Words by Jason Wong
Illustrations by Kitty Chrystal
Infographic by Kevin Hawkins
What has become of the Clean Energy Act (CEA)? This once great milestone in the war on climate change has reduced the political conversation on carbon emissions to an endless squabble about electricity prices and loopholes. Meanwhile, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere march inexorably past 400 parts per million, and we’re marching inexorably toward the sportiest, road-trippiest Senate ever. Perhaps it’s time we review our climate policy.
First, let’s not pretend that the so-called carbon tax has zero impact on people’s finances. What else is a pricing mechanism supposed to do, anyway? It makes the regulated stuff more expensive. Economists generally agree that the cost boils down to $10 per week on households, which—depending on who you are—might mean the difference between morning coffees and morning lattes, or the difference between breakfast and no breakfast. Liberals have never been particularly nice to poor folks, but it doesn’t change the fact that their line about the carbon tax being an electricity tax, if not misleading, sounds true to working class people.
The numbers tell us that the CEA is working, but only just. Since its introduction, the Department of the Environment estimates a drop in CO2 emissions of 0.3 per cent, while the National Electricity Market’s data shows electricity sector emissions have decreased by 3.4 per cent yearly since 2008. How much of this is the result of carbon pricing? We will never know for sure, but between the demands of the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) and investments in clean energy by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), probably not much. When the price per tonne drops from $25.40 to a floating price in 2015, it will be even less effective.
Paradoxically, the polluters themselves may not be as upset about carbon pricing as they would have us believe. The government earned $4.13 billion last year from selling permits to polluters, but it also gave away $2.4 billion in free permits to the same polluters (most of which were massive power companies and resource refineries). The rest of the cost can be passed onto the consumer as a ‘production cost’. Since carbon footprint doesn’t vary consistently with income, the final cost constitutes a regressive tax—it affects the poor more than the rich. Unsurprisingly, most of this is because the polluters made sure to have their lobbyists poke as many holes in the CEA as possible before it passed.
So, let’s recap. Carbon pricing is scary to working people, doesn’t cut emissions much, is full of loopholes, and doesn’t force polluters to pay up. We’re going to need a Plan B.
Fortunately, there are bits of the CEA that work. Let’s start with those. We know that the CEFC has been making good investments in renewable energy projects. It’s limited in that it can only invest in projects from other developers, rather than coming up with its own. However, it’s still been able to add 500 megawatts of generation capacity, abating 3.88 million tonnes of CO2 each year. Let’s incorporate publicly owned clean energy infrastructure investment into the national budget, along with public transport and high-speed rail to cut transport emissions.
We also have a MRET which demands that by 2020, 20 per cent of electricity generated here must come from renewables. Since the energy sector is responsible for 77 per cent of emissions here, a well-enforced MRET can cut emissions without using convoluted price signals that can eventually be passed to the wider population. Let’s push for stricter emissions targets while monitoring energy prices to make sure they stay within reasonable levels. Consumers will get affordable clean energy quicker, and power companies can breathe easy on the day that oil and coal run out.
Finally, instead of a carbon pricing system, let’s switch the funding for this progressive policy to the traditional progressive funding source: filthy rich people and the corporations they run. They’re the people most responsible for high emissions, and we were going to raise the mining and corporate tax rates anyway. Bump those up from 30 per cent to 40 per cent, throw in a 75 per cent tax rate on the top one per cent and we’ll have double the $37 billion per year that Beyond Zero Emissions says we’ll need to go carbon neutral in the next decade. Plus, we won’t scare off low-income earners.
Carbon Neutral is our generation’s Apollo moment, so we need bold policies to get us there. The proposals here mesh beautifully with the social-democratic platform of wealth redistribution, public services, and social justice. In the face of criticism from climate skeptics and their allies in Parliament, it’s important that Labor, the Greens and progressive groups in Australia keep their options open and their eyes on the finish line. Up until now, we’ve had to choose between a carbon tax and the farce that is Direct Action. If we can offer a better third option with popular support, then Abbott can axe away while everybody moves on.
Illustration by Tor Evans
Ned Kelly is a legend to some, and a murderer to others.
In 1880, the law had its say. Today, two students have theirs.
Words by Simon Farley
If you think Ned Kelly was just another old-timey thug with a gun, I personally invite you to read the Jerilderie Letter
, Kelly’s 56-page note to fellow bushranger Joe Byrne. Yes, it contains a lot of bragging about how good he is at fighting. And yes, he does admit to robbery and taking lives (though the latter only in self-defence). But it also exposes the systematic harassment of the Kelly family by the Victoria Police, not to mention the perfidy, perjury, and petty corruption that was rampant among the Colonial authorities. Kelly and his gang’s crimes are understandable, if not totally forgivable, because they were living in a Victoria where justice simply did not exist, or at least not for poor Irish Catholics.The Jerilderie Letter reveals Kelly as a criminal, of course, but also as an intelligent, funny, and politically savvy man who could have done truly great things had he not been subject to societal prejudice and outright oppression. He wanted enfranchisement for the poor and the oppressed; he wanted equality. Portraying Ned Kelly as just a cop-killer is akin to portraying the French Revolution as just a series of beheadings, or Nelson Mandela as just a terrorist. It would be rash to describe him as a ‘freedom fighter’, but he was a man who fought for freedom, and fought hard. That’s admirable, even if the way he went about it was not.
Yet Ned Kelly’s beardy, drunken ghost continues to face scorn from some quarters. Why? Because so long as his reputation is intact, he will still be a threat. To give powerless people the knowledge that it’s possible to fight back—to beat the system and get what’s yours—can be a very dangerous thing.
If you’re still not convinced, consider this: there’s a universe out there in which Ned Kelly is a minor historical figure, of fleeting importance at best. He is generally remembered as a violent criminal, no better than any of the dozens of highwaymen and cattle duffers who terrorised the gentry of colonial Australia.
But we are not living in that universe.
People loved Ned Kelly. A petition begging for his reprieve allegedly amassed some 30,000 signatures at the time of his execution. People continue to love him now, fiercely, like few other Aussie historical figures outside of the sporting world. The problem for Kelly’s detractors is that they have already lost the battle; for better or for worse, Ned Kelly is a folk hero.
And anyone who’s got a problem with that can take it up with my Irish Catholic fists.
Words by Madeleine Cleeve Gerkens
Until a few days ago I was under the impression, as I’m sure many of you are, that Australian bushranger Ned Kelly was a badass vigilante with a majestic beard. You might even say he was our very own Robin Hood or Billy the Kid. I mean, apart from the fact that his life had spawned some pretty ugly art (see Sidney Nolan’s Bush Ranger series 1946-7
), what else did I have to hold against him? It wasn’t until I opened the history books that I learnt the truth about folk ’legend’ Ned Kelly.
The year was 1880, and Kelly and his gang had set up camp among the Victorian Stringybark forest. These social bandits had been on the run for nearly three years, but it was this campsite where a group of four policemen finally managed to track them down. Despite the authorities’ plans to ambush the campsite, the trigger-happy Kelly gang managed to take down three of the four policemen. Now, I’m all for self-defence, but here’s where it gets nasty: Kelly murdered these men by shooting them in the balls.
Not having balls myself, I only know second hand of the traumatic and haunting effects sack-tapping and testicular injuries have on men around the globe. But even I know that what Kelly did was uncool. He shot these men in their private parts and left them to slowly bleed out. Not only did he rob them of their lives, but also of their dignity.
If that anecdote isn’t enough to send your proverbial (or real) testicles jumping back inside your body, a recent study
performed by Adelaide University Professor Roger Byard should do the trick. By examining over 1000 male corpses, aged 20 to 67 years, Professor Byard found subjects with Ned Kelly tribute tattoos had a higher chance of suffering a traumatic death, compared to their un-Ned Kelly-inked counterparts.
From his study, Byard determined that persons with these tattoos are nearly three times as likely to commit suicide and almost eight times as likely to be murdered. Professor Byard does not deny that the population studies are highly selective, but ardently believes the evidence cannot be ignored.
So there you have it; not only did Ned Kelly literally bust the balls of his fellow man, but he is also bad for your health. If you require any further proof you need only look at the abhorrent abdominal tattoo of former professional footballer Ben Cousins and see where that got him.
Every month, For & Against will tackle a different issue – some serious, some not so serious. If you have a debate you want to see resolved in Farrago, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Words by Zoe Moorman
Illustration by Tor Evans
In Cory Bernardi’s The Conservative Revolution, the Liberal Senator condemns abortion as an “abhorrent form of birth control”. Since Bernardi clearly has a lot of experience in making decisions about his own womb, the media circus has paid a lot of attention to his remarks about the state of the so-called “death industry”, which has allegedly experienced new levels of popularity since its legalisation “many decades ago”. His claims are, of course, backed up by the government’s entirely existent and not at all estimated statistics on abortion, as well as thorough research on the history of abortion law in this country. Ha. No.
So is this “death industry” legal in Australia? Well, it’s not black and white. The state government has sole control over the criminal codes, with abortion’s place in these codes passed down from the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 of the English Parliament. Under these laws, which were first drafted over 150 years ago, abortion is still illegal in both New South Wales and Queensland, where both a woman procuring an abortion and any person who aids her (be they partner, doctor, or pharmacist) can be charged with a criminal offence.
In spite of these laws, there are still reproductive health services available to women in Queensland and New South Wales. The Children By Choice website, which is sponsored by the Queensland Government, lists five abortion providers in the Brisbane area alone, with details on which clinics allow you to claim Medicare rebates for the procedure. Given we know that abortion is illegal there, how can this be? The truth is, nobody has any idea. Doctors are operating on the status quo, lawyers are baffled by the opacity of the code’s legal jargon (using the phrase “unlawful circumstances” in criminal law codes was probably a bad idea), and women are unaware that these procedures are illegal in the first place. This sad state of affairs was brought to public attention in 2009 when 19-year-old Tegan Leach and her boyfriend were arrested in Queensland for procuring and using the abortive drug RU486—a prescription drug available for the specific purpose of aborting early-term fetuses.
Looking to other states, abortion is partially legal in South Australia (restricted after 28 weeks of pregnancy, passed 1969), Northern Territory (restricted after 14 weeks, passed 1974) and Western Australia (restricted after 20 weeks, passed 1998). There are only three states or territories that have fully removed abortion from the criminal code: the ACT (passed 2002), Victoria (passed 2008), and Tasmania (passed last November). Is this the “decades long” history of legal abortions Bernardi is concerned about?
The problems with Bernadi’s arguments doesn’t even touch on the moral and legal qualms many have with abortion remaining prohibited or restricted. Legalised abortion protects the right of women to bodily integrity, a legal principle by which all persons have the inviolable right to determine what to do with their bodies. Legalised abortions protect doctors from the possibility of prosecution, and care for their primary patient, the mother. Sometimes an abortion (either pre-emptive or in assisting a miscarriage) must be performed in order to save the mother’s life. Legalised abortion also reduces the number of unhappy children stuck in foster care or kept with families who don’t want them. “Pro-life” campaigning only considers the child’s opportunities in the womb, but not the child’s opportunities after birth.
Furthermore, “pro-lifers” like Bernardi ignore the basic fact that criminalising or restricting abortion does not and has not eliminated its existence. Instead, criminalisation pushes women’s healthcare onto the black market, where countless women trust their bodies to untrained “medics” or recklessly take their lives into their own hands. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has evidence to support the pointlessness of criminalisation: both the highest and lowest rates of abortion are in areas that have legalised it (Eastern Europe and Western Europe respectively). Conversely to Bernardi’s uninformed opinion, the WHO has found that increased access to contraceptive healthcare, not decreased access to abortion, has had the most significant effect on reducing abortion rates globally. These measures have worked because they attack the cause of abortion—unplanned pregnancy—and not women’s healthcare and right to bodily autonomy.
Bernardi’s stereotype that women use abortion as “birth control” is both uninformed and destructive. Him and his pro-life cohorts continuing to malign women for making an incredibly difficult choice creates a stigma around an already traumatising procedure that an estimated one in three Australian women—mothers, daughters, friends, wives, students, co-workers—will personally undergo in their reproductive lifetime. I will not mince words: Bernardi has attempted to violate the right of women to be treated as human beings capable of making their own decisions. Even worse, he has done so with faulty statistics, without reading up on current Australian law, and without consulting accepted research about how to reduce abortion rates. Perhaps Senator Bernardi should spend his time advocating for better sex education or greater subsidisation of contraceptives if he is truly interested in reducing abortion rates.
Words by Matthew Lesh
Infographic by Kevin Hawkins
Young and innocent, we enter Australia’s number one university as fools who are easily manipulated by Big Tobacco to begin smoking, only to die soon afterwards of cancer. Luckily, part-time Vice-Chancellor and part-time nanny Glyn Davis is out to save us from big tobacco—and ourselves—by banning smoking on campus this year.
This ban, supported by the ever-watchful and growing army of public health ‘experts’, reflects a whole new world of manipulation and control over individuals.
Rob Moodie, a so-called public health expert, explains in the official press release announcing the ban that “the university’s younger students are also most susceptible to developing potentially harmful smoking habits”.
Well, yes, smoking is harmful. However, plenty of habits are potentially harmful—alcohol, partying, or even walking in the street. But is potential harm to oneself enough to ban these activities for all? Of course not.
Every smoker makes their own decision to purchase cigarettes, based on the high monetary expense, the well-known health impact, and their personal benefit. In a liberal society, smokers’ decision to light up and potentially harm themselves is their choice—not yours, or mine, or Glyn Davis’ or Rob Moodie’s.
In the case of tobacco, a popular rebuttal to this principle is the claimed grievous harm of second-hand smoke. This argument is preposterously weak considering the already limited places one could smoke on campus—only outside and at least six metres away from buildings—and the simple ability to walk away from the few who do smoke. In practice, one would have to actively aim to inhale tobacco smoke for hours every day for second-hand smoke to be dangerous. Just because something is mildly uncomfortable for some does not mean it should be banned for others.
Moreover, this ban reflects the attempts of so-called public health experts to be faux demi-gods of good and evil behaviour.
Wearing shiny suits and spurred by countless Today Tonight and A Current Affair appearances, the experts tell us we must make alcohol more expensive because young people are drinking too much. They tell us we must put taxes and plain packaging on fast food and soft drinks because people are getting fat. They tell us we must ban solariums because some people misuse them.
The experts, driven by the misguided idea that they know best, seek to dictate our lives. The Bolshevist-era apparatchiks could only dream of such a socially acceptable level of control over individual behaviour, and yet we have allowed these people to sweep into the mainstream dialogue.
Central to the arguments put forward by these experts is the authoritarian idea that individuals are not trustworthy or intelligent enough to be free—that preposterous idea that we don’t understand the harm we are causing ourselves when drinking, eating fast food or lying in a solarium.
I have never had a cigarette in my life, I dislike fast food and, despite my pasty, white skin, I have not been to a solarium.
But I fight against proposed policy changes because I want to live in a society where individuals are free to maximise their own happiness without being restricted and controlled. I do not want to live in a society where it is acceptable to manipulate individual behaviour because it is “potentially harmful”.