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Resource tax? Green new deal? Or new social contract?

By Ariel Salleh - posted Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Could Labor's proposed resource tax open the door for a “green new deal” or even “a new social contract” for Australians?

The EU states are already experimenting with environmental tax revenues, but as World Watch says in its Transatlantic Green New Deal analysis, governments must take care not to subsidise bad practices. Emissions trading is a case in point; and the Rudd Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme would transfer a $13 billion compensation payment from people's pockets to polluters' pockets (Stuart Rosewarne and James Goodman, “The ETS is a huge cost for almost no benefit”, The Age, December 9, 2009). By contrast, a resource tax might be used progressively as a de-carbonisation fund.

As World Watch observes much can be done:


... to rationalise current tax systems, which tend to make natural resource use too cheap and labor too expensive. Using eco-tax revenues to lighten the tax burden on labor (by funding national health or social security programs through eco-taxes rather than pay-roll taxes) would help lower indirect labor costs and boost job creation without hurting workers' interests.

The Transatlantic Green New Deal is one of several such propositions launched on the international political scene in response to the dual crises of financial meltdown and global warming. UNEP brought out a global paper, and another was published by the UK based New Economics Foundation.

The local version is the Joint Statement: Towards a Green New Deal - Economic Stimulus and Policy Action for the Double Crunch. It is designed by the ACF, the Australian Council of Social Services, Climate Institute, Property Council, ACTU, Australian Green Infrastructure Council, and Institute of Superannuation Trustees. These are familiar political personae; though the Infrastructure Council (AGIC) is a more recent arrival.

The AGIC is described as:

... a company formed by a group of industry professionals from engineering, environmental, planning, legal, financial, and construction backgrounds, working in both private and public organisations related to infrastructure ... Its members aim to deliver more sustainable infrastructure by driving market transformation through education, training, advocacy and a sustainable rating scheme for infrastructure projects.

Prominent members include the consulting firm GHD, and expert tunnel builders Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC).


The nation's single most powerful corporate lobby, the Minerals Council, is noticeably absent from Joint Statement signatories; but so is the Women's Electoral Lobby or similar, as well as Indigenous organisations. This lack of representation of more than half of Australian voices skews the Joint Statement with a seriously gendered and ethnic bias. In short, the Australian green new deal is uncritically framed by productivist values and tech fix responses to the “double crunch” of ecological and financial collapse.

To summarise, the key Joint Statement goals are:

  • retrofitted buildings for energy and water efficiency in residential, commercial, and public sectors; assistance for low income people with household audits;
  • sustainable infrastructure like public transport and freight; solar, wind, geothermal renewables; monitoring of the construction sector; and
  • green industries for the manufacture of internationally competitive products and services, projecting 500,000 skilled-up green trades jobs.
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About the Author

Ariel Salleh is a sociologist in Political Economy at the University of Sydney. Former Associate Professor in Social Inquiry at UWS and co-editor of Capitalism Nature Socialism, her publications include, Ecofeminism as Politics, Eco-Sufficiency & Global Justice, and many articles.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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