Abbott: "Nothing more damaging" than leaving coal in ground | RenewEconomy

Abbott: “Nothing more damaging” than leaving coal in ground

Five years after stating his preference for a tax to help reduce Australia’s growing emissions, Tony Abbott is once again embracing price signals.


Five years after stating clearly his preference for a market price signal to help reduce Australia’s growing emissions debt, Tony Abbott is once again embracing price signals as a means to change behaviour and address another critical issue, Australia’s growing medical debt.

tony-abbott-150x150“The Medicare co-payment – perhaps the most difficult policy change in this Budget,” Abbott told the Minerals Council of Australia annual dinner.

“It sends a price signal – a necessary price signal – because visits to the doctor might be free to most patients, but they certainly haven’t been free to the taxpayers of this country.”

Yep, that’s what taxes and market mechanisms do. But just how difficult would it be to change the words so that an even bigger problem can be addressed ….

 “It sends a price signal – a necessary price signal – because sending emissions into the atmostphere might be free to most polluters, but they certainly haven’t been free to the taxpayers (population) of this country.”

Hard to argue against that, isn’t it. After all, this is what Abbott said in 2009:

“If Australia is greatly to reduce its carbon emissions, the price of carbon intensive products should rise. The Coalition has always been instinctively cautious about new or increased taxes. That’s one of the reasons why the former government opted for an emissions trading scheme over a straight-forward carbon tax. Still, a new tax would be the intelligent skeptic’s way to deal with minimising emissions because it would be much easier than a property right to reduce or to abolish should the justification for it change.”

The only spoiler here is that if the author, and his advisors, are more than just skeptics and don’t accept now that pollution is occurring, or that there is a cost. Their’s is now the “climate science is crap” argument, or that a carbon price is “a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.”

That is certainly what Abbott’s audience at the MCA wanted to hear. Loading a great big new tax on Medicare users – and capping pensions, cutting unemployment benefits, lifting uni fees, recovering tertiary education debts from dead people – means that no great big new taxes need to be loaded onto his mining friends.

As he told his friends last night:

“I want you to know that you are not in hostile territory; you are here amongst people who want you to flourish and if there is one message that I can give you this evening, it is that this Government wants you to succeed, because when you succeed, our country succeeds.”

But, gee, you wonder what they will make of the price signals coming from overseas – plunging thermal coal prices as China and India turn away from their assumed massive coal adoption, the dangers of the trillion dollar carbon bubbles in the oil industry.

That’s OK, like Shell and ExxonMobil, the Australian government – as we wrote yesterday – is grimly determined to extract its fossil fuel reserves. For them, the age of entitlement is not over yet.

This is from Abbott’s speech.

“It’s particularly important that we do not demonise the coal industry and if there was one fundamental problem, above all else, with the carbon tax was that it said to our people, it said to the  wider world, that a commodity which in many years is our biggest single export, somehow should be left in the ground and not sold. Well really and truly, I can think of few things more damaging to our future.”

Yes, but markets need both buyers and sellers.

Head. Sand. Ideology. Vested Interests. Anyone see a link?



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  1. adam 6 years ago

    “It sends a price signal – a necessary price signal – because visits to
    the doctor might be free to most patients, but they certainly haven’t
    been free to the taxpayers of this country.”

    This is very funny. What price signal is it sending?

    If you don’t value your health you avoid the GP and fall back on the public hospital sector when it becomes a real problem which ends up costing taxpayers more.

    These guys are absolute muppets.

  2. Keith 6 years ago

    Strange how they use silo thinking and think average citizen isn’t going to connect the dots.

    As Adam indicates, a price signal for health to make sure the overall cost burden to the community increases through discouraging early intervention, is nuts. Going to the doctor is how to prevent overloading the hospitals.

    By contrast all of the experts (except the vested interests) say a price signal is needed for carbon pollution, where the costs of not acting are horrendous. I still live in hope that the connection between scrapping the carbon tax & mining tax and the need for punitive measures on less well off citizens will be made in the senate…. Clive Palmer is showing signs that he understands these things.

    As you indicate Giles, if Canberra stays in denial, the thing that is going to transform this is customers (China, India) disappearing and the investment community turning its back on investment in fossil fuels.

    It is urgent that we face this early (well not when it reaches a crisis), but it’s also pretty clear that the LNP and vested interests are in complete denial.

    • Gill 6 years ago

      Canberra certainly isn’t in denial : it has strong targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy.
      Canberra is not Parliament or Government. The 2 are very different things. Substituting a capital city’s name for the government is lazy journalism.
      Canberra = place where people live, work and visit
      Parliament/Government = people elected by Australians to run the country; except for the 4 who live in Canberra, they all just visit Canberra to ‘work’.

      • Keith 6 years ago

        Hi Gill,
        Sorry about that. Of course the people of the ACT are heros in the renewable energy space, along with residents of SA, the only enlightened parts of the country at the moment.

  3. hippygreenieleftie 6 years ago

    The man is a nincompoop, that’s for certain. He is surrounded by thugs blinded by ideology, cowardly sycophants and self-serving cronies. He has no access to real people and might, for himself, claim the defence of deluded naivety; but not so his colleagues and staff.

    I’ve been a GP since he was an altar boy, and remember the time before Medicare when basic health care for many was unaffordable. The impact this will have on the legions of poor, chronically ill decent people will be devastating. Thugs don’t deserve to be in power.

  4. Ian 6 years ago

    Medicare copayment sends a very strong price signal and that is no longer vote liberals,not next election, not ever again.

  5. Max Boronovskis 6 years ago

    Let them eat cake!
    Ha ha, ohhh lately I feel you just have to laugh…. Cry and you cry alone.
    I like the statement about leaving coal in the ground “…really and truly, I can think of few more things more damaging to our future”. Hilarious! Admittedly he was preaching to the choir that funds the advisors that give the unqualified but “authoritative” advice that the science is “crap” so they have a sweet little virtuous circle there. I think what he meant was our short term economic future. Visionary….? Stuff that! Dig baby dig, cash it in while you still can boys cause this stuffs going out of fashion. I’ll slow down the renewable energy revolution with my policy levers and we’ll let the taxpayer down the track get caught with there pants down and the stranded assets. For I am in power, moohaHAAHAA!!!

  6. John Silvester 6 years ago

    Maybe Abbott should give his health policy a name “turn back the sick”

  7. John 6 years ago

    Oh My God!! And the electors of this country were unable to see the stupidity of this man’s lies in the run-up to the election! What do we deserve? Exactly what we get, apparently!
    The audience is key – Abbott changes his message according to the constituents of the audience … and unless we have a Senate with the balls to force a double dissolution over this Bludgeon (oops … budget!) we have another 3 such documents to get through before we can get rid of the “born to rule” Liberal mob and their “National” lapdogs.

  8. hippygreenieleftie 6 years ago

    Tony Abbouttface might just be a one-term horror.

  9. hippygreenieleftie 6 years ago

    Tony Abbouttface may yet be thwarted in his assault on decency. Judging by some not-so-fatuous replies to my letters, some of his back benchers are getting edgy.

    He’s most vulnerable on Medicare co-penalty, Uni fees and loans, and the “starve the 25 to 30 year olds into working the salt mines” proposals.

    One term Tony Abbouttface! Keep up the pressure!

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