How to sell the “carbon tax”

If I were Labor and the Greens, I’d make sure that the carbon tax, after compensation, was going to affect average families less than the GST does. And then just hammer the following line from now (even before the exact figure is announced) to the next election:

THE CARBON TAX WILL COST FAMILIES LESS THAN THE GST.
THE CARBON TAX WILL COST FAMILIES LESS THAN THE GST.
THE CARBON TAX WILL COST FAMILIES LESS THAN THE GST.
THE CARBON TAX WILL COST FAMILIES LESS THAN THE GST.
THE CARBON TAX WILL COST FAMILIES LESS THAN THE GST.

Kills Tony Abbott’s “big new tax” line dead in the water (after all, he voted for the GST) and reassures swinging voters scared by the idea the proposal could hit them as hard as Tony Abbott says it will.

It’s an easy line to repeat, it’s an easy line for everyone to understand, and – provided that it’s true – it’d be an easy line to sell when the final figures are announced in time for the next election.

If I were Gillard and Brown, I’d be making sure right now that we agreed on making sure that the carbon tax minus compensation would be cheaper for families than the GST, and then selling that line hard from right now.

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29 responses to “How to sell the “carbon tax”

  1. Splatterbottom

    Sadly it has come down to vacuous slogans. This is the logical consequence of the fact that there are no rational arguments to justify the carbon tax.

  2. “This is the logical consequence of the fact that there are no rational arguments to justify the carbon tax.” – SB

    None, besides that it’s quite rational to stop pretending that there are no costs in the emissions from burning fossil fuels.

  3. Hardly, SB. It’s not a “vacuous slogan” at all – it’d give people the parameters of the tax, and limit the damage Abbott’s dishonest scare campaign can do.

    The rational arguments for the carbon tax are quite self-evident, and long-discussed, and to pretend they don’t exist is beyond trolling. The point is that the political debate has sadly abandoned reason for asinine “it’ll roooon us!” fear mongering. That’s what they’ve got to tafckle. And I reckon this could be the way to do it.

  4. smellyterror

    You’d have people connect, in their minds, the carbon tax with the fearsome bugaboo of the GST, the scariest tax of all time? I…. I doubt that would be a smart thing to do, politically. Most people have no idea how better or worse off they are now from a GST, but they sure remember that it was scary.

    Yeah… no. The Libs would probably do it themselves if they could get away with it.

  5. I don’t agree.

    The average swinging voter has long since gotten used to the GST. They’re not scared of it any more, which means pointing this out will alleviate their fears of the carbon tax. If there’s any resentment remaining about the GST, it’ll no longer be fear, just anger, and it’ll be directed at the Liberals.

  6. Jeremy you’ve nailed it. If Gillard and Brown take up your idea they’ll be fine. But I’d be surprised if they did. Brown has his moments but Gillard can’t fight her way out of a paper bag.

    But I’m hoping to be proved wrong.

    Brendan O’Reilly

  7. I dunno – I’m sort of with smellyterror on this. “Not as bad as the other tax” just reinforces the “tax” meme rather than the “price” meme, which plays into Abbot’s hands. Even if it was 0.00005%, it would still be a “TTTTAAAAAXXXXX!!!” The idea of a catchy slogan is good – I’m just not convinced that using the right-wing’s own meme against it will be a winner.

  8. ““Not as bad as the other tax” just reinforces the “tax” meme rather than the “price” meme”

    That’s a losing meme, which is why Labor dropped it in the first week. They’re calling it a tax now.

    Obviously there are other arguments that still need to be made – “it’s doing our bit”, “it’s getting us set up for the future economy so our industry does much better in the medium term”, “we’ll be part of the solution not part of the problem”, “if we want to persuade other countries to reduce their contribution to climate change, we can’t be emitting more per capita than they are”, “if the world doesn’t reduce emissions globally it’ll cost us far more” etc.

    The point is how to tackle the problems that (a) it’s got to be significant enough to change behaviour and (b) they haven’t got the precise details yet because it’s still being negotiated. And that’s easy – just make sure it’ll be less than the GST, which is still enough to work, but easy for people to process, and then use that response to every question or inflated Opposition claim about how much it will cost. Completely blunts their attack.

  9. They couldn’t exceed the GST if they tried.
    Treasury modelling on $40 a tonne (the highest proposed price) with no concessions, no rebates, no compo, no bogan bribes, no nothing, would still only raise the average household budget by $1,100 a year.
    A shade less than the lazy $8,000 you’re throwing at the GST.

    Jeremy:- The rational arguments for the carbon tax are quite self-evident, and long-discussed, and to pretend they don’t exist is beyond trolling.

    Which Brown and Gillard simply EXPECT voters to realise. Why else would they ignore the Vomit Principle*

    *(“If you think you’re going to throw up if you have to say that thing one more time, say it again. Only then will you be heard”)

  10. Exactly. I should’ve emphasised in the post that I’m not suggesting the main selling line should be the cost – the “less than the GST” line should be their response to the News Ltd/Coalition “great big new tax” attack. Every time they’re asked what it will cost, just reassure people with “less than the GST”.

  11. I’m working from memory here, but didn’t the introduction of the GST come hand in hand with a drop in income taxes and the elimination (or reduction) of a whole raft of other various taxes, duties and surcharges, resulting in a net neutral additional tax burden for most people ?

    A shade less than the lazy $8,000 you’re throwing at the GST.

    I’m kind of curious where this figure comes from ?

  12. Splatterbottom

    The GST was part of a rationalisation of the tax system which had significant economic benefits. The carbon tax will skew the economy into politically correct but highly unprofitable areas. Think of it as being like a massive tariff to protect the basket weaving industry. It will make exports less competitive and imports relatively cheaper. We all know how great the government is at picking winners. “Sustainable” economics is the new green version of the old red command economy system.

  13. Splatter wrote:
    The GST was part of a rationalisation of the tax system which had significant economic benefits

    What significant economic benefits would they be?

    Oh! You mean a regressive tax that significantly benefits the fat cat mates you so revere to disadvantage of the poor. Got it!!!!

  14. returnedman

    What significant economic benefits would they be?

    Well, the GST directly contributed to an explosion in the cash economy … oh wait … is that a benefit?

  15. Splatterbottom

    Getting rid of a raft of distortionary taxes was a significant advantage of the GST. It benefited export businesses, reduced the complexity of the tax system, encouraged savings over consumption and, notwithstanding the comments above, made policing the cash economy easier.

  16. …reduced the complexity of the tax system… …made policing the cash economy easier.
    …says the bloke who’s clearly never had to fill out a BAS, compile the necessary figures for same, or the annual reconciliation of same.
    No small task, even WITH an accountant.

  17. narcoticmusing

    The problem is that while Jeremy’s idea is valid, Gillard will screw it up and make it something terrifying confirming smellyterror’s concerns.

    I can just see her handler behind her trying to remind her, while she is shouting at her pulpit, ‘um, Jules, it was totally meant to reassure them…’

  18. narcoticmusing

    Oh and SB, your comment on the GST is valid but so is the carbon price in that without one many industries and commercial arenas have suggested it will provide certainty; not just in the will they won’t they situation but also in the policy direction of the county (ie we will invest in green tech). The carbon price gives commercial certainty in many ways to enable the country to get on with it all.

  19. “The carbon tax will skew the economy into politically correct but highly unprofitable areas”

    Unprofitable areas like new technology and high tech energy effiency?

    Given our modern obsession with economic s and economic theory, it’s strnage that there is still a debate about what it is that really drives long term economic growth. Doing things cheaper was an old favourite, but it seems that a concensus if forming around innovation as the key driver.

    And a low carbon energy will be THE key area of innovation in the 21st C. Those that aren’t too slow, lazy, unimaginative, or hopelessly stuck in the old ways of doing things, will have an economic bonanza to look forward to.

    Oh wait……now I see why conservatives are opposed to this.

  20. drsmithy – A shade less than the lazy $8,000 you’re throwing at the GST.
    I’m kind of curious where this figure comes from ?

    Whoops – typo.
    that should have been $6000 (per household) – based on last years budget, projecting a GST take of 51 billion next year.

    You may now commence the ritual accusation of using phony figures to shill for the $1100/household Great Big New Tax(TM).

  21. that should have been $6000 (per household) – based on last years budget, projecting a GST take of 51 billion next year.

    But how is that number – I assume and hope meant to be the difference between tax expense if the old taxation system had remained in place – being calculated ?

  22. “The GST was part of a rationalisation of the tax system which had significant economic benefits. The carbon tax will skew the economy into politically correct but highly unprofitable areas.”

    One wonders what your position would be had Keating introduced the GST and Howard the carbon price. Debating policies on their merit you be not.

    New energy technologies are unprofitable at the moment only because there is no incentive to switch. Oil and coal are too cheap because their follow-on pollution effects are not included in the price. By pricing energy sources honestly as to their total environmental effects, we can change the incentive model – for both consumers and producers.

    SB, do you support the right for fossil fuel “basket weavers” to be given an unfair advantage in the market-place due to their being able to outsource the costs of their polluting activities onto the rest of us?

    It’s not like this is the first time industry-limiting action has been taken to fix human-caused problems with the atmosphere. Does your car run on leaded gasoline? Does your fridge use CFC’s? No? Why not? That’s right – because some damn leftist hippie passed laws that made it unprofitable to pollute. The polluters had to be dragged kicking and screaming – then, as now. Did the economy skew and stop in its tracks, as was predicted by industry hacks? Nope.

  23. narcoticmusing

    I’m not sure people who didn’t buy luxuries (prices of which decreased with the GST) and only bought essentials (which increased with the GST) will agree the GST was great…

  24. drsmithy – But how is that number – I assume and hope meant to be the difference between tax expense if the old taxation system had remained in place – being calculated ?

    Get a coffee. Right…

    I never worked for the Treasury, but I take it that you’re alluding to the seven taxes that, if you believe the glossy brochures, are no longer with us?

    For example, did you ever accrue a coal-export-tax obligation? I hope not, because the coal exporters never paid theirs.

    How about company tax? Gone, according to the glossy brochures. Redesignated a “PAYG Installment” assessed at the same rate, according to our paperwork (because we needed another man-hours black-hole).
    The designation “company tax”, however, returned within three years, as another tax.

    Or the extra $4-$20 a week that I was under no obligation to put in each paypacket (because we pay more than minimum wage, thanks to the award)?

    Or are you referring to the handful of duties and levies that the brochures promised to phase out? Wether they ever existed (or continue to) is no longer easy to establish (and since the GSTs Wikipedia page cited “poo bum dicky wee wee” as a source, I’m not relying on them).

    Just to clarify… you do know that GST is a tax on consumption (a concept that the previous system all-but-lacked)? So the Treasurys projection, and its impact on households, is being served “neat”.

  25. Returnedman wrote:

    Well, the GST directly contributed to an explosion in the cash economy … oh wait … is that a benefit?

    Of course you’re right ‘returnedman’. Only Splatter who lives in his own little redneck world would suggest otherwise.

    Only in the last month a neighbour had a painter, plasterer and a plumber to do some work at his home. After obtaining quotes my neighbour asked whether there was a ‘cash’ price. In all three cases there was. The black economy has never been healthier.

    I also noted Splatter avoided the regressive nature of the GST issue where the less well off are the ones hit hardest.

    We were promised major personal tax relief with the advent of the GST yet, as Miranda Scott, Co-Director of Taxation Studies at Melbourne Uni wrote for The Conversation.edu.au “It is easy to forget, among all the noise about “big new taxes”, that the income tax raises 80% of federal tax revenues – estimated to be $216 billion in 2010-11”

    Following is a link to an interesting piece written by David Pannell, Director for Environmental Economics and Policy at Uni of WA, titled ‘Busting carbon price myths’

    http://theconversation.edu.au/articles/busting-carbon-price-myths-720

  26. returnedman

    But, but autonomy and lykurgus – SB KNOWS all of that already. He knows ALL of that plus ALL the other stuff that people have put down here, plus ALL the other stuff that they are GOING to write.

    How else would he be so self-assured in his opinions?

  27. Get a coffee. Right…

    That was a rather long-winded way of not answering the question.

    Does anyone have a link to some analysis comparing the before and after affects of the GST ?

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