There were times during the recent debate in the Australian parliament on the clean energy futures legislation when leader of the opposition Tony Abbot was sounding forth his hip pocket rhetoric to an empty lower house. The green leather on the government benches was unmoved.
“This is a toxic tax,” he kept saying, “that on the governments own figures will cost the average Australian a years salary by 2020.”
As the benches were unable to respond, his words echoed round the chamber and into the television cameras.
Why would anyone vote for losing 5% of his or her salary? There has to be a good reason. So what is it? Why should there be a surcharge on a gas that is plant food?
As John Mathews puts it in an online article
“The $25 billion charge on the major carbon polluters is really no more than a signal that they represent the old, brown economy, and will have to start to upgrade their activities if they wish to join the green future. The rest of the world, notably China, Japan, Germany, Spain are all putting huge investments into such a green future. It is long overdue that Australia joins them.”
There it is. The answer is that there will be a green future.
In fact it will not be called green, but normal. Future goods and services will be made possible from what are currently alternative fuels, resource conservation will be the norm, and production efficiency will be an industry mantra because consumers will demand it. The Marks & Spencer Plan A will be copied by everyone.
The chatter about the clean energy futures legislation is about the cost of the tax and the slugging of industry with an emissions obligation but the real guts of the policy is preparation for change that is as inevitable as the weather but not about the weather. It is preparation for an economy that runs without fossil fuels.
Again quoting Mathews,
“Everyone knows that what goes into the atmosphere over the next 20 years will be the result of investment decisions taken in Beijing and New Delhi, not in Canberra.”
But also the decisions made in the US, Europe, and yes Australia too, on the speed of the transition away from our fossil fuel dependency. Remember folks, this is really what it is all about.
So it was a great shame that those leather benches weren’t warmed by government MPs countering the toxic tax rhetoric with passionate explanation of how this legislation is a historic step on the road to changing the way things are done… to avoid being left behind.
Maybe they just didn’t believe it.