Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
You likely didn’t realize that the First Rule for the Carbon Tax Club is … nobody talks about the Carbon Tax Club.
And not only that … it could cost the poor Aussies big bucks if they say what I just said about the Carbon Tax Club.
From Miranda Devine’s blog at the Australian Telegraph (emphasis mine):
THE whitewash begins. Now that the carbon tax has passed through federal parliament, the government’s clean-up brigade is getting into the swing by trying to erase any dissent against the jobs-destroying legislation.
On cue comes the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which this week issued warnings to businesses that they will face whopping fines of up to $1.1m if they blame the carbon tax for price rises.
It says it has been “directed by the Australian government to undertake a compliance and enforcement role in relation to claims made about the impact of a carbon price.”
Businesses are not even allowed to throw special carbon tax sales promotions before the tax arrives on July 1.
“Beat the Carbon Tax – Buy Now” or “Buy now before the carbon tax bites” are sales pitches that are verboten. Or at least, as the ACCC puts it, “you should be very cautious about making these types of claims”.
There will be 23 carbon cops roaming the streets doing snap audits of businesses that “choose to link your price increases to a carbon price”.
Instead, the ACCC suggests you tell customers you’ve raised prices because “the overall cost of running (your) business has increased”.
So if some Australian business prints up this post, and tapes it to his window … he can be fined up to one megabuck. A million dollar crime.
Eco-terrorism at its finest, where Australia now has criminalized free speech … carbon. A word to conjure with, the name that cannot be spoken.
PS—I think we should have a contest for the best sign within the Aussie law. To open the bidding, I suggest that Australian businesses post a big sign inside their stores that says:
WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SAY THAT
THE CARBON TAX IS RESPONSIBLE
FOR OUR PRICE INCREASES.
November 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm
If one visits the ACCC site one can see that Miranda Devine has grossly misrepresented the position of the organisation. The Chairman was quite clear about the organisations’s position in his presentation, which is no different than it has been in the past about any other misleading advertising:
“Business costs increase all the time, and businesses are free to set their own prices. However, if a business chooses to raise their prices they should not misrepresent this as a result of the carbon price when it is not the case.”
“This is not new – the message is simple: if you are going to make a claim, you need to make sure it is right.”
I would suggest that Ms Devine has reading comprehension difficulties, or she is being deliberately misleading. The full guidance brochure can be found here, but the Chairman’s statements sum it up neatly:
My BS meter went off immediately reading this story… always good to check the source first folks.
Thanks, Bulldust. While you are correct in theory, in reality there’s no way to do what the ACCC suggests. They say that if you want to say that the increase is due to increased carbon costs, you have to get a statement from your supplier that verifies that their increase is due to increased carbon costs.
However, a moment’s thought reveals the problem with that. If a man selling bread wants to make a statement about carbon, he has to get a statement from his baker. For his baker to make that statement, he has to get a statement from his miller, and his electricity supplier, and the man who sells petrol for his bread trucks, and the truck manufacturers where he buys the trucks, and for the increases in phone costs and every other cost.
And each of those, in an endless loop, all have to get statements from the other one. Try this on for size.
If I drive a Ford truck and I sell materials to Ford that they make cars with, they can’t make a statement about carbon without supporting carbon evidence from their suppliers … including me. But I can’t say how much my carbon costs have gone up without the carbon statement from Ford. Cute, huh?
The net results of this chilling regulation will be:
1. The actual costs due to the carbon tax will be underestimated at the business end. Since you can get fined up to a million dollars for exaggeration, every single estimate of the cost will be on the low side. This will no doubt be used to make the claim that the costs are minimal. They are not.
2. Many people will just say “sorry, I don’t have an estimate”, because a) it’s far too much work and hassle to contact every one of their suppliers and ask if they have an estimate, and b) you can get fined if you overestimate. Most folks will wisely say nothing … chilling. Unfortunately, when a supplier says that they have no estimate, what is the retailer to do? He is muzzled, he can’t say anything, because of another man’s inaction.
3. Any tax on energy, direct or indirect, is a much larger drag on the economy than a tax on a finished product. Simple economics, taxing the inputs to a manufacturing process is a greater burden on the economy than the same tax on a finished product. See my discussion in “Firing up the economy, literally“.
So while you are correct in saying this is framed by the Govt as a “truth in advertising” issue, Bulldust, in reality it is nothing of the sort. It is designed specifically to make it very hard to say anything about carbon, with draconian fines. The net result is guaranteed to be a suppression of comment on the carbon issue. I see no reason to conclude that it is accidental that the regulations will have a chilling effect. The regulations have made it a practical impossibility for a businessman to determine the effect of CO2 on the business.
PS—Beyond that, what kind of nanny state is it that tries to keep shopkeepers from making ludicrous claims? Why can’t they say what they want about carbon? At the end of the day the market rules, if they jack their prices too far they’ll lose customers. Who is hurt if they say “20% price rise due to carbon” instead of “20% price rise due to our kids going to college” or “20% price rise due to general business conditions” or “20% price rise due astrological influences”?
Me, I think the Australian consumers are smart enough to look at a sign saying “20% price increase due to carbon tax” and say “I’ll shop next door, they raised their prices 3%”.
So truly … what is the harm to the consumer? For me, that’s government gone mad.