Political suicide or visionary leadership?
After a failed attempt at legislation, the loss of a leader, a knife edge election and a broken promise, voters now have a carbon tax package ready for the parliament’s assent. And people don’t like it, deserting Federal Labor more quickly than a David Jones shop floor.
Matters now look as bad for Federal Labor as they did prior to the departure of Kevin Rudd.
Until the announcement of the carbon price, it was hard for average voters to understand exactly what it was all about. Some heavy industries would get charged for dumping pollution into the environment and there would be more investment in renewable energy and new technologies. But to many Australians it just looks like higher prices, so much that the Government will compensate people for it. The problem with this new tax is that the thread running from the hip pocket to climate change seems almost invisible to the average Joe and Joan in the street. Moreover, public trust has been eroded in the face of a broken election commitment.
This policy is either political suicide or visionary leadership. With the media focusing on Gillard’s plummeting polls, it looks like the former, but it is too soon to tell. Abbott has promised to repeal the carbon tax, but as one commentator has already observed, once these big initiatives are implemented, they are very hard to unpick. If Tony Abbott gets into government some time in the next two years, business will have factored carbon costs into business models, budgets and operating systems already.
It is hard to discern what a particularly Christian perspective might look like in the specifics of this debate. In 2007, the Social Issues Committee developed a detailed position paper on climate change, which accepted the scientific evidence (‘Christian Ministry in a Changing Climate’) but did not discuss the detail of possible government policy responses. At this point, it would be perfectly valid for a Christian hold a view either ‘for’ or ‘against’ Labor’s carbon tax, holding either position in all sincerity having understood the issues.
The exercise of stewardship over creation is a mark of the special role God has ordained for humankind, therefore it is right in principle to take steps (however small on a global scale) to mitigate the effects of climate change. But it is also right that business has the continued capacity to create and maintain jobs, so that people can be gainfully employed and thereby support themselves and their families. Godly wisdom is required to understand and mitigate the plight of the poor in the face of higher living costs caused by a carbon tax. Restraint is needed to consume less and reduce our personal and corporate carbon footprint.
Importantly, if Christians are to engage in the carbon tax debate, judgement is required to avoid name calling and slander. The recent vilification of Julia Gillard in some sections of the public and the media has been repulsive. Although we might take issue with Gillard, Abbott and their colleagues, they are attempting to develop policy with the best interests of Australia at heart.