August 31, 2015 Print

The cover of the Institute of Public Affairs journal, IPA Review, celebrates the repeal of Australia's disastrous carbon tax.

Nearly a decade ago in Australia, the idea of a carbon trading scheme or tax began gaining popularity. It was finally passed in 2011, taking effect the following year. During that entire period and until its repeal, Atlas Network partner the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), based in Melbourne, served as a consistent and leading voice of caution, educating lawmakers and the public about its shortcomings as environmental policy. The repeal, which ultimately succeeded in 2014, ended this poorly conceived and costly law that had both failed to reduce emissions and could not have possibly made an impact on global emissions levels. For its role in this effort, the IPA has been named one of six finalists for this year’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award for its Repeal the Carbon Tax campaign.

“Free societies protect the environment best,” said James Paterson, IPA’s deputy executive director. “Consumers are empowered to demand goods and services which meet their needs — including their concern for the environment. Free markets are the best conditions for new technologies to emerge which most efficiently use resources.”

IPA produced 100,000 copies of this postcard to promote its online carbon tax calculator.

As the only major organization in Australia to publicly and consistently oppose the tax, the IPA’s work against the carbon tax was instrumental in fostering sentiment against the tax, which, in addition to its economic drawbacks, wouldn’t have achieved any environmental goals.

“Australia’s carbon tax would have made next to no difference to the world’s temperature,” Paterson said. “Even optimistic forecasts show it would reduce the globe’s temperature by at best 0.02 degrees. Making up just 1.3 percent of global emissions, anything Australia did to reduce its impact on the climate would be massively overshadowed by larger emitters such as China. The prospects for a global, legally binding emissions-reduction treaty are extremely unlikely, and Australia adopting a carbon tax had no discernible impact on UN negotiations. Australia was imposing a significant economic cost on itself for no environmental benefit — something few other nations appeared willing to do.”

Starting from the day the tax was announced, the IPA took an active role in the mainstream media to counter the misinformation that advocates of the carbon tax were peddling. The IPA’s research and analysis of the economics underpinning the case for the carbon tax appeared in print media outlets 209 times between Jan. 1, 2010, and July 31, 2014. IPA research scholars also featured on radio and television stations around Australia, with 363 radio appearances between 2008 and 2013 and 261 television appearances in the same timeframe. The organization also published two full-page advertisements in Australia’s most influential nationwide newspaper, The Australian, which had a circulation of 125,000 at the time. The IPA was the loudest consistent voice against the carbon tax in a time when there were very few dissenting voices in Australia.

“Scarcely a day passes without distribution of a pamphlet or point of view about a perfidious new tax to counter a non-existent problem, according to the IPA,” journalist Tony Walker wrote in the Australian Financial Review. “For a smallish, hole-in-the-wall Collins Street operation, the IPA has been making a lot of noise recently — and getting traction in a debate that is not going well for those who believe that action needs to be taken now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

A full-page newspaper ad from IPA's media campaign providing facts about the carbon tax.

The IPA’s media campaign included sending then–IPA policy director Tim Wilson, who today serves on Australia’s Human Rights Commission, to attend international climate conferences to ensure that a contrarian perspective was heard. Wilson attended every international climate conference between 2009 and 2013, including conferences in Durban, Doha, Copenhagen, and Warsaw, and was able to effectively communicate to the Australian public the lack of consensus over pricing carbon that existed among experts, and the discussions about the economic harm of pricing carbon that were not being reported to the Australian public by any other think tank or news outlet. Wilson was widely quoted in the Australian media as an expert witness of conference proceedings, and he wrote numerous articles that were published in Australian newspapers.

“Australia’s carbon tax was the world’s biggest,” Paterson said. “In its first year of operation, the federal government collected USD $5.18 billion from taxpayers. This money was spent to grow the welfare state, subsidise politically favoured industries and engage in economy-wide welfare distribution. The carbon tax brought with it bewilderingly complex compliance mechanisms that undermined the rule of law and added to the red tape burden on businesses. Along with the carbon tax, the federal government grew the federal bureaucracy by establishing a Department of Climate Change, and a government-funded bank to subsidise renewable energy, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.”

The carbon tax repeal has signaled that Australia is more open for business by eliminating costly compliance measures that served as a significant financial and time burden on Australian businesses and provided a significant barrier to entry for the energy market, especially for potential large investors. Now that these additional regulatory costs have been eliminated, Australian energy retailers are able to sell electricity to consumers — both individuals and businesses — for more affordable prices. This has lowered the cost of getting electricity in terms of percentage of income per capita, as measured by the World Bank Group’s “Doing Business” index, from 10.9 percent in 2010 to 8.7 percent in 2014.

IPA organized several climate change events, including participation from investigative journalists Donna Laframboise and James Delingpole, University of Melbourne Earth Sciences Professor Ian Plimer, and Czech economist Václav Klaus.

“The IPA is a very worthy finalist for the Templeton Freedom Award,” said Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips. “Australia’s implementation of a deeply flawed carbon tax law looked like a precursor to a tide of heavy-handed regulation of energy use. The IPA, more than anyone else, stopped it in its tracks.”

Awarded since 2004, the Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. The award annually honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and will be presented during Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner. The winning organization will receive a $100,000 prize and the runners-up will receive $5,000.

The 2015 Templeton Freedom Award finalists are:

What: Institute of Public Affairs carbon tax repeal campaign named one of six finalists for Atlas Network’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award

When: Nov. 12, 2015, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner closing ceremony — Capitale, 130 Bowery, NYC (Bowery and Grand St.)

Press Contact: or (202) 449-8441

About Institute of Public Affairs

The Institute of Public Affairs is an independent, non-profit public policy think tank, dedicated to preserving and strengthening the foundations of economic and political freedom. Since 1943, the IPA has been at the forefront of the political and policy debate, defining the contemporary political landscape. The IPA supports the free market of ideas, the free flow of capital, a limited and efficient government, evidence-based public policy, the rule of law, and representative democracy. Throughout human history, these ideas have proven themselves to be the most dynamic, liberating and exciting. Our researchers apply these ideas to the public policy questions which matter today.


About Atlas Network

Washington-based, Atlas Network is a nonprofit organization which strengthens the worldwide freedom movement by connecting 470 independent partners in 96 countries that share the vision of a free, prosperous, and peaceful world where limited governments defend the rule of law, private property, and free markets.