Saturday, October 15, 2011

Selling the Carbon Tax: What a Joke!

Tony Abbott is like the Springboks and Julia Gillard is like the Wallabies. He is beating her all over the field, in every phase of the game, except on the scoreboard. His latest foray is the attempt to turn the purchase by business of carbon offsets into a plebiscite on the Carbon Tax and a vote of no confidence in the Government. He warned businesses not to invest in carbon offsets, because a future Coalition government will rescind the carbon tax.
"We give businesses fair warning not to buy forward permits under a tax regime that will be closed down," he told a tax forum in Sydney. It remains to be seen if this will be another in the series of 'A-Stunt-A-Day' which Mr Abbott has used to brutal effect against the Government or whether it will catch hold as a long term strategy. Inventiveness sets him apart from his competitors. Tony is at heart a showman. It is all scripted, even the throwaway lines. The best the Government can do to respond is to quote from its well-worn Catechism of Tired Incantations: Mr Abbott is 'irresponsible'. Business will not invest with such uncertainty'. Aural wallpaper. As if being right matters. Delivering the best one-liner is what matters.

Malcolm Turnbull is as despairing as anyone of the Government's failure to sell the carbon trading system to the nation. "The advocacy is just woeful," he told the Guardian last week. Abbott is the master of framing the debate. "The carbon trading debate [in Australia] has become a cost of living debate," Turnbull added. It will increase the cost of living by just 0.7%, he said. It's not enough to be right, and it is bad to be righteously right. It's best to be funny. Who can forget Bob Hawke's response to Malcolm Fraser's warning to the voters before the 1982 election that they should hide their money under the mattress. "You can't hide it under there," said Hawkie. "That's where all the Reds are." Humour lightens the debate, cuts through the noise, and is remembered. But it's all in the delivery. Stand up comedy training for the Gillard Cabinet. What a joke!

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