Monday, July 18, 2011


Piggybacking off a Twitter conversation, I just want to ask some questions about the carbon tax. They are hypothetical questions I am interested in the answer to. Also, they are hypothetical questions about YOU. What would YOU do? This is quite important to remember - it's always annoying when you ask hypothetical questions and people say "Oh it's not really like that though!" These are my hypotheticals - just go with them! I just want folks to think about the way they think.

Question 1: If you were a prime minister, and you'd promised not to introduce a carbon tax, and then discovered that only by introducing a carbon tax could you actually hold on to government, what would you do?

Of course this question is all about the desire for power. As prime minister, you've probably worked pretty hard to get in the position you're in, and holding that position is fairly important to you. Having achieved your absolute ultimate life goal, would you be willing to give it up for the sake of not breaking a promise?

Question 2: Repeat the situation in question 1, but add the detail that the alternative government is one you honestly believe to be terrible.

Here the question of power takes a nobler turn. Would you happily give up power for the sake of your reputation, if it meant sacrificing not only your own ambition, but the good of the nation? If you were sincerely convinced that your losing government would be disastrous for the country, would you be happy to relinquish it because it would be "more honest"?

Question 3: If you were prime minister, and had promised not to introduce a carbon tax, because you thought the country did not need one, but later became genuinely convinced that the country DID need one - either by reading some new literature, or hearing a new argument from a fellow politician, or just through reflecting on things and having an epiphany - what would you do?

Here we see competing notions of "what's right". Is breaking a promise wrong? Maybe. But what if breaking your promise is the ONLY way to achieve what you see as a necessary outcome? Would you see keeping your promise as more important than acting in the country's best interests, as you saw them?

Question 4: Let's run question 3 again, but once more add a detail about the opposition. What if you not only believed a carbon tax was necessary, but were convinced that if you didn't introduce one right away, it would kill the chances of one being introduced for some time? That is, because you knew that waiting for electoral approval would see you lose government, and you knew the opposition would not allow a carbon tax, and you knew that once they were in government, the policy would be dead and buried on their side, and on yours because of the fear of future defeat? What would you do? Would you "do the wrong thing" for the sake of "doing the right thing"?

Question 5: If you were prime minister, and you'd promised not to introduce a carbon tax, but you WERE intent on introducing an emissions trading scheme in future, but you discovered that thanks to vagaries of politics, there was no way of achieveing an ETS in the future without first bringing in an effective carbon tax - what would you do? Would you refuse to introduce the carbon tax on the principle of promise-keeping, even though it would sabotage your actual policy, which you HAD always stuck to?

Question 6: You know the drill. Would it change your answer to 5 if you knew that abandoning the carbon tax and keeping your promise would scupper, not only the tax, but any chance of a trading scheme or price on carbon in the foreseeable future? If you knew that the opposition was intractable, and believed their policy was antithetical to what the country needed, would you hand them power knowing that what you fervently believed in would be buried?

Question 7: Would you rather go down in history as "the do-nothing with integrity", or "the deceitful high-achiever"?

And finally, just for a chuckle:

Question 8: If you had a policy that was not a tax, but had many aspects which functioned in a tax-like manner, why would you be so mad as to stand before the public and tell them it was a tax when you didn't have to?

You can answer or not, but do have a think about it, ok?


Mindy said...

I'd go with the tax and call it a non core promise. It has worked before. But then again being a woman it wouldn't matter what I did because some people, say some shockjocks, just can't handle a woman being PM and are rude little shits.

WV: farcenmo. How appropriate.

Simon said...

I would introduce it and make it too hard for any future governments to role it back. It is sound public policy and the opposition to it is based on misinformation and outright liea. Just a shame everyone believes them. But then again, I am a trendy inner city elite who is out of touch with ordinary people.

Anonymous said...

@Mindy. shit. rubbish. she is PM. being a woman is all to do with you.

Are you asking a question about the nature of politics itself? An accomplished politician know you have to shed a little bit of integrity while leaving enough to accomplish your goals. As it is said without politics might would win. A good politician knows when to stop shedding and stand your ground...even if it means defeat.


Anonymous said...

Question 7: Would you rather go down in history as "the do-nothing with integrity", or "the deceitful high-achiever"?

Perhaps we should abstain when give such a double bind. To answer such circumstances would be rather deceitful and I value my integrity as an elected representative and I do not wish to put at risk the mandate my electorate has given me.

Ej Freckles said...

When I am prime minister I will never promise that there won't be a carbon tax, because a carbon tax is awesome!

Johnny B Gone said...

@Anonymous. I think Mindy's point is on the money. These shock jocks never treated a male PM with such disdain. When a male is PM they at least attempt to show some respect for the Office, if not the PM himself. With Ms Gillard in Office, they have thrown that (respect), and any shred of integrity to which they might have hoped to aspire, out the window.

Anonymous said...

Hypotheticals. I must admit that when my 7 year old son asks "What will happen to me if you stop loving me?" I am guilty of a saying, "but that will never happen." Sorry to diasappoint.

Gen said...

Ben, you honestly have provided such a good topic here.

Why can't more people see this side of things rather than slinging derogatory names and broken promises around.

All of those narrow minded liberals who won’t think outside of the box and wake up to the fact that this situation is inevitable will ultimately drive the government and our country down with it!

Thanks for shedding light on a very one sided topic!

*note: I am not saying all liberals are narrow minded just the majority, if not all.

Kath Grant said...

I would explain that I'd had advice which caused me to change my mind and go ahead with the tax.

When that was done I'd make Ben Pobjie honourary king of Australia.

Betty said...

1) Hold the Greens were ever gonna get far (or want to) in negotiating with Mr Abbott....

2) Again, like THAT would happen with the Greens...the Greens and independents did not want the Libs in either.

3) Really be up with all the information to be able to explain it properly and take it to next election.

4) Oops! that's a dead end in political choose-your-own-adventure considering my answer to q 3.

5) Fail to see how my original ETS plan would be jeopardised if I stood by it and explained it well to my fellow Australians.

6) No. If I stood my ground in negs with the Greens I wouldn't be in this mess.

7) Drink a cup of sweat from the armpit of a weightlifter.

8) No.