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Green Civil War Down Under

It’s winter down under but environmental politics are hot.  Leaders of the state of West Australia are threatening to secede from the country after Prime Minister Julia Gillard released plans for a new carbon tax next year, according to The Atlantic. Even in environmentally-conscious Australia, where 81 percent of voters support action to combat global warming, nearly two-thirds oppose the tax, which may lead to steep increases in the price of electricity for Austrlaian citizens.

The law includes a typical Rube Goldberg-type tax redistribution system that will supposedly protect voters from higher energy taxes, but many Australians don’t seem persuaded.

The green movement again is bumping up against its limitations – people are afraid of global warming, but wary of solutions that cost a lot of money or involve complicated government programs and empower new bureaucracies.

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  • Ed McCabe

    Pity the 19% with sense, then.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      Though presumably there are some “don’t knows” in there too…

  • Tom T.

    So if the carbon tax will not be paid by voters, who will be paying it?

  • Toby

    Tom T – the answer to your question is that some voters (earning more than an amount that the centre left Federal Govt has cynically determined to be the point where its supporters peter out) will pay it, as they don’t get any “compensation”. So the equation goes – large companies pay the govt the tax, the large companies pass the extra costs on to consumers, and some of those consumers get money from the govt (equal to what the govt *thinks* will be the cost – but has no means of knowing). Pure graft and cynicism, yet its supporters have the temerity to call this a “market mechanism”.

  • Swearjar

    Oh, it’s fun Down Under at the moment. The Gillard government went to the polls last year promising that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led, but following the election, which ended in a hung parliament, she was only able to form a minority government with the support of a couple of independents – and the Greens. Shock, horror – after the election, she announced she’d implement a carbon tax.

    The government here is in all sorts of strife – plumbing new depths in voter support, with the only good news for her that the next election is still two years away. Anger at her broken promise – and at her clumsy attempts to deflect it – is pretty widespread. Even her traditional voter base is eroding, though it may yet turn around.

    The only hope she has is that the implementation of the tax – yet to be enacted but will probably scrape through in the next month or so as the numbers are, just, there – will be relatively smooth and will help turn voter sentiment around. If she doesn’t, there is a growing likelihood she’ll be replaced as Prime Minister within months. But turning around the negative attitudes towards this government will not be at all easy. The opposition, meanwhile, has pledged to rescind the tax if elected.

    If Durban late this year ends in another failure of the international community to agree on binding commitments – and if she’s still Prime Minister – she’s going to look a bit silly. The opposition is making a lot of headway by arguing the government is proceeding too far ahead of the other major trading partners, putting our carbon-intensive export industries (eg, coal) at risk.

    Supposedly “most” of the tax will be paid by “the big polluters”, but the burden will also fall on a large chunk of the middle class and those earning higher incomes. Thjere’s a widespread program of assistance to the majority of households, but it will probably cut out within a few years – and the tax rate will continue to rise.

    Recent polls have also shown the number of people who thought climate change was a pressing concern have dropped in recent years – a lot of concern was driven by the extended drought we had and some alarmist rhetoric driven by much of the media here (not unlike some in the US). I don’t know whether climate change is as alarming as some say, but there’s plenty of heated rhetoric on both sides of the argument.

    I think all can agree that the Gillard government has shown us all a singular case study on how not to introduce contentious legislation.

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