Friday, 2 July 2010

A simple answer to the dilemma of the mining tax

Over the past month, controversy over opposition to Rudd’s “mining tax” has been a leading point on the newspapers, radio and television.

The consequences have been tragic for Rudd and his party: huge losses in the opinion polls, the removal of Rudd and his replacement by Julia Gillard, and ultimately a free ride for ecologically destructive mining companies whose policies are responsible for the most ecologically sensitive country in the world untenably having many times the world average in carbon emissions: if you look at how Australia’s climate has changed since 1967, “acceptable” could be not above 0.5 to 5 percent the world average.

There is a simple solution to the problem of the mining tax that would I hope please the ordinary, apolitical outer suburban voter upon whom governments in Australia depend for power and would certainly do an urgently overdue job of taking some political power away from the mining industry and their allies (the “greenhouse mafia” of Four Corners). it involves a plan to ensure that every cent of the unfortunately abandoned mining tax be spent on:
  1. railway improvements such as
    1. standardising narrow gauge
    2. improving alignment on existing intercity lines
    3. assigning funding for electrification of lines for which that is overdue, especially Melbourne to Geelong and Melbourne to Kyneton.
    4. the whole line from Sydney to Brisbane should be looked at for electrification if gauge breaks can be eliminated
  2. spend some money considering how to demolish roads so that their cost can be reduced and railways potentially profitable
  3. upgrade transit service in both urban and rural areas to levels at least equal to the best anywhere in the world
Contrary to popular opinions that public transport cannot be profitable in low-density cities or suburbs, in fact public transport in both urban and rural Australia remained profitable until the highway boom of the 1960s and in Melbourne at least until the freeway boom of the middle 1970s. There is no reason to suppose that if foreign countries were tough enough to force step to constitutionally outlaw freeway building in Australia, then public transport could become profitable again. With profitability and the competition of roads eliminated would come incentives for investment that have been lacking since the government began its major highway programs in the 1960s.

The goal of a CFC (Car Free Continent) is one Australia should have aspired to when the appalling Lonie-Underwood Report came out in 1980. The fact that one private motor car is far too many for Australia’s sensitive environment is obvious from climate changes in Western Australia since then, no matter how much that state’s mining-dependent politicians are forced to deny it.

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