Is Australia destined to be a carbon banana republic?

The other day while doing a little research in an unrelated topic I looked up the definition of banana republic. Thanks to aunty internet, many definitions came up, but this one lit me up like a light bulb.

“In economics, a banana republic is a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by a collusion between the State and favoured monopolies, in which the profit derived from the private exploitation of public lands is private property, while the debts incurred thereby are a public responsibility.”

Now add the word ‘carbon’ in front of the word ‘debts’ into the final statement and a moment of clarity may descend upon you. It may not, but it sure as hell did for me.

“While the (carbon) debts incurred thereby are a public responsibility.”

As a professional working in this sector, it can be easy to get caught up in the indepth analysis; the arguments and counter arguments. There are moments when you want to kick a hole through the TV, shout and scream or simply despair when you feel vital public domain information is ignored or twisted. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone here.

Every now and then we all need to grab a coffee, take a deep breath and go back to first principles. Clarity will always help you regain your bearings, for me it is this: “While the (carbon) debts incurred thereby are a public responsibility.”

Previously, when I have given talks, or even one on ones, on this matter, I always use this analogy:

“In the industrial revolution, industry dumped most of their waste into the rivers of Europe. Most of these rivers died as a result and only after regulation and sustained cleanup efforts did life begin to return to the rivers. Often paid for by the government, not the original polluters.”

Then I pose this question: “In this case who should pay, government or the polluters?” Maybe some have thought it, but I can’t really remember anyone say that government should foot bill.

Now we don’t need to commission a report from a consulting firm to know that it is cheaper to clean up at the source than clean up post incident. As Professor Ross Garnaut put it “the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action.”emissions

Now, the irony is that a political party that espouses free markets and user pays philosophy can’t, or won’t, accept this argument, even though their official position is that they believe in the science of human driven climate change.

“While the (carbon) debts incurred thereby are a public responsibility.”

Malcolm Turnbull has argued that we can‘t wreck the economy to fix the problem. This is correct, and most pragmatic thinkers realise we can’t just halt our resource sector on the spot. But it doesn’t have to be a one or the other argument.

The reality is, the Carbon Tax and RET have not been job wreckers. Nor has the economy fallen off any cliff – in fact, we seem to be tracking about the same rate in most standard economic indicators with the exception of our carbon emissions which have dropped.

Obviously there will be winners and losers under carbon abatement policies, but for every job lost when a coal power station closes down there will be more taking its place in the renewable and energy efficiency sectors. This sector employs around 30,000 people distributed across Australia. And forgive me if I have missed the point, but isn’t that exactly what these policies are designed to do? Clarity.

Without a hint of irony the government has bet everything on black (coal) despite the bookies giving the odds at about 33 to 1 against, without the corresponding juicy pot that goes along with such outside bets.

Or another analogy: If I said “stand over there and the odds are 33:1 on that a bus will hit you,” I’m pretty sure that most people would move.

Direct Action policies are not all bad (although there is precious little detail out there). The idea of tackling carbon pollution is sound. But at tax payer expense? From a Liberal Party? When there was a revenue stream in place to pay for these policies? How can the party look themselves in the face?

“While the (carbon) debts incurred thereby are a public responsibility.”


So before you try to kick a hole in your TV, here’s some clarity to recharge your batteries:

1. At least 97 per cent of climate scientists believe that global warming is occurring.

2. Consensus is that humans are the largest drivers of global warming which is leading to climate change.

3. Who should pay? The polluters or the tax payers?


Carbon polices can:

1. Help reduce our carbon emissions

2. Add and diversify our economy

3. Drive job growth in new industries as opposed to propping up exiting industries.


As publicly stated by our PM and backed by Coalition policies, we are heading towards a one dimensional resource economy where the public incur the majority of the debt.

Sure sounds like a Carbon Banana Republic to me.

About Anthony Buckwell

Anthony Buckwell is an Engineer working in the Renewable Energy Sector. He has vested interests in the quality of life for himself, his children and all of society’s children (oh yeah, and his wife as well). Anthony is managing director at Sun State Solar. He has a Bachelor of Microelectronic engineering majoring in communication systems. He holds full solar accreditation with the CEC and is a fully qualified electrical mechanic. He has spent the last 16 years working with leading edge technologies both in research and integration working with companies such as CSIRO, Motorola, Ericsson and Optus. Since 2007 he has concentrated on the clean energy sector. At university he was a foundation member of the Apathetic Action Group, although this was not formally ratified, or held any formal meetings. He is not sure if it still in existence.

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