- Michelle Grattan
- The Age, July 21, 2008
AUSTRALIANS overwhelmingly say they are willing to pay more for goods and services to help reduce emissions, in an Age/Nielsen poll that also shows Kevin Rudd has popular support for how he is handling climate change.
People want Australia to tackle emissions regardless of what other countries do, and they back the Government's proposed trading scheme, while admitting they have little or no understanding of it.
The strong endorsement for climate change action comes as Government support has slipped two points to a two-party lead of 54-46%. This is still higher than Labor polled at the November election.
Mr Rudd's rating as preferred PM has fallen three points since last month but he leads Brendan Nelson by a huge 65-20%.
Taken from Thursday to Saturday, after Wednesday's green paper on carbon pollution reduction, the national poll of 1400 found 68% willing to bear extra costs to deal with climate change, 77% wanting action regardless of the world, and 54% satisfied with Mr Rudd's handling of the issue.
Only 39% said they understood emissions trading, and most of those grasped it only fairly well. Another 39% said they understood it slightly and 21% not at all. Despite this, 67% supported it.
The Government last night launched a television advertising campaign on its green paper and has newspaper ads this morning.
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday told Channel Nine the campaign would inform people why it was acting.
Senator Wong also moved to reassure small business, saying it would be helped from the proposed climate change action fund in areas such as improving energy efficiency and how to finance investment to reduce energy use. The Government would talk to small business representatives on how best to structure the help.
Pollster John Stirton said while the results suggested clear support for the Government's climate policy, people wanted federal intervention on petrol prices and were dissatisfied with Mr Rudd's handling of that issue.
This raised a question about the real depth of support for a tough policy on climate change, with feedback from the field suggesting some people felt they should be willing to pay, he said.
Support for the emissions trading scheme was strongest among those who understood it to a greater or lesser extent, and lowest among people who did not understand it at all.
A mere 19% thought Australia should reduce its greenhouse emissions only if other countries did the same thing, a position that Dr Nelson flirted with recently, before going back to the Coalition policy of Australia moving regardless of what others did. Hardly any (3%) thought Australia should not cut its emissions at all.
When people were told that most policies to reduce greenhouse emissions would lead to higher prices, fewer than a quarter said they were not willing to pay more; 6% said their willingness would depend on how much more.
There are big party differences in the climate issue. Labor voters are more than twice as likely to be satisfied with Mr Rudd's efforts on climate change. They were also more inclined to say Australia should go it alone and were more willing to pay extra costs.
Labor's primary vote is down a point to 43%, while the Coalition's is up two points to 40%. Labor's highest primary vote is in Victoria, where it is on 49%. Mr Rudd's approval has fallen a point to 66%; Dr Nelson's approval is down two points to 36%.