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Does anyone care about the carbon tax anymore?

Cara Waters /

Over the past couple of weeks both the Small Business Minister, Brendan O’Connor, and his opposition counterpart, Bruce Billson, have popped by the SmartCompany offices for a chat.

One issue both ministers raised was the carbon tax but, unsurprisingly, they both had pretty different perspectives on it.

Billson is adamant the opposition will abolish the tax if the Coalition gets elected next year, a sentiment backed by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

A quick check of my inbox reveals that in the space of a month Billson has released three separate press releases criticising the tax (even managing one day to send two releases on the topic).

“Survey finds small business is suffering under carbon tax,” say the releases and “change the government and abolish the carbon tax.”

The carbon tax has certainly become something of a hobby horse for the opposition, who have a habit of blaming everything that is wrong with the economy on the tax.

This anti-carbon tax hype reached its zenith around the time of the Olympics when a hilarious tongue-in-cheek graph was published comparing Australia’s Olympic medal performance in the years pre-carbon tax and post-carbon tax.

gold-tax

Since then the ‘axe the tax’ rhetoric seems to have died down a bit and even Abbott has stopped asking as many questions about the carbon tax in question time.

The government has taken advantage of this carbon tax fatigue to start to claim the tax is not that bad.

O’Connor says when he is out and about visiting small businesses he doesn’t get questions about the carbon tax anymore.

“What’s most obvious is that people realise the exaggerated claims are false”, says O’Connor.

“Unemployment has not risen and inflation has not risen.

“While I don’t suggest everybody loves the carbon tax, I will say they are not concerned in the way they were.”

There’s certainly not much love lost for the carbon tax amongst SMEs, with a SmartCompany survey earlier this year finding most opposed the carbon tax. But, at the same time, O’Connor is right when he says businesses have moved past the scaremongering.

From fear of what the carbon tax would bring most SMEs seem to have moved to a stage of resignation.

Yes, energy costs are rising and many are still waiting to see what the full flow-on effects of the carbon tax will be.

It’s also true that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has made it very clear that businesses can’t increase prices and blame it on the carbon tax without proper justification, so some businesses are waiting to adjust their prices until there is more certainty in costs and are wearing the costs in the meantime.

But mainly businesses are tired of constant legislative change.

They may not love the carbon tax but now that it is here most are prepared to lump it rather than go through the upheaval of removing the tax and adjusting to a new tax framework.

To be honest, most just don’t care anymore about the political football.

They’ve got all the day-to-day concerns of running a business to worry about and they are too busy looking forward to the future to look backwards at a tax.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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