Australia’s union movement is backing the Government’s carbon tax even though it expects it to reduce both real wages and economic production, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham said today.
Joel Fetter, Policy Director at peak body the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), today told the shotgun Parliamentary inquiry into Julia Gillard’s carbon tax legislation that reducing GDP (gross domestic product) was the whole point and that he was comfortable with lower wages.
Mr FETTER: We support the package… we support the introduction of the package on the 1st of July next year.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Mr Fetter, do you accept, then, that the Treasury modelling is accurate when it predicts that national income, real income, per person will be below that expected without carbon pricing?
Mr FETTER: Yes, the whole point of the scheme is to reduce our emissions, thereby reducing the GDP and the incomes to all the factors of production that would otherwise have taken place.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: The whole point of the scheme is to reduce the national GDP?!
Mr FETTER: Well, we’re clearly going to have to use more expensive sources of energy to achieve the same production, so… but the modelling is…
Senator BIRMINGHAM: And so the union movement is comfortable with lower income per person in future?
Mr FETTER: We will clearly have lower income than the income we could generate if we continued to burn dirty coal and we continued with business as usual but we will also have very high emissions and so at some point in time the planet will catch up with us and then you’ll see what happens to GDP…
Senator BIRMINGHAM: And when is that point in time?
Mr FETTER: Well, scientists tell us by 2100 we may be facing a 2 degree warming and the impact on GDP we saw with the floods in Queensland were very significant and that’s in 2011, so by 2100 one would expect significant impacts to GDP if nothing’s done about climate change.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: So you acknowledge the Treasury modelling only goes out as far as 2050 and at that point real income is still trending down compared with a ‘no carbon price’ scenario?
Mr FETTER: Yes, but we have the higher GDP if we allowed child labour or, you know, there’s many things that we could do to increase our GDP but we don’t do them. They’re not good ideas.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: But this, of course, is also talking about real wages of your members.
Mr FETTER: Well, you’re comparing a hypothetical scenario of ‘what would the world look like down the track if we didn’t have a climate change scheme?’
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I’m talking about the modelling that the Government that you so enthusiastically support relies upon.
“It is simply extraordinary that Australian unions would sell out their workers to support Labor’s job destroying carbon tax, in the face of more efficient alternatives as the Coalition proposes that don’t inflict the harm of this toxic tax,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“The unions have reduced themselves to little more than a cheer squad for the Gillard Government, more interested in backing its unpopular and harmful carbon tax than it is in protecting Australian workers’ wages.”