A perfect storm of stupid

So we’ve just had the Greens’ carbon tax rammed through with the support of the minority Labor government, and now it’s the plain tobacco packaging, which I read…

…will pass the Senate with the support of the Greens.

Is it speculative to wonder if the price for supporting Labor’s pointless plain fag packets – pointless not least because it follows recently introduced laws that generally prevent the fucking packets being on display anyway – was the carbon tax and vice versa?

Who knows? But what I am very confident of is that these two pieces of legislation, one extremely divisive and the other egregiously illiberal, will each achieve as near to nothing as makes no odds.

“If this legislation stops one young Australian from picking up a shiny, coloured packet and prevents them becoming addicted to cigarettes then in my view it will have been worthwhile,” Labor senator John Faulkner told the upper house today.

It won’t. Hell’s bells, I’m getting tired of saying this, but just look at the illegal drug trade. Just fucking look at it. Do they have trademarks? Do they have shiny, coloured packets? No. Does the trade have any difficulty in retaining customers? No, but of course the nanny screams of “Addiction!” will be starting any second, so let’s ask a different question. Does the drugs trade have any difficulty attracting new business despite the complete lack of trademarks and shiny, coloured packets? Again the answer is no. And the reason is that people want to take the bloody stuff. No, I don’t particularly get the attraction either, but there’s a very good chance that someone somewhere in this very suburb is getting wasted right now and we all know that whatever s/he’s on came in some kind of plain and most likely ad hoc packaging. Hell, even illegal chop-chop tobacco already comes in plain packaging, and I’m sure the suppliers are just delighted that their main competition, the legal and regulated tobacco trade, are taking one in the crotch and losing one more thing that distinguishes the legal from the illegal product. And, er, correct me if I’m wrong but they don’t even pay tax, do they? Christ, they must think all their Christmases came at once.

Via the Real World Libertarian

And if in return for that utter pointlessness, unless the idea really is to benefit the criminal tobacco trade, Labor brought in the carbon tax for the Greens it doesn’t seem to me to be any more likely to achieve anything noticeable. As I mentioned the other day other countries seem quick to praise Australia for the carbon tax but oh so reluctant to follow suit, and with such a small population we could cut emissions to nothing at the cost of utterly destroying the economy and going back to being a pre-industrial society, and the self-sacrifice would have a measurable effect on the climate of zero. And that’s making the assumption that the whole warble gloaming catastrophism bandwagon isn’t garbage to begin with. The reality is that we’re on our own.

Earlier this week Climate Change Minister Greg Combet rejected the idea that there are serious issues with international carbon trading and yesterday spoke rosily about the global carbon market’s prospects while the EU carbon price crashed.
To support his argument Combet cited the World Bank’s Carbon Finance Unit State and Trends of the Global Carbon Market 2011 report that the market has now grown to $US140 billion ($136bn). But he’s clearly only read it to recite convenient anecdotes.
According to the report “after five consecutive years of robust growth, the total value of the global carbon market stalled suffering from the lack of post-2012 regulatory clarity”.
Meanwhile the price of some emissions permits “fell by double-digits for the third year in a row” and “shrank as well in 2010”.
A carbon market recession should hardly come as a surprise.
Before its closure in the middle of last year, the price of voluntary Chicago carbon exchange permits plunged from $7.40 a tonne to a mere 5c.
And Europe’s carbon price has not been in parity with Australia’s $23 a tonne price since June and now sits at about $10 following a downward price trend.
As long as the EU’s emissions trading scheme accounts for 97 per cent of the global carbon market, the price will be set in Europe and a price drop there will significantly influence whether emissions cuts will be achieved in Australia.

And as that article also points out, arguments between the industrialised and developing worlds over a replacement treaty for the Kyoto Accord, itself not credited with achieving a measurable temperature change as far as I’ve heard, are deadlocked on the issue of whether the developing world is included this time.

Worse, like the tobacco legislation, it seems that criminals are going to gain from this too, or at least have a bloody good try.

The Australian Federal Police is preparing to investigate cases of serious fraud that could arise from Labor’s carbon pricing scheme, including the possible sale of bogus carbon credits.
The AFP’s deputy commissioner of operations Andrew Colvin said a working group had been established with the Department of Climate Change to discuss possible responses to carbon tax breaches.
Appearing before a Senate committee hearing today, Mr Colvin said the AFP’s efforts would focus on serious fraud offences, particularly those involving the sale of counterfeit carbon permits or credits.

And of course they’re quite right to if experience elsewhere is any guide.

Click for link – H/T to WUWT

So to recap, what we’ve got here is a couple of bits of legislation that will attract and likely benefit criminals, add to the workloads of the police, and achieve two-fifths of fuck all. But on the upside they’re both ideologically sound, keep important and wealthy eco and health lobby groups onside, and of course Australia gets to say it’s leading the world even if a lot of the world isn’t all that keen to follow.


5 comments for “A perfect storm of stupid

  1. November 10, 2011 at 7:49 am

    An update. Coincidentally WUWT has a post looking at Kyoto’s effects which concludes that it did nothing in signatory countries that didn’t happen in the US too, and did quite a lot less than the financial crisis. Now, about that carbon tax, Jules and Bob…

  2. Paul Harrison
    November 10, 2011 at 8:48 am

    The crazy thing about the cigarette packets is that surely all this will do is force down the price of cigarettes – due to slightly lower production costs, but more importantly you are helping to create commodities out of them, and when that happens cost will become the key factor it determining which cigarette will have the greatest market share – cheaper cigarettes is likely to lead to an increase in smoking, rather then a decrease. Add to that the fact that in the UK we have already seen an increase in counterfeit cigarettes – http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/rip-offs-and-scams/spotting-fake-goods/counterfeit-cigarettes-and-alcohol/ – interesting to note that the first thing this website suggests for spotting them is by checking the packaging, so essentially this bill is just making things easier for the counterfeiters.
    It would be interesting to see what would happen if the major tobacco companies pulled out of the Australian market completely in retaliation.

    • November 10, 2011 at 9:14 am

      Indeed, Paul, and chop-chop is already about a quarter to a third of the price by weight of legal, regulated and quality controlled tobacco. Counterfeit doubtless costs more due to the effort required to make it at least look like a kosher brand, and no doubt the counterfeiters are looking forward to the lower costs involved in impersonating the federal governments standard plain packets. In fact much of the enforcement against counterfeit tobacco is carried out not be the Australian Federal Police and their state counterparts but by the tobacco industry bringing court cases over trademarks and other IP infringement. Hard to see the industry carrying on with that even if they wanted to.

      It would be interesting to see what would happen if the major tobacco companies pulled out of the Australian market completely in retaliation.

      The same thought’s occurred to me more than once, though being an occasionally vindictive bastard I’d go a stage further than that if I was a tobacco exec. Not only would I boycott sales to Australia but I’d make sure every fragment of tobacco that would have gone to the Australian market is instead sent to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea for sale at as modest a profit margin as I could. Without doubt a large amount of that product would end up in Australia anyway, probably at a lower cost to the end users since there’d be no tax being paid on it, but that would be the problem of the government whose policies drove out a legitimate business. I’d even print “Pretty please, don’t send this to Australia” on the packets to deter smuggling if the federal government asked nicely…

      … and paid a few million dollars. 😈

  3. David C
    November 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    “I’m getting tired of saying this, but just look at the illegal drug trade. … Do they have trademarks?”

    Er … as a matter of fact, yes they do.


    You can’t have been out much lately.

    Apart from that, good piece!

    • November 11, 2011 at 4:56 am

      Okay, yeah, fair point. I know about pictures on pills and tabs and I know about slang names for cut drugs (I’ve seen The Wire 😆 ), but I don’t think it’s quite the same thing. They’re not trademarks in any real sense – if your ecstasy tablets with a smiley on are selling better than my plain ones there’s nothing at all to stop me putting a smiley on so there’s no guarantee of consistency of quality or even that it’s really the same thing. Even if the source is the same (and again I’m thinking of a subplot in The Wire) the drug can change despite being nominally the same ‘brand’. I think it’s probably more accurate to treat them as nicknames, and in a general sense a heroin or whatever user is just buying some heroin regardless of the nickname or even if it’s got one.

      In the specific case of the drug tobacco, which is both legal and illegal depending on where you buy it from, I’ve never heard that chop-chop has nicknames at all (apart from ‘chop-chop’, which of course is an umbrella type nickname in Oz). A chop-chop smoker might prefer, say, the stuff that Dave-o gets in from that truckie bloke he knows, but that’s probably as close as it gets to there being branding of chop-chop. Yet despite this the chop-chop trade seems able to maintain its customer base and attracts new business more or less as well as the legal tobacco trade can – arguably better since anti-smoking drives be means of tax hikes work against legal tobacco but work in favour of the much cheaper chop-chop. Who wouldn’t love a law to be passed that made their competition more expensive? That the differences between them have become blurry over time as legal tobacco has lost the ability to advertise etc, and is about to become a hell of a lot more blurry still, must surely have the chop-chop folks rubbing their hands together.

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