Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Annabel Crabb is an airhead

with 3 comments

If you wanted any more evidence that Annabel Crabb, ‘our’ ABC’s chief online political writer is an airhead, this article fills the bill. If serious journalism is equivalent to portraiture, this is fingerpainting. Twelve monkeys on typewriters would make more sense.

She calls the carbon pricing scheme diabolical to sell, which it is, then attempts to make the task that much more diabolical by lampooning that complexity, largely through an inability to interpret the Treasury modelling in support of the scheme. I don’t mind that she needs a few gins to get a better understanding (who doesn’t with Treasury documents?), it’s just that the gin consumption does not ultimately yield enlightenment, merely befuddlement.

The fact that overseas action will increase costs for Australia, contributing a very minor cost impost to the economy is a no brainer. Here she quotes Treasury:

“In a world where other countries pursue more ambitious abatement targets, the carbon price will be higher, and this increases the cost in terms of domestic production and income foregone,” the Treasury document confides.

“If the extent of global action is less than assumed, then Australian mitigation costs will be lower, not higher, than reported for two main reasons. First, less stringent world action would strengthen export demand and output for our energy exports. Second, if global action is less than assumed, world carbon prices will be lower, making it less expensive to source abatement overseas.”

That’s simple competition. But the Crabbulet interprets it thus:

Put simply, it means that if the world gets its ducks in a row, carbon-trading-wise, we can look forward to more abatement dollars going offshore, which is fine because we’re a global village, but not so fine when you remember that the Australian Government is promising to spend that money on compensating people with healthcare cards, or 3.1 kids, or whichever is the most lucrative amount of children according to the Treasury spreadsheets.

Umm, no. That’s not what it means. The abatement money going offshore is private money. The government’s cut comes through offloading the permits for a price. True, the money going offshore is not in the domestic economy and the document mentions this. However, it also means greater competition offshore, which opens up more capacity onshore as domestic permits become more competetive across the economy compared to the overseas prices.

She’s right that the PM is talking up the coal sector, which clashes with the central thrust of the scheme. However, in that sense it is up to coal industry whether it survives in a low carbon world. This scheme does not close off that option and compromises itself in doing so. The long-term survival of the coal sector in a low carbon economy is not impossible, just difficult.

Crabb also got caught up in the problem that I mentioned in my post on the package the other day. By framing the no cost option as economic growth without climate change, she also anchors what costs more and what costs less incorrectly. If the world gears up and reduces carbon, making our domestic scheme slightly more expensive, Australia is way better off because of the avoided damages.

Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on this point, rather than detailing gin consumption for the lols?

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Written by Roger Jones

July 13, 2011 at 7:21 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Crabb should just stick to drinking games and stop bothering the adults.

    As well as being a nitwit, she’s also rather self-absorbed as Brian Bahnsich (I think) pointed out the other day, in uncharacteristically waspish style. (So maybe it wasn’t Brian.)

    David Irving (no relation)

    July 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    • Why take anyone seriously who calls a woman a “crabulet” or an “airhead “? She would not do that to you, though she might shaft you with her rapier wit and superior intelligence.

      Paul Roberts

      July 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      • I was responding to her byline as political correspondent, taking that appointment as a sign of the ABC dumbing down its political coverage and analysis. I stand by that. She is actually a funny observational writer and commentator and is now planted firmly in that niche.

        Roger Jones

        July 26, 2013 at 5:43 pm


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