Why truth on carbon tax is more power for Labor

Carbon tax protest

Police escort anti-carbon tax protesters after they interrupted parliament’s question time. Picture: Kym Smith
Source: The Australian

GETTING a nasty reminder of the carbon tax stamped on every power bill sounds like a nightmare for the Labor Party.

But Julia Gillard’s decision to back itemised carbon tax impact statements on household power bills is a smart move.

Liberal premiers plotted the push to turn every electricity bill in Australia into anti-carbon tax billboard.

They want every bill to clearly show what portion of the quarterly impost is the result of the new tax.

But the prime minister has clearly decided to embrace the political maxim Hang A Lantern On Your Problem. Or, if in doubt, get it out.

Yesterday she told Queenslanders that she supported moves to lay out the damage in black and white for families as a “truth telling” exercise.

“I think it’s important to be upfront with people and tell them the truth,” she said. “Carbon pricing will make a difference on electricity prices. We’ve always said that. I’m very happy to be talking to people in Queensland about the actual figures.”

Now, if power companies argue it’s too hard, that’s their problem. The states can’t blame Labor which has now given the transparency push the green light. Power bills have been rising dramatically without a carbon tax and will continue to do so.

Slapping a carbon tax and an estimated 10 per cent tax impost on top of those bills will hurt families.

But greater transparency is the best argument Labor has against Liberal premiers trying to force them to carry the can for all of the increase.

There’s a sting in the offer of course, Gillard wants state governments to make it clear what’s driving the other increases such as the failure of the states to invest in poles and wires.

In NSW, where average prices are $2484 a year the carbon tax is likely to translate in an extra $250 a year.

But there are fears that NSW energy prices could rise by 25 per cent when the recommended annual increase is handed down. If only 10 per cent of that is the carbon tax, it’s actually in the Gillard government’s interests not to let Barry O’Farrell blame her for the lot.

In Queensland, it’s expected the carbon tax will drive up household electricity bills by 11.2 per cent or an average $192.35 next year. The Treasury has previously predicted increases of about 10 per cent.

In South Australia, where average bills are closer to $1600 it will cost about $160 extra.

That tells you something about electricity prices too. There’s a startling $1000 difference in annual electricity bills between NSW and South Australia and the ACT.

WA’s wily Premier Colin Barnett has led the charge in ensuring the carbon tax is spelt out. “It is a tax, and just like GST on your bill, the carbon tax should also be shown on your bill,” Mr Barnett said last week.

Tony Abbott then joined the push writing to the prime minister that greater transparency was required.

“Given the $30 million advertising campaign to date and more than $10 million that has been put aside in the Budget … the decent thing … to do is ensure that the carbon tax’s impact is fully transparent,” Mr Abbott wrote. He even threatened to introduce legislation to force greater transparency on power bills.

But now rather than allow herself to be boxed into a corner and look sneaky on the impact of a carbon tax, Gillard has told the premiers to bring it on.

Greater transparency can work in Labor’s favour when fighting misinformation on the carbon tax.

If only the PM could now find the antidote to be being remembered as a politician who breaks her promises, she might stand a chance.



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