Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

The battle over the carbon tax

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last month numerous rallies were organised around Australia both in support and in opposition to the ALP/Greens proposed carbon tax set to begin in July 2012. Unfortunately both camps are under the influence of political parties that have no intent to seriously address the urgent problem of climate change.

The Liberals, who hold sway over the anti-carbon tax crowd, still encompass those who hold the ludicrous position of climate change denial. The Liberal MP’s who do recognise the threat of climate change would never dare propose a solution that would step on the toes of their big business allies.

On the other hand the ALP, while admitting the need to tackle the problem, are equally unwilling to hold to account the big business polluters who finance them. The Greens, who have rallied the pro-tax crowd alongside a number of environment campaign groups, also back the carbon tax proposal.

The fact that the big energy companies are looking forward to the introduction of emissions trading is proof enough that it is no solution to climate change, but simply a way for the super rich to create new markets trading in pollution. On top of profits made from trading several sections of big business are also set to make millions from government compensation. Emissions trading schemes have failed to significantly reduce emission in every country they have been implemented; a mining and coal-dependant country like Australia will be no different.

Both the carbon tax and any future emissions trading scheme will fail because they aim to put a price on pollution, rather than changing practices at the point of production. In both instances the cost of polluting is simply passed on to consumers, reducing any profit-motive to change environmentally damaging industry practice.

Both the ALP and the Liberals defend the market system whereby the profits of bosses are considered more important than our environment. The Greens, while spouting ‘left’ rhetoric when it suits them, are just another capitalist party incapable of fixing the problems capitalism creates.

In order to solve these problems we must do away with the system that creates them. We must turn away from the chaos of market rule and towards a rational, democratic socialist economy based on the needs of people and the planet, not profit.

An economic system that is not ruled over by the rich could immediately move to phase out coal and finance the move towards renewable energy, while re-training workers in the industry to protect jobs. It could invest in and massively expand public transport and end our dependence on fossil fuels.

While the energy industry remains in the hands of a small minority that feel no responsibility to the planet and its inhabitants, environmental catastrophe is inevitable. The only way to avoid this is to bring the energy giants into public ownership under workers and community control. Only then, when the profit motive is removed, can a sane plan for production based on renewable energy be achieved.

Capitalist countries around the world are struggling to create effective policy around carbon emissions and climate change. This is because forcing business to pay the social and environmental costs of their actions, or forcing them to abandon profitable enterprise, undermines the fundamental basis of capitalism: serving the interests of big business at the expense of workers and the environment.

Ineffectual and cost-shifting policies such as the ALP/Greens carbon tax simply act to give social weight to those opposed to taking any action to avoid a climate crisis. Rather than supporting doomed market measures that force ordinary people to pay, we have to fight for a democratic socialist economy where the needs of people and our environment come first.

By Socialist Party reporters


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