What the Govt won’t reveal about its carbon tax plans
If the Government really wanted us to have an informed debate on a carbon tax, it would share with us what it knows. However, we know there are things the Government knows but isn’t letting us know.
The latest round of debate was sparked by Julia Gillard’s release of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee’s paper on a carbon price mechanism.
Never mind that this committee is chaired by Gillard herself, or that membership of the committee was based on preconceived support for a price on carbon. Or that Gillard solemnly promised to us before the election that there would be no carbon tax under a Government she leads.
Setting all those matters to one side for the moment, we know that the mechanism proposed by Gillard and the Greens through this Committee is broadly in line with policies proposed by the Greens in January 2010 and by Professor Ross Garnaut prior to that.
The January 2010 Greens policies bit is important.
As a result of information released to me under Freedom of Information requests I am aware that what is now the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency provided briefings and analysis to the then Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, between 21 and 28 January 2010 “regarding the Greens’ proposal as announced in January 2010 for an alternative approach to implementing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.”
This analysis presumably contributed to the Rudd Government rejecting the type of proposals the Gillard-Greens Government has now embraced. It clearly has the potential to greatly assist debate now underway.
However, my Freedom of Information application has yielded only material redacted beyond usefulness. While I am the proud custodian of umpteen drafts and the final version of a table analysing all eleven points of this original proposal, including a fixed price carbon tax, every single word of analysis has been deleted… all of it!
But there is nothing to prevent Julia Gillard from voluntarily releasing this material, in full, to further inform the current debate.
If the Prime Minister genuinely wants an informed debate about her Carbon Tax proposal then she would release the full uncensored analysis of the almost identical proposal that the Labor Government was provided with 14 months ago. If she insists on keeping this analysis secret then she stands to lose what little credibility she has left whenever she claims debate on this matter to be uninformed.
Julia Gillard is already on the record in support of open and informed policy discussions. This includes as recently as December, regarding a separate matter of public significance but explicitly applied by her more generally:
“I’m all in favour of frank, open and honest national conversations about policies in this area and generally. These conversations will be had as they should be had, but these conversations are best had when they’re fully informed by the facts.” - Prime Minister Gillard, media conference, 16 December 2010.
Why would Julia Gillard not release in full the carbon tax analysis provided to her Government more than 12 months ago? What does she have to hide? Or were these words as hollow as her ‘no carbon tax under a government that I lead’ pledge?
A carbon tax will have widespread and significant cost implications for Australian households and businesses. All Australians deserve to know what the Government already knows about its proposal, but don’t hold your breath on Julia Gillard letting us know anytime soon.
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