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"economically literate environmentalism"
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Expressions of interest are sought for a new political party. For the moment it will be called the sustainability party.
The party will focus on two general areas which tend to get ignored in mainstream politics:
- long term sustainability of our society
- using revenue raising tools (taxes) to correct market failures
Long term issues tend to get ignored because politicians tend to focus on the election cycle, which doesn't hold them accountable for the long term impacts of their policies.
Targeted taxation also tends to get ignored and has unfortunately become a bit of a 'taboo' topic among larger parties. There is a tendency to focus only on what politicians promise to spend money on, not how they raise it. However, how governments collect revenue and how much they collect has more impact on society than how they spend it. The reason for the lack of political will in this area is that spending money on a group of people will tend to win their votes without costing the votes of those who pay for it via taxes. On the other hand, taxing a group of people will tend to lose their votes while not gaining the votes of those who aren't directly affected. Even an arbitrary change in the taxation pattern will only lose votes because only those who are worse off take an interest.
Obviously, deliberately pursuing 'unpopular' policies will not get us elected, even if those policies will benefit society as a whole. However, by controlling a block of votes and maintaining pressure on other parties via the media we should be able to get sensible policies enacted. It is not our goal to take power. It is our goal to achieve change, and we will encourage other parties 'poach' our policies once there is enough public support for them. Getting elected should be seen as a failure to negotiate effectively with the major parties.
We must get broad public support for our policies if they are to be enacted. Hence our strategy will focus on informing the general public of the benefits of our policies. This does not exclude direct lobbying of elected officials. It is just recognition that no politician will support our ideas while the public remains ignorant and fearful of them.
The party will have environmental policies similar to the greens, without the extreme social policies. Unless otherwise stated, our policies on how to spend money (ie, education, law enforcement, health etc) will be similar to those of the major parties. We believe that the real differences between the major parties on these issues are less significant their policy failures on issues related to sustainability.
Domestic policies include:
- A slight reduction in the total tax burden on society (as a percentage of GDP). Tax brackets should be indexed to wages to prevent bracket creep.
- A shift of the tax burden from environmentally and socially benign economic activities to activities that harm society. Tax reductions will be targeted at low income earners in order to avoid regressive shifts in the tax burden (ie shifts that increase the wealth gap by benefiting the wealthy more than the poor).
- All communal resources should remain communal property. Things like air, water, fish and native wildlife which cannot be fenced in should not be sold off under licensing schemes. Instead, commercial harvest, consumption, use and pollution should be restricted by taxation. This is especially applicable where current management regimes already require monitoring. The level of taxation shall be adjusted dynamically, to have the same long term effect as a limit on extraction or pollution. These 'effective limits' will be made public and should be the target of political decisions, while converting the limits to tax rates is a more technical matter. Where licensing schemes have been in place and functioning for sufficient time to establish a recognised and trusted market in licenses, those licenses will be bought back at a reasonable price from those who have purchased them. Limits on extraction or pollution need not be lifted and should usually be left in place as an additional precautionary measure. However a tax will make them less significant.
- Water consumption should be controlled through taxation. The amount of tax will vary with the amount of water available, so that water is cheap when rivers are in flood and more expensive during a drought. All users within a catchment shall be charged the same amount per unit of water consumed, if it is 'the same water.' Under current management regimes, surface water is given away until none is left. Instead, water should be taxed sufficiently to allow some return of natural flows to over drained rivers. Subsidies for residential water tanks should be phased out, as well as water rationing. State laws that prevent tenants from being charged for the water they consume should be withdrawn and tenancy contracts should default to 'tenant pays' for water, as with electricity. The bill is currently sent to the landlord instead, preventing the tenant from even finding out how much water they consume.
- Subsidies should only be applied where they are justified by sound economics, rather than as a knee-jerk reaction to an uneconomic industry encountering financial difficulties. Drought assistance for farmers is a subsidy and should not be given in the same area more than once a century. The baby bonus is a subsidy and should be eliminated unless the total (gross) population starts to decline. Subsidies may be applied to positive externalities where the cost of monitoring is not prohibitive and the cost to society of taxation is outweighed by the benefits from subsidising the positive externality. They can also be applied to research and new technologies, on the expectation that some of this research will pay off in the future. They should not be applied to established technologies for which there is already a market.
- The adoption of voting by delegable proxy in the Queensland parliament or the federal senate.
- An end to the baby bonus and limits on immigration to achieve zero net population growth.
- An end to the first home owner grant. This is largely self defeating because it has caused an artificial spike in house prices.
- Greater use of public lands in urban areas to grow fruit and nut trees. Where the economics justify it, this will extend to maintenance of these trees to increase productivity. However, no artificial pesticides or herbicides will be used in urban areas to support this scheme. As well as producing food for local consumption, this will facilitate public education on species suitable for the local soil and climate.
- Greater use of marine parks as fisheries management tools, with a focus on heavily fished areas close to population centres, rather than more 'pristine' areas.
- Advertised bank interest rates are currently deceptive. The advertised annual interest rate charged on home loans etc is smaller than the actual interest rate. Banks 'compound' interest and advertise rates as being compounded daily or monthly, but calculate the daily or monthly interest rate as a 'simple' rate. Are the banks really incapable of calculating the true compound interest rate that matches the advertised annual rate?
We call for an immediate end to:
- farming subsidies, especially in the US and EU
- bans on taxing fuel for international flights
- bans on the importation of Kangaroo meat (for example into California)
We support the immediate ratification of the Kyoto protocol and support efforts to include developing countries and to further restrict emissions. The federal government should retain emissions rights on our behalf. It should tax emissions to keep them below our allotted targets and generate income by selling emissions rights. While developing nations should also make efforts to limit their emissions, lack of action on their behalf should not be used as an excuse for inaction on our behalf, especially while our per capita emissions are far higher. Countries should be compared on a per capita basis and Australia should not expect to be able to emit more per person because of our low population.
We support the spread of democracy and promote electoral reform in countries with clearly inferior voting methods (primarily 'first past the post' systems).
|One Nation||Family First||Nationals||Liberals||Democrats||Labor||Greens|
|reduction in overall tax burden||yes||yes|
|green tax shift|
|taxation instead of licensing|
|end tank rebate||no|
|end water rationing|
|end first home owners grant||no|
|end baby bonus||no|
|food trees on public land|
|truth in advertising (banks)|
|end farming subsidies||yes|
|end ban on plane fuel tax|
|end ban on roo meat|