Towards the end of last year I had a bit of a laugh at the expense of the Commonwealth Government's marketing of the Carbon Tax. My problem was that they were marketing the tax as if it was a problem. The purpose of the Carbon Tax - combating global warming by reducing carbon pollution - was hardly mentioned in their marketing materials. Instead they majored on the details of compensation. The government gave the impression that they were creating a problem, and then fixing it.
Yesterday's mailbox reveals Stage 2 of this marketing strategy and now it's beginning to make more sense. My local Labor MP Graham Perrett's Moreton Report lists, in huge bright letters, "6 ways our strong economy is working for Moreton." These publications are of course approved by the government's marketing people, and Labor members around the country will be distributing newsletters with similar headlines.
He lists "Schoolkids Bonus", "New $600 increases to family payments", "Extra money to help with bills", "Increased Superannuation", "Small business instant tax write off" and "Child Care Rebate and Paid Parental Leave". Next to these is what he calls an economic report card which gives us 6 reasons why his government is doing a great job on the economy, matching the six payouts people are getting.
Not all these things relate to the carbon tax. The schoolkids thing is a rejigging of existing tax benefits, the superannuation assistance is funded by that other unpopular initiative, the mining tax (alluded to extremely indirectly), while the child care rebate is part of a longstanding government promise. However the family payments, the supplementary allowance and small business tax concession are all part of the Carbon Tax compensation package. A large part of the money that comes in via carbon payments will go out to various people and companies to offset the expected price rises.
How do I know this? I read the original marketing material. Graham Perrett certainly didn't tell me. Instead, he attributes the fact that we're getting these payments to Labor's brilliance as economic managers. Obviously because the economy is in such great shape thanks to Labor fighting off the Global Financial Crisis (presumably with a magic sword) we can now get goodies in our bank accounts.
Yes, readers, this is a disappearing act. The carbon tax has simply been made to go away, leaving behind a trail of financial rewards to win us back to voting Labor in 2013.
This may possibly work in electoral terms. At least it might stop the kind of carnage we saw in the Queensland election and help local members like Perrett keep their seats. Yet I find the cynicism of it all profoundly depressing.
Kevin Rudd, just a few short years ago, said that climate change is "the great moral challenge of our time". Rudd became incredibly popular saying things like that, and then lost popularity as he failed to deliver on the rhetoric. In the process, action on climate change went from electoral winner to electoral poison. This is in part because Labor gave up. Instead of staying focused on the great moral challenges, they focused on internal politics and the numbers game. The Greens were left to fight the climate change battle alone, and the field was effectively ceded to the skeptics and naysayers.
There's a chance the government may just survive. However, if as seems more likely they lose the 2013 election, the Liberals have promised to abolish the carbon tax. Presumably the goodies will go with it, but that's hardly important. The important thing is, we will have flunked the great moral challenge of our time.