Open for business


NSW govt approving uranium exploration; Qld opposition to dump Wild Rivers legislation; Victoria trying to get cattle into high country; South Australia downgrades renewable energy; Tasmania demanding to continue forest destruction; NT wanting crocodile “hunting”; WA prescribed burning big areas of forest. CSG, seal culling, duck shooting, flying fox culling, wood chipping, land clearing, estuary dredging, salmon “farming”, blocking wind farms.

What do all these things have in common? Activities by state governments, Labor and Liberal, that have, or will, cause enormous damage to their respective states. Nothing much in common, these state premiers, not much similarity between the different states, but time after time, often within days of winning an election, away they go with an announcement welcoming some destructive program. Usually with the identical words “We are open for business”, as if they have just set up a used car yard.

Something else one of the premiers and a soon-to-be-premier have in common is the bright idea of adding the “cost of the carbon tax” to electricity bills. See, this is clever because this will make people hate Labor when they see this extra cost go on the bills. But, hey, guys, you gonna do that, we need a bit of balance. You must also add to the bills the increasing CO2 levels, the rising temperature levels, the cost of lost production as a result of droughts and floods and storms. What’s that, those costs would greatly exceed the few dollars from a carbon price? Good heavens, really, hadn’t thought of that. You know, I understood that the costs of years of infrastructure neglect and privatisation of power companies had added far more to the bills than carbon price, but hadn’t thought about the costs of climate change. Don’t suppose you guys had either, eh?

Same with “open for business”. It’s always billions to be made here, and thousands of jobs over there, and export markets and infrastructure, oh, and did I mention billions of dollars? All put on the plus side of the public ledger, trumpeted by the media. But what they don’t add, to balance the ledger, is the ultimate costs to the state of cleared land, polluted ocean, dried up rivers, lost biodiversity, extinction of species, air pollution. Nor even of more direct costs in poor human health, imbalance of the economy, infrastructure costs, depletion of resources. Pretty nasty business all of it.

So, state premiers, you want to play businessman “running a state like a business”? Good, go for it. But remember real businessmen, and businesswomen, prepare real balance sheets for the balance as a whole. And when costs outweigh profits it’s time to reconsider.

Quite a lot of cost being imposed on states these days. And largely illusory profits.