Friday 8 August 2008

The Wiggles guide to carbon trading

I hope I am not infringing all sorts of copyright law by dragging The Wiggles into this story, but I can't tell it without them.

Monkey was running around yesterday singing the Wiggles tune, "Yummy yummy, fruit salad", so I made a big bowl of fruit salad. Strawberries, mandarins, banana, grapes, kiwifruit - that sort of thing. As I peeled and sliced and chopped, he sat on a bar stool watching and singing "yummy, yummy - fruit salad" over and over again. In a nod to the rapacious multinational expansion of the colourful foursome, he even sang the Spanish version.

But when it came to eating the fruit salad, he turned up his nose and said "yukky".

Nothing could entice him to actually eat any of the fruit. Not even a single slice of strawberry.

That's what the Australian public is like at the moment - supposedly 86% are running around singing, "yummy, yummy - carbon trading" without any of them having a clue as to what it entails. They might be singing the words, but will they say "yukky" when faced with the end result?

The sly thing about this whole "carbon trading" spin-fest is that no one believes it will apply to them. I went to the supermarket yesterday, and I didn't come home with a six-pack of carbon, or a two litre bottle of carbon, or a tin of freshly picked carbon, or a 1 kilo packet of carbon. I turned on the heater, and instead of carbon coming out, out came heat.

"Carbon" is a wonderfully intangible thing to most people. My rubbish bin is not full of carbon. My pantry is not stocked with carbon. There is a bit in the fridge, in the form of fizz in a bottle of lemonade, but that's about the extent of it.

When I pump diesel into my car, I can see the thing that I am paying excise on. When I buy a bottle of wine, I can see (and drink) what I am paying duty on. When I get my pay packet, I can see where my hard earned readies went in income tax. But carbon? You might as well try to tax "happiness".

And that's the beauty of it - the GST was contentious because it was a tax on things that we can see and feel and wear and eat and drive and sit on etc etc. A carbon tax is a tax on...... what? I can get my head around a tax on a fax machine, but not a tax on carbon.

But I am still looking forward to the dummy spit when people stop singing "yummy yummy".

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