and clouds have an effect 1 order of magnitude greater (that's 10x). When you have these uncertainties you DO NOT HAVE CERTAINTY!
And...REAL scientists MUST be skeptical - because that's how SCIENCE actually advances.
Anyone dismissive of skeptics is NOT a scientist. I have been working for 40 years in science and I have never dismissed skeptics, I just ask for evidence.
Read and think, then decide.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (40) Jun 12, 2011
I take it then that you have no life insurance, home insurance, automobile insurance, and that you walk through traffic blindfolded, etc. etc.. etc...

"I don't see the value in discussing, let alone preparing for, eventualities which can't be proven." - Toyo

"REAL scientists MUST be skeptical - because that's how SCIENCE actually advances." - Toyo

There is a difference between skepticism and criminal stupidity. You have chosen the criminal stupidity option and are too stupid to know it.

dogbert
2 / 5 (8) Jun 12, 2011
Vendicar,

Everyone seems to be stupid to you.

When everyone else seems flawed, perhaps you should look closer at yourself.
toyo
2.7 / 5 (7) Jun 12, 2011
Vendicar,
your penchant for vitriolic personal attacks instead of reason singles you out. Shame on you.
I normally ignore personal attacks, but an unanswered attack may be interpreted by some as acquiescence here, so: I said PROVEN eventuality. Your analogy of a carbon tax to insurance is totally irrelevant and incorrect, and you know it. Mortality, car accidents etc can't be equated with unlikely climate catastrophes. Prove it FIRST!

However it's interesting you should pick on that argument. Most committed scientists I talk to these days, after sifting through the evidence and weighing up the uncertainties, come back with a similar argument.
It's the final argument in defense of their position, after they acquiesce with the fact that we do not know enough and therefore cannot make these alarmist predictions.
My retort is that we have sufficient evidence of numerous other dangers to survival on this planet.
Let's concentrate on tackling the probable scenarios, not the unproven ones.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (40) Jun 12, 2011
"Vendicar, Everyone seems to be stupid to you." - Dogbert

Largely Correct. I blame Lucifer for making them dumber than me.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (40) Jun 12, 2011
Please note the period at the end of the sentence...

"I don't see the value in discussing, let alone preparing for, eventualities which can't be proven." - Toyo

Now having been esposed as a fool, you state....

"I said PROVEN eventuality." - Toyo

Well, no you didn't and now you are guilty of lying as well as being a fool.

"Mortality, car accidents etc can't be equated with unlikely climate catastrophes. Prove it FIRST!" - Toyo

So I take it then that you have purchased car insurance because you have proof that you are going to have a car accident.

The fact is that you are demanding proof of future events before you will take action to mitigate them. But only if those events are due to global warming. You ignore your own demands when it comes to other unproven predictions of the future like automobile accidents, house fires, etc.

And that my little Tard, is why you are a low life, fool.

toyo
3 / 5 (6) Jun 13, 2011
Vendicar, you unbelievably obtuse animal... you didn't even read my article did you?
The word PROVEN appears not once, but twice. Go back to school and learn to read.

And when you call people retards - look in the mirror. Your comments are based on bad logic - just like your climate scare-mongering. Clearly you care nothing for the argument and, I suspect, for science at all.

Personal attacks are all you have left aren't they?
I wonder if anyone here actually takes any notice of anything you write any more.
I won't, I'm not coming back here.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (40) Jun 13, 2011
"The word PROVEN appears not once, but twice. Go back to school and learn to read. " - ToyoTard

And as is self evident, an entire industry - the insurance industry - exists to mitigate risk and they do so without having "proof" that you will be in a car accident or that your house will burn down.

Yet you still purchase life insurance, house insurance, drivers insurance etc, even though there is no Proof that you will ever need it. You have therefor discussed and prepared for a situation which can not even be proven - contrary to your initial claim.

"I don't see the value in discussing, let alone preparing for, eventualities which can't be proven." - ToyoTard

So not even you believe what your paragraph above states.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.4 / 5 (39) Jun 13, 2011
"All discussion seems to presume that the science has been 'proven' and, as a scientist, I can tell you Climate Science is just a mewling infant..." - ToyoTard

From the sentence above we can conclude that if you are a scientist then you are an incompetent, or that you aren't a scientist at all.

Competent scientists are always keenly aware that science - outside of the mathematical sciences - never proves anything.

Science is and has never been in the proof business.

For you to claim that responses should not be considered because science has not proven xyz, therefore illustrates a vast ignorance of science.

So either you are a scientist who is ignorant of the fundamental precepts of science,
(incompetent), or you are not a scientist at all. (Liar).

Given the several errors in logic that you make in a single post, it is pretty clear that (Liar) is the most probable conclusion.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.4 / 5 (40) Jun 13, 2011
"I wonder if anyone here actually takes any notice of anything you write any more. I won't, I'm not coming back here." - ToyoTard

While you are gone, why don't you off yourself and do the world a favor.

One less Incompetent/Liar in this world will be a good thing indeed.

Gilbert
1.3 / 5 (4) Jun 16, 2011
toyo -

there is clear proof of PROBABILITY of the event happening. When you go to University/College, to become a scientist, you learn all about probability, infact you spend at least 4 years learning about probability, and, 4 of those 4 years are spent learning that you cannot rule ANYTHING as a will or will-not occur event. To believe something is false until it is proven with facts is not scientific at all, the correct scientific mindset would be to believe anything is possible, with the probability of something being true or not influenced only by evidence either way.

By your logic, if there is no proof of "global warming", and no proof against it, that gives you a 50/50 probability of it being true/false. Now would you bet the livelihood of millions of people on the flip of a coin?

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