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 mean the most ecologically sensitive country in the world untenably has six times the world average per capita carbon emissions. When you consider how Australia’s climate has changed since 1967, “acceptable” could be not above 0.5 to 5 percent the world average per capita emissions.

There exists 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 also do an urgently overdue job of removing some political power from the mining industry and their allies (the “greenhouse mafia” of Four Corners). The plan involves spending the entirety of the unfortunately abandoned mining tax 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. considering how to demolish roads so that their cost can be reduced and railways potentially profitable – and then ultimately demolishing them
  3. upgrading transit service in both urban and rural areas to at least equal 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. Melbourne public transport more than met costs until the freeway boom of the middle 1970s. If foreign countries were tough enough to force a constitutional outlaw of freeway building in Australia, public transport would certainly regain profitability. With profitability and no competition from roads, there would come incentives for investment 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. That even one private motor car is 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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