4.6 Carbon tax and carbon policy? Defining the debate

Figure 4.6.1: Use of terms- carbon price and carbon tax, from Feb. - Jul. 2011.
Terminology usage Total % of total
Both 1465 37%
Carbon Price 407 10%
Carbon Tax 1918 48%
N/A 181 5%
Total 3971 100%

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The words used to describe issues also frame the terms in which an issue is discussed. The carbon emissions reduction policy was originally referred to as the carbon pricing policy, although the Opposition leader Tony Abbott from the beginning referred to it as a ‘tax’. Under questioning, Julia Gillard agreed at a press conference announcing the policy on February 24 that the policy would be “effectively like a tax” (7.30 Report, 24 Feb, 2011). From then on, the word ‘tax’ was used more frequently than ‘policy’. This framing of the issue as a ‘tax’ tended to encourage a perception that the policy was aimed at individual consumers rather than large companies.

We coded the articles for whether they used carbon policy, carbon tax or both. The results can be found in Figure 4.6.1. Nearly half the articles referred only to ‘tax’, 10% used ‘price’ and another 37% referred to both. Once again there are differences between Fairfax and News Ltd.’s metropolitan newspapers.

74% of The Daily Telegraph, 69% of The Courier Mail and 62% of the Herald Sun articles referred only to ‘tax’, whereas only 28% of articles in The Age and 36% of articles in the SMH did so.

The Australian used only ‘tax’ in 42% of articles and only ‘price’ in 10% of cases.

Figure 4.6.2: Word used by journalists to describe the policy: tax, price or both, across 10 Australian newspapers from Feb. - Jul. 2011.
Newspaper Both Carbon Price Carbon Tax
The Australian 45% 11% 44%
The Age 51% 20% 29%
The Sydney Morning Herald 47% 16% 37%
The Courier Mail 22% 8% 70%
The Daily Telegraph 19% 4% 77%
Herald Sun 32% 6% 62%
The Advertiser 30% 7% 62%
The West Australian 49% 4% 47%
The Mercury 41% 10% 49%
The Northern Territory News 29% 13% 58%
Total 39% 11% 51%

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