The zeitgeist of the anti-tax revolt in Australia is beginning to gather momentum.
In the last month I’ve met a dozen mining and business leaders, 6 elected members of parliament, and I’ve spoken to 450 pastoralists in remote Australia. Each time the theme is the same: businesses are afraid of the tax, but they are also afraid to speak against it. The phrases I’ve heard specifically are “it’s a vindictive government”, and “they have long memories”. At least one of these business leaders was CEO of a household-name multi-billion dollar company.
It’s the same with business associations and committees. They’re wondering if they should focus on hammering out a better deal in the cat fight for compensation or take the “riskier” position and oppose the carbon tax outright.
For Labor the dark winds of discontent are gathering pace.
Things have gone distinctly pear shaped in the last week for the Labor carbon pricing plan. Polls are punishing the Labor party (it’s the lowest results for them in 15 years); the most powerful union leader in Australia (normally a Labor supporter to the end) has threatened to oppose the tax “if one job is lost”; Andrew Bolt is speculating on just who could replace her, and even Labor MPs are urging Julia Gillard to do something quickly.
Food giants join war on carbon tax Goodman Fielder, George Weston Foods, Nestle Australia, CSR, Laucke Flour Mills, Yakult Australia and Bundaberg Sugar.
Two Fairfax journalists contacted the top 50 ASX companies to ask “Do You support the Governments plan for a carbon price?
|Yes||On the fence||No||Didn’t reply|
|Survey ofthe Top
did not answer
In other words, the most common answer to a question from one of our two major media outlets on the largest piece of legislation proffered for years, is “No Comment”.
But many companies were unwilling to reveal their hand on carbon pricing. The strategy for many is to keep their powder dry until the government provides details about pricing and transitional help.
”It hardly makes sense for us to state a position publicly until we see the details,” one spokesman said. ”It would be like showing your cards in the final round of a high-stakes poker game. Seems a bit silly, doesn’t it?”
However the poker game at play is really just one of trying to pick the winner, and to back the winning horse. The sell-job on the idea that “carbon pricing is inevitable” has been relentless downunder.
The Nation is waking up to the nightmare…
Once the number of business leaders speaking out reaches a critical mass, the free-for-all will ensue. Not only will the less confident speak out, but the risk becomes so much less — the government can’t come after everyone — that the risk could become the fear instead of being seen by shareholders or union members for not opposing the tax that nobody really wanted.
I understand why business leaders are afraid to put their heads above the parapet, but there is no negotiating with a group that bullies and intimidates and bases it’s decisions on fashion or whimsy rather than hard empirical data and sound reasoning. You win a battle and lose the war.
There are few companies that directly benefit from this tax — solar and renewable energy projects, green builders, and electric cars aside — for the rest of the free economy, there is no productivity gain, no competitive advantage, there is just money that could have been spent on their goods or services, but won’t be.
If enough business leaders spoke against this tax, it would be over tomorrow. They need to know they are not alone, and that Australia does not need to price carbon.
h/t Chris Gillham Scribeworks and Jaymez.