Reasons for opposing the ETS

Roy Morgan Research has asked its global warming question again, and found that the proportion of the electorate Australians believing that climate change concerns are exaggerated is up again, from 27% to 30%. Disapproval of the ETS is up from 24% to 31%.

The Pollytics blog analysis of these results shows that it seems to be largely driven by partisan effects, with Labor voters becoming less likely to believe that concerns are exaggerated and Coalition voters more likely to believe that concerns are exaggerated (surprisingly, Green voters are also showing increased scepticism; if this is real it is perhaps a reminder that about a third of Green voters appear to be low-ideology, not-rusted-on, supporters).

Roy Morgan also asked an open question about why voters disapproved of the legislation. I’ve tried to organise them into categories, and find that those giving sceptical reasons are 9% of the sample (or just under a third of ETS opponents), those thinking the ETS is futile are 8.5% of the sample, those thinking it costs to much are 8% of the sample, those offering tactical reasons are 6.5% of the sample, those offering cynical reasons (eg distribution of credits is unfair) are 1.5% of the sample, as are those saying the public doesn’t know enough.

So there are several broad reasons for opposing the ETS, with none dominant.

23 thoughts on “Reasons for opposing the ETS

  1. Actual question, “There’s proposed legislation before Federal Parliament for a carbon emissions trading scheme to be introduced in Australia. Do you approve or disapprove of this legislation?”

    I used the ETS abbreviation on the assumption that blog readers would know what it meant.


  2. The poll does not poll the “electorate” as such but people over 13. While this is still useful for tracking changes in attitudes, the absolute percentages understate actual voters’ scepticism of global warming predictions and an ETS.


  3. Of course the reason the polls are showing this change is due to the loads of money the coal, oil, gas etc industries (the usual suspects) have spent to deliberately create confusion around this issue. I heard a guy this morning on the BBC explain it all.


  4. Rajat – Yes, I suspect these polls are by-products of Morgan’s market research which is interested in consumers rather than voters. I have amended. As the young are more in favour of climate change action than the old this will have an effect on the results.


  5. Russell – Given the partisan nature of the shift, I think a stronger explanation is that with the rising salience of the issue people are following the cue given by politicians in their parties.

    Overall though it is surprising how little coverage the costs issue has received. On the government’s figures the childless and upper income earners are going to be whacked pretty hard, and I doubt many of them realise it.


  6. “the childless and upper income earners ” – who cares about them?

    How could anyone follow the cues coming from the Liberal Party – its MPs are variously putting out every possible position there could be?


  7. Russell’s sort of attitude merely illustrates that the Left’s agenda for the ETS is driven more by redistribution than actually attenuating global warming. Fine. The politics of envy of the rich will become increasingly met by the politics of contempt for the poor.


  8. Rajat – a perfectly innocent question. Should I have written “who cares about them [sob]”?

    If the childless and upper income earners are to be whacked I will be in the worst position: childless, but without the cushioning compensation of the high income!

    Truly, despite my assiduous scanning of right-wing blogs, I’ve never come across this idea that the left sees the coming armageddon of climate change as an opportunity for wealth redistribution. Seems the left has some optimists after all.


  9. My apologies, Russell, I had read your question as “why should anyone care about them?”.
    But I think there is a philosophy of redistribution implicit in global climate change policy. That is, the idea that rich countries should take unilateral action because they ’caused’ the problem, while poor countries should be bribed to take any action. Why? One could equally say that the problem will only become serious because poor countries are getting richer. Rich countries are generally reducing their per capita emissions. Handing money to poor countries may or may not be a good idea, but it shoud be debated on its own merits.


  10. “the childless and upper income earners ” – who cares about them? Certainly not Australian governments.
    You’ve never heard of negative gearing?


  11. A policy aimed at helping renters.

    The major policy I can think of that principally benefits well-off people is superannuation, though this was not its original intention.

    There are rarely (none?) any policies for single people or well-off people, though some end up benefiting well-off people.


  12. Negative gearing is a policy aimed at renters? Isn’t it just a consequence of interest incurred in financing income-generating assets/operations being tax deductible?


  13. AN:”A policy aimed at helping renters. “…JS:”financing income-generating assets”
    You can negatively gear any asset, including those that don’t generate income (e.g., shares that don’t pay a dividend — all you get is potential capital gains). If negative gearing was used to create cheaper rent, then presumably it doesn’t make a lot of sense to offer it on houses that are already built.


  14. As I understand it, it is mainly a policy issue in real estate, one of the few markets in which investors know that their investment will result in trading losses, which are then deducted from other income. So capital gains are the only way a profit can be made (negative gearing reduces but does not eliminate losses). The preferential tax treatment of capital gains is also an issue.

    The political history is that Keating abolished it in the mid-1980s, but the result was that the rental market contracted. It was reinstated a couple of years later. Without this problem it probably would have remained abolished. So the political goal was to deal with renters, not investors who use negative gearing.


  15. Ken – That may be the case. My point is that the political reason for bringing negative gearing back was the perceived effect on the rental market, and not any sudden political support for the investors.


  16. Renting a house is the conduct of a commercial activity. If you raise the cost of such an activity by dis-allowing legitimate expenses such as interest costs how on earth would it not effect it, or in Ken Miles suggestion not “play a role”?


  17. Andrew, negative gearing was restored because property investors love it. It had nothing to do with renters.

    The real estate industry trots out alleged harm to renters whenever it wants something. For example, that was the reason they gave when campaigning against increased land tax.

    Meanwhile it pushes up rents as fast as it can get away with it.

    I’m surprised you would fall for this.


  18. It’s difficult to see how you could logically get rid of negative gearing on property but leave it for shares. And if you abolished it for shares, it would create a distortion in favour of companies with high dividend payout ratios. Franked dividends are partly or wholly tax-free in the hands of investors, whereas retained earnings are effectively taxed twice (first by company tax on profits and then by CGT on the sale of the shares). Allowing negative gearing – which benefits companies with low dividend payout ratios – helps reduce this distortion. So maybe it would be okay to get rid of negative gearing if you also got rid of CGT.


  19. I’m not commenting on the merits of negative gearing; the debate was about the politics of it. Wikipedia supported my memory of the politics of reinstating negative gearing in the 1980s but I have not looked further. Just because the rental argument may not be true does not mean that this isn’t the political reason.

    These days negative gearing is so common among Mum & Dad investors that it would have a large potentially electorally significant constituency of its own.


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