Well, the carbon tax is gone, and with it, Australia’s respectability on the world stage in regards to one of the most important issues that humanity will face this century. Mr Abbott and his fellow Liberals now have the distinction of being the first government to reverse progressive policy on climate change and, in doing so, they have alienated Australia from much of the Western world.
Britain, despite its conservative government, has recognised climate change as a threat and has supported and voted for initiatives to combat it. The rest of Europe has also been quite active in regards to climate change with many of its countries undertaking carbon-pricing policies. But most importantly, Mr Abbott made himself look like a complete imbecile on the world stage recently when he failed in his attempt to form a coalition of cretins with conservative leaders in the West, in a bid to act as a counter-weight to America’s increasingly progressive stance on climate change.
It is well known that President Obama has outlined climate change as a key area in his second term. Mr Obama is seemingly desperate to leave a legacy behind that consists of more than a much-maligned, although well-working healthcare program and as a result, he has enacted a number of executive orders to reduce America’s ‘carbon footprint’. Therefore, perhaps it would be wise for a newly elected Prime Minister of a middle power nation not to undermine the most powerful man in the world on a key issue, however, Abbott gave it a shot by trying to ally himself with numerous climate sceptic leaders from around the world. There was one problem though; none of them, with the exception of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, gave Abbott any sign of support for his plan. Instead, Britain’s longest serving environment minister, Lord Debem, labelled Abbott’s plan to abolish the carbon tax as “recklessly endangering”.
But it’s not all depressing, even though Australia now looks completely pre-historic on the international stage, at least we saved the economy right? The Abbott government’s primary reason for dismantling the carbon tax has always been that it destroys the economy, not that it doesn’t work. It’s always been interesting to me that Liberals have often attacked the policy’s impact on the economy rather than the effectiveness of the policy in combating climate change, which is what it is designed for after all.
However, the only problem with the idea that the carbon tax will destroy the economy is that it is completely unfounded in reality. Politicians are prone to make sensationalist claims but this one becomes completely laughable when you look to the data. Unlike a policy that is only proposed and yet to be implemented, the carbon tax was in full swing for two years before it was axed, so we have actual data and statistics to see how it worked.
Two of the major claims made by the opponents of the tax were that prices would rise unsustainably and jobs would be slashed across the board. In reality, we saw inflation over the two years rise at the relatively slow rates that you would expect them to in a country that is emerging from an economic downturn. The inflation rate has been between the 2-3% ‘goldilocks’ zone for almost two years now. As for unemployment, it experienced only the mildest of fluctuations over the life of the tax and there was never the destructive impact on the workforce that Abbott guaranteed would eventuate. In regards to two of the key factors of the economy, the carbon tax has had a negligible effect.
Although the carbon tax is gone, the issue of climate change hasn’t disappeared and it will almost certainly return to the forefront of the political consciousness in the years to come. This time around there was massive debate. Debate on the floor of parliament, on talkback radio, on television, at dinner parties and in pubs all around Australia.
However, the one place where there wasn’t debate was between climate scientists; coincidentally the only group of people whose opinion on climate change actually matters.
There was also very little debate between economists about the impact of the tax on the economy. The vast majority of them insisted that carbon pricing was the best and most efficient way of tackling the problem of climate change without challenging the integrity of the economy. They also insisted that Abbott’s alternative measure, ‘direct action’, is not a sufficient replacement if it were to be passed by the Senate. Perhaps this shouldn’t be too surprising considering Abbott dismissed the notion that his policy should be modelled before implementation and instead ensured that he would just “give it a crack”.
So next time this issue comes up let’s try to decipher the arguments of our politicians with a little more intent and try listening to the people who actually know what they are talking about. It may not be the most exciting way to go about it and it may require a bit of energy and research on our part, but it can’t hurt to ‘give it a crack’.