Today’s Sydney Morning Herald lead story beats up an AC Nielsen poll to scream “We’ll pay to beat climate crisis: voters”. That means two-thirds of voters say (my italics) they’re prepared to pay more tax to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Peter Hartcher puts that in perspective by turning it around to a third of respondents not being prepared to pay more to deal with global warming – and what political leader is prepared to anger a third of the electorate in an election year?

There is a major misconnect here though – introducing a carbon tax doesn’t mean increasing taxes. The model pushed by BHP’s Paul Anderson in the US is for a carbon tax to be revenue neutral, replacing existing taxes.

Thus a carbon tax in Australia could replace the GST. We collectively end up paying the same amount of tax, but a price message would be added in proportion to the carbon emitted. For example, electricity generators burning brown coal would pay more tax than those burning more efficient black coal while the wind farms would pay zilch.

And heavens knows, a carbon tax could be levied much more efficiently than the cumbersome GST. We might even come out ahead on total cost once that was taken into account.