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Australians Like Their Taxes Uncarbonated

Australia's Prime Minister is at a nadir in the polls due to a carbon tax that repudiated a campaign promise.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 7/19/2011, 9:56 PM / Last Update: 7/20/2011, 12:17 AM

 The labor government of Australia, headed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, is in deep trouble judging by the polls. In a recent Nielsen survey, only 26% of the respondents said that they would vote for Labor in the next election.

This is the lowest level recorded by any of Australia's major parties during the 4 decades that the poll has been in operation.

Labor's sorrows began in the aftermath of the last elections in 2010, when neither Labor nor the Liberals could form a government on their own. They both wooed the Australian Greens and Labor was victorious.

The price was an agreement to a carbon tax to help move Australia, a country that refused to sign the Kyoto protocol curbing carbon dioxide emissions, in line with Western European policy. According to the greens, the Liberals were also willing to pay a similar price to form the government.

This does not interest voters, because in practice it is Labor and Gillard who broke the pledge not to levy a carbon tax that they made during the elections. The Australian public is skeptical about climate change and is infuriated that the Prime Minister broke her word.  Gilliard apparently believes that she should be commended for the bait and switch tactics:

"I either stuck exactly to what I said before the election, got no action on climate change, and did the wrong thing for our nation, or I found a way to get climate change, to do the right thing for our country and to deal with the consequences. Nothing gets easier by putting it off and if you don't do what is right for the nation, then you shouldn't be Prime Minister."

The voters remain unconvinced because they fear a hike in electricity costs and a decline in Australia's competitiveness. Australia produces 28% of the world's coal and therefore coal production is a major employer.

The Prime Minister tried to assure the miners and the mine owners that there will be work for the mines as long as there is coal there, because there would still be nations, notably China, in the market for Australian coal. This argument infuriates critics.

Liberal opposition leader Tony Abbott made their case very nicely: "How can it be that it is wrong to burn Australian coal in Australia but it is somehow right to burn Australian coal in China?"

Similarly an Australian attempt to improve the climate would merely be vitiated by the Chinese. Abbott  argued that at the same time they are proposing to reduce emissions by 50 million tons, the Chinese are proposing to increase their emissions by 5000 million tons."

Prime Minister Gillard is also in trouble with the labor unions, a mainstay of the Labor Party . Paul Howes of the Australian workers Union threatened that he would withdraw his support and oppose the tax even if it cost only a single job.