Carbon cops run amok in a world of spin
One could only marvel at the transformation of the minor matter of the regulatory powers of the Clean Energy Regulator and the ACCC in relation to the carbon pricing package into yet another cri de coeur for the armed struggle against climate-change action.
Strangely, while insisting that there is a problem with international carbon permits because foreign governments don’t vet them properly, the Coalition has been confecting “carbon cops” as the next threat to our civil liberties. Central to this is the suggestion in the media and from the Coalition that private individuals will be targeted by the regulator, rather than business producing emissions. Observe how Joe Hockey does it:
This is a government that is addicted to bureaucracy, more carbon cops, more carbon regulation, more carbon laws, more red tape for everyday Australians.
Before “carbon cops”, busting down your front door and scaring the kids in pursuit of unauthorised emissions, had been invented for the purposes of being demonised, the Coalition had also insisted the government was going to “gag small business” from explaining price rises causes by a carbon price with threats of $1.1 million fines. “The Gillard government’s plan to use the ACCC to gag small businesses from informing consumers of price increases due to the carbon tax is a further attack on the struggling sector,” insisted the Liberals.
I haven’t googled but I’m sure I don’t recall Liberals jacking up when the Howard government gave the ACCC a specific new power relating to “price exploitation” to enable it to prosecute businesses using the GST as a pretext for jacking prices up.
This time around, the ACCC won’t have any new powers to “gag” small business. They‘ll have the same powers they currently have to deal with false and misleading conduct, and require substantiation of prices, under the Australian Consumer Law. That was introduced earlier this year after two consumer acts passed last year that replaced the old TPA with the Competition and Consumer Act.
The Coalition supported both bills.
Meanwhile, Tony Abbott has added chemistry to his areas of expertise — hitherto confined to climate science and economics — courtesy of his description of carbon dioxide as “invisible, odourless, weightless, tasteless”, a strange description of something he proposes to spend billions of taxpayer dollars buying by the tonne.
So, for the sake of clarity, the Coalition climate change policy appears thus to be to buy tonnes of something that has no weight, with no one to check whether anything has been purchased at all, and the ACCC is not to prevent businesses from falsely claiming it has increased their prices, using powers the Coalition happily voted for.
Really, public policy debate in Australia appears to be rapidly falling to the level of a talkback radio call, free of facts, logic or evidence.
On the face of it, this is a peculiar development. Australia has a highly educated population, with an education system that compares favourably to others in the OECD. Decades of economic reform under both sides of politics has been accompanied by a vigorous but well-informed economic debate; nowhere else in the world has a senior politician complained about the resident galah talking about microeconomic reform. Yet public discussion of an economic reform that was embraced by no less than John Howard is teetering on alfoil hat stuff.
Part of the responsibility can be sheeted home to an opposition that, since it regards its opponents as illegitimate, feels no constraint about its campaign to remove it from office. If you’re prepared to talk down the economy and suggest foreign investors take their money elsewhere, skipping the need for facts and consistency is neither here nor there.
And part falls to section of the media, most particularly several shock jocks and News Ltd, who have campaigned against climate change action with an aggressive disregard for facts. Indeed, it might be useful to adopt some sort of measure such as a Jones Unit — named after Alan Jones and the Telegraph’s Gemma Jones — to describe the astronomic distances by which their claims about carbon pricing diverge from reality.
Beyond that, one moves into the sort of chicken-and-egg territory traversed by Lindsay Tanner in Sideshow — who dumbed down first — the politicians, the media, or the audiences? Did audiences tune out, did the media trivialise debate, did politicians resort to spin first?
Page 1 of 2 | Next page