Tony Abbott has taken the first steps towards repealing the carbon tax. Photo: Glenn Hunt
PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott's announcement last Tuesday that he planned to abolish the carbon tax from July 1, 2014, is the first move in a complex negotiation process for the abolition of the tax.
The government could easily have set January 1, 2014, as the termination date for the ''reprehensible'' tax but by having it apply for the full financial year it gets $6.5 billion to help cover its budget black hole.
It also gets a useful negotiating ploy.
As everyone knows, Labor and the Greens, which control the Senate until July next year, will oppose the bills to terminate the tax.
If they hold out and Abbott decides to break his promise to take the matter to a double dissolution, he will have to negotiate with the new senators, including the three Palmer United Party senators and the Motoring Enthusiast Party senator.
Clive Palmer, the driving force behind PUP, owns Queensland Nickel, a company with a $6.2 million carbon tax debt and one of only three companies that have refused to pay the tax.
Palmer has filed a High Court challenge to the tax, but also aims to fight it politically. He has called for abolition of the tax to be made retrospective, with refunds to the companies that have paid it.
That won't happen. The government can't afford it.
But in the negotiating process Abbott could agree to set the date for abolition to January 1, 2014.
This would give Palmer a big slice of what he wants - Queensland Nickel would not have to pay the tax for half this financial year.
On the other side of the equation, the government would miss out on a big slice of revenue - more than $3 billion, but would get its bills passed.
There would be nothing unprecedented about this and it would not be regarded as a retrospective measure. Commonly, the starting date for a tax change measure is set as budget day, with the bill passed at a later date.
Abbott finally told us last week that he planned to have Parliament sit in the week of November 11.
A couple of months ago, he told us the country was in crisis and urgent action was needed to tackle this crisis. But now it turns out Parliament doesn't need to deal with anything until 67 days after his clear-cut election victory.
Despite the difficulties of having to form a minority government, Julia Gillard managed to have Parliament sitting a mere 38 days after the election. Bob Hawke won the election on 5 March 1983 and had Parliament sitting 47 days later.
Under the constitution Parliament must sit not later than 30 days after the date appointed for the return of the writs, but may meet before that date if the writs have been returned.
On October 8 the Australian Electoral Commission announced that it had returned the writs for the House of Representatives for all states but Queensland, where the outcome in the seat of Fairfax was yet to be determined.
It also returned the writs for the Senate in all states but Western Australia, where a recount is under way.
The date appointed for the return of the writs is November 13 and technically Parliament is only required to sit before December 13, so Abbott is well within his rights.
But you sure have to wonder about all the pre-election hysterical crisis talk.
Noting the large audience that watched naval ships in Sydney Harbour, political commentator Gerard Henderson recalled what he said was a George Orwell observation that ''he'd seen many a child who liked to play with toy soldiers, but never one who wanted to play with a toy pacifist''.
Very amusing, until you think about it.
Only someone with no experience, or insight, into war could trot out such a glib comment.
Try telling a child lying wounded in a hospital in Syria, Afghanistan, or Iraq of the joys of playing soldiers.
Unlike Henderson's games, real bullets punch though tissue and bone, crush and tear anything in their path and rip cavities as they go. Bones are splintered, arteries cut.
Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters are the victims. In the chaos they may not make it to a hospital and if they do they may not get appropriate care.
Henderson made his comment last Sunday, on the morning after mourners gathered at Coogee Beach to mark the 11th anniversary of the Bali bombing that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
One wonders if he is just as enthusiastic about Indonesian boys playing toy terrorists. Young people playing such games imagine themselves as the heroes killing the baddies.
But Orwell was not so simple minded. He had war experience.
The quote Gerard was grasping for is taken from Orwell's 1940 review of Mein Kampf.
It reads: ''The socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won't do.''
But in saying this, Orwell was seeking to explain the attraction of Hitler and Stalin to their people.
He wrote: ''Hitler … knows that human beings don't only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flag and loyalty-parades …
''All three of the great dictators have enhanced their powers by imposing intolerable burdens on their people. Whereas socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people, 'I offer you a good time', Hitler has said to them, 'I offer you struggle, danger and death'; and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.''
Orwell was not an admirer of militarism, but recognised that it could fire up the masses. He added that perhaps, later, people would get sick of it, as they did at the end of the Great War, after years of slaughter and starvation.