Losing votes

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Three phone calls on Tuesday put the carbon tax into some sort of perspective for me.

The first came from an old friend, Mark, whose interest in politics is only spiked when he hears a rugby league ground may receive some sort of funding for an upgrade.

We hadn’t spoken in about 12 months but the fact that his first words to me were “What do you think about this f***ing carbon tax” were significant, particularly in State of Origin week.

Like me, Mark believes in two things: rugby league and cold beer. He’s one of those guys you don’t see in years yet the conversation flows very easily.

The carbon tax had got my usually unflappable, footy-loving buddy hopping mad. Mark wouldn’t mind me saying that he’s a Labor voter through and through.

Like his father before him, he’s always believed that Labor’s for the working class and the other side of politics looks after those in suits and big houses.

But Mark is amongst the many who will turn on Labor next year and oust Julia Gillard from power. The final straw for him – and for me, I might add – was Trade Minister Craig Emerson’s song and dance routine on Monday.

Given we’re paying this bloke’s wages, I think I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say this: give me my money back. That embarrassing stunt was an unfunny disgrace, part of a very serious day at a very serious time for our country.

If Emerson’s song and dance BS isn’t enough to show that Labor is out of touch, then I don’t know what is. His actions were a slap in the face to the carbon tax debate, but it should also be noted that it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision to sing and dance in front of the TV cameras.

It was planned, either by Mr Emerson or Labor strategists, and that in itself shows the poor judgment and serial stupidity that exists within Labor. On that video alone, Labor has lost a voter in my mate Mark, who has never strayed to the other side of politics before.

Phone call number two was with a guy by the name of Paul Younan.

Paul owns a rubbish collection business in the inner city suburb of Marrickville called The Rubbish Taxi. I was speaking to him on behalf of our sister publication The Inner City Weekender about the impact of the carbon tax on his business.

Here’s a young, well spoken bloke who’s out there getting his hands dirty every day, wading his way through the ins and outs of business.

Mr Younan and his business go to great lengths to recycle as much as they can, working hard to help the environment in a time when it’s at the forefront of discussions.

Yet no matter how much effort he puts in, he’s about to get slugged. Rising tip fees are his big concern but he faces being hit in the back pocket from a whole range of corners.

He said to me: “If you’re going to put a tax in, you need to make it very clear and not so ambiguous – taxes scare people and through fear they do things irrationally”.

That’s perhaps the smartest thing someone has said all week in this debate. Scare campaign from the Opposition or not, the reality is a tax of this magnitude scares people.

The Government has done a poor job in selling its carbon tax message to people like Mr Younan, and an even worse job in explaining the ways the tax will be policed so people like him don’t get ripped off. Toothless tigers are about the best we’ll get.

For Mr Younan, a young bloke having a go, it seems so unfair that a carbon tax is dominating his day-to-day thoughts.

Phone call number three came from Lindsay MP David Bradbury. We were speaking about another issue entirely but as we spoke, I began thinking about the chair he sits in.

I’ve said it before but I actually feel sorry for David, because I truly feel that deep down, he would never support something that he knows could cost him his job, and that he knows his electorate is not in favour of. He must, however, toe the line.

Imagine, though, what a shake-up it would be if a local Labor MP did indeed stand up for the electorate, stamp his or her feet and say “it’s not on”.

For my mate Mark, for Mr Younan and I’d say for thousands of others, that person would be a true hero.

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