Google lists 16 synonyms for the word "tax". Politicians have used most of them over the years. Levies, tolls, excises, imposts have all been popular choices for those seeking to hide a sneaky tax.
No one beats innovation in this field of linguistic camouflage, however, than those seeking to justify a tax to prop up dud renewable energy investments.
The NSW Government has entered this competitive field with its *NSW Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020*. Section 57 of this proposed law would require electricity distribution companies to make a "contribution" to a Fund that will be used to support investments in renewable energy, batteries and other infrastructure.
A contribution! It sounds like the spare change you chuck onto the plate at mass but in fact there is nothing voluntary about this donation. The law would establish penalties for those who refuse to pay, potentially up to 220,000 for non-compliance.
A mandatory contribution is a tax. If we put a tax on electricity distribution companies, do you think these profit seeking companies will just absorb this extra impost? Of course not. These extra costs will be passed on to the long-suffering electricity consumers of New South Wales.
Electricity prices in Sydney have more than doubled over the past 15 years. There are many pensioners who can not afford to heat their homes in winter. This should be a moral outrage for a country that is blessed with abundant sources of coal, gas and sun.
In fairness, the NSW Government says that there is nothing to worry about. The "contributions" will only be required if prices get "too low". That sounds a bit like saying our hospitals are very efficient, they only cater for those that don't live too long. How can electricity prices be too low? I am pretty sure I speak for most when I say I want them to go as low as possible!
Worse, the NSW Government has not released any of the modelling that would describe exactly what level this artificial electricity floor price is set at.
The reason they won't tell us is that this evidence would blow apart the myth that renewable energy is cheaper than coal. If renewable energy was the cheapest form of power why would they need government funded subsidies from a fund paid for by electricity consumers? If renewable energy was cheaper then they could undercut the coal electricity producers and make money without taxpayer support.
We didn't need a tax on telephones for people to buy mobiles and we didn't need a tax on typewriters to invent computers.
What this proposed law is actually about is trying to kill the coal fired power that supports so many NSW jobs. The NSW Government's own documents admit this, with it planning for the closure of four coal fired power plants over the next 15 years.
They would be replaced by inexpensive and unreliable renewable energy. South Australia already tried this and it ended with its entire state's lights going out. In the end it had to build a new gas fired power plant to restore reliability.
NSW has the best thermal coal in the world. This week I am travelling to Hunter Valley coal mines and power stations with my Nationals colleagues Barnaby Joyce and David Gillespie.
We will fight the jobs of coal miners and their family's futures because it would be better for the world if NSW used and exported more of the clean coal that comes from the Hunter Valley. NSW coal produces 30 per cent fewer carbon emissions than Indonesian coal and 70 per cent fewer carbon emissions than Indian coal.
Those that care about the world's environment should be promoting the use of NSW coal both here and overseas. If instead we shut down our efficient coal fired power stations that will just mean that the world's aluminium and steel is made using dirtier coal and we all end up paying higher electricity prices through hidden taxes.