The word “lie” attracts a disproportionately emotive response compared to other forms of deception. Nevertheless, I will briefly point out that Tony Abbott has told a very succinct lie in the following statement, quoted by the ABC, in relation to electricity transmission costs:
The whole purpose of the carbon tax is to raise the price of power. If the price doesn’t go up, the carbon tax isn’t working.
The point of the carbon tax is not to raise the price of power. That’s a lie, and a much more clear-cut lie than anything I’m aware of Julia Gillard saying on the subject.
The point is to create a price differential between competing power generation technologies. The point (insofar as electricity is concerned) is to make non-polluting technologies cheaper than coal, oil and gas. All else being equal, we expect the overall price of electricity to rise — because to start with there will be very little renewable power generation — but that’s not the “purpose” of the tax. As the ABC article discusses, the overall price might actually go down for other reasons (network transmission efficiencies, in this case). If this happens, it would have no bearing on the functioning of the carbon tax at all, because the differential between fossil fuels and renewables would remain.
All else being equal, when fossil fuel generation eventually ceases altogether, the price of electricity should return to its former level in real terms (edit: Okay, not really — this is technology-dependent).
This kind of statement from Abbott is not merely an opinion, not merely misdirection, not merely an unsustainable or misguided promise (as in the case of Gillard). It is blatantly, unambiguously, factually incorrect, and Abbott himself cannot plausibly claim ignorance of his errors1. By now, everyone in federal politics must have a reasonable working understanding of carbon pricing, given how long and hard we’ve been talking about it.
I don’t see, therefore, how Abbott’s remarks can escape even the narrowest definition of a lie.
- If Abbott — whose entire political raison d’être has been the prevention of carbon pricing — truly does not know how it works, this would be a revelation of staggering idiocy and denialism. [↩]