Hey Wayne, show me the money problem with our ETS
In conventional Wayne Swan fashion, he was triumphant as he unveiled Treasury’s stern rebuttal of Frontier Economics research report into an alternative emissions trading scheme.
Given the Rudd Government’s deeply flawed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the Coalition had commissioned the report in order to inform discussions about a better carbon trading scheme. But yesterday Mr Swan informed reporters that a $3.2 billion hole had been found in Frontier’s alternative by the Treasury Department.
So where is the modelling? Mr Swan has refused to release it and until he does, Treasury’s alleged rebuttal amounts to zip.
Earlier this year in his Budget in Reply speech, Malcolm Turnbull proposed an increased tax on tobacco to offset the Coalition’s opposition to Labor’s budget hike on private health insurance. Within days, Mr Swan had Treasury costing the Coalition’s policy. According to Mr Swan, Treasury found a budget hole in the policy and again, Mr Swan refused to release the modelling.
This practice of hiding under Treasury’s skirt has become a habit for the Rudd Government and Glenn Milne touches on the topic in today’s Australian.
I have not sought to publicly criticise the department or Treasury Secretary Ken Henry. Having held the portfolio of Assistant Treasurer, I am well aware of Treasury’s usual integrity. But I do take issue with the Rudd Government’s increasingly often retreat behind the Treasury shield, using it to wedge the Coalition, while never troubling us with the detail.
Experience suggests that Treasury’s advice is more nuanced than the strident claims and politicisation of the public service that the Rudd Government ruthlessly exploits.
It happened again on Friday after Dr Henry’s appearance at the Senate Economics Committee in Canberra. Dr Henry testified that if the stimulus was to be withdrawn now, up to 100,000 Australian jobs would be lost, although he readily conceded the difficulties in precision of such calculations. After all, these are the same Treasury officials who as recently as the May Budget forecast unemployment to be 8.5 percent by July next year.
Happily, this forecast is wildly out and the Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens is confident enough about the economic future to think that employment will more likely peak at “six point something”.
None of these uncertainties got in the way of the Deputy Prime Minister’s live cross from the United States unquestioningly parroting Treasury’s view without so much as a nod to out of date forecasts and other credible views that differ to those of Treasury.
If Treasury has a considered body of work to back up Wayne Swan’s bald claims, surely it would be in not only the Government’s interests, but that of the broader public to have us all take a look.
But back to the ETS.
The tell-but-no-show game that Labor is playing has come to a sorry pass when, despite repeated requests from the Coalition, the Morgan Stanley report into the impact of the CPRS on the electricity industry has remained under lock and key. And no wonder. Rumour has it that it details a horror scenario for the economic future of coal-fired generators, jobs in the industry and the increased cost of electricity for Australians.
Withholding evidence of that kind may come back to haunt the Rudd Labor Government. In the long run, short term political gain will come at an enormous cost when it finally dawns on the broader public that the Government’s desire to whack the Coalition has come at the cost of the long term interests of our nation.
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