RAW: Carbon Tax – Let The People Decide

By Lewis Dowell

Leader of the opposition Tony Abbott is pushing for the fate of the politically contentious carbon tax to be handed to the Australian people in a referendum. Abbott will introduce the motion ofin both houses of parliament.

It is quite obvious that the only reason Abbott is introducing such a motion is that in recent polling less than 40% of the public have shown support for a carbon tax. Abbott has also received much support for his ‘stop the tax’ campaign. If polls were turned the other way and showed great public support for the tax, it would be interesting to see what strategy he would take then.

However, as Abbott has argued, Prime Minister Julia Gillard did promise pre-election that a government under her leadership would not introduce a carbon tax, and so maybe the referendum is merited. If the public voted for Gillard based on the information that there would be no carbon tax, perhaps it is only fair that we get to decide again as she has changed her mind.

The motion lies on the shoulders of the two independent senators Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding, who will support the motion if it is in the interests of ‘democratic accountability’.

One can only imagine the storm of propaganda and fear mongering that is about to descend on the public should a referendum take place. Not only between Liberal and Labor, but every corporation and company likely to be adversely affected, will be willing to open their wallets to scare enough people to vote ‘no’ against the carbon tax.

The public seemed so outraged and offended months ago when they learned of the Australian Hotels Association’s plan to spend $20 million in a campaign against stricter regulations on the pokies (the ‘Un-Australian’ campaign), but I wonder what the reaction will be to the efforts of mining companies flooding our TVs and radios with anti-tax messages. My guess is that we will not be anywhere near offended.

The public easily made the connection between the Gaming Association’s profits and the livelihood of those addicted to gambling, and could see the cynicism in their attempts to confuse the legislation with notions of patriotism and being ‘Un-Australian’. But in this issue I don’t think the same connection will be made between the profits of major corporations and the detriment to the environment.

Skepticism and apathy toward climate change is abundant, and widely people seem to trust big corporations and the mining industry. They view Australia’s economic stability as being on their back and are willing to listen when they start grumbling. Unlike when not-for-profit environmental organisations grumble, and we all seem to snidely snigger at them, and ignore their message as whingeing or sooking. We seem to have it reversed in this country, where we have an abundance of trust for multi-million dollar companies, but are very cynical to small volunteer environmental groups. Maybe it’s because we view anyone not concerned by money to be crazy.

Mainstream skeptics of climate change have played a great trick on the public by turning the issue of climate change into a matter of belief. People in the broader community seem to think they have a choice, that they don’t have to believe in climate change. Unfortunately this is not the case. Climate change is happening and the only choice we have is what are we going to do about it (if anything at all).

I am all for democratic institutions being used in political debates, however in this case I believe it’s not being used to see what the public wants, but rather to confuse the public over the issue and allow corporate giants a chance to rally their minions. Climate change is happening, and the government needs to act. If it’s the carbon tax that Liberals disagree with then they need to introduce an alternative that is just as effective. Simply rejecting the tax and high fiving corporations is not going to help anyone.

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