Tony Abbott’s latest rollback pledge? The pokies mandatory pre-commitment scheme. Here he is at an RSL club in Western Sydney last night:

“When this legislation comes before the parliament, I predict that we will oppose it and if this legislation is passed by the parliament and if we then subsequently form a government, I predict we will rescind it.”

No word as to whether making a prediction is the same as making a promise, or a blood pledge — but there it is, another rollback to add to the red tape scenario that must have the public service shitting bricks.

The media have dutifully reported the pledge this morning. But now to do the numbers on how much it would cost to wave a magic wand to make it all go away.

We’re still waiting for Abbott to further elaborate on this considered response to the suggestion that the threat to rollback the carbon tax will actually drive electricity prices up in the immediate future? Let’s recap on Abbott’s detailed retort to this theory:

”It’s complete nonsense. It’s nonsense on stilts. Reducing costs reduces prices. It doesn’t increase them. Taking the tax off will reduce costs and reduce prices.”

You may need to read that several times to grasp the complex economic theory embedded within that sound bite. Also not to be confused with the clean energy future legislation in general, also referred to by the opposition leader as nonsense. On stilts.

The Coalition may not have made a serious attempt at it, but luckily we have some of the best brains in the country attempting to wrap their heads around the logistics of what Abbott is proposing. Constitutional lawyer George Williams writes in The Sydney Morning Herald today: “Even if Abbott is right about the negative impact of the carbon tax, this may be outweighed by the cost of dismantling it.” Lawyer and policy analyst Fergus Green in Inside Story ponders the other constitutional and political barriers that would stand in the way of a repeal, including the compensation issue. And in August, the Australia Institute released a report entitled The direct costs of waiting for direct action, featuring a timeline that plots putting rollback legislation to a hostile Senate, triggering the inevitable double dissolution election and thus ensuring that the first Direct Action projects will float in, oh, 2018 …

Forget the politics, it’s up to the media to demand more intellectual rigour from our politicians. Nonsense, on stilts or otherwise, is not an adequate answer.

Peter Fray

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