Saturday, July 16, 2011

Carbon Tax. When we Google, we are more interested than concerned.

We might be angry about the carbon tax at Tony Abbott’s public meetings, but on the internet we don’t seem to mind.

Google has taken the unusual step of releasing details of the exact terms used in web searches related to the tax in the days immediately following Julia Gillard’s announcement.

Of the 16 most-asked questions none suggest resentment.

The most popular were: “what is carbon tax,” “what is the carbon tax,” “how will the carbon tax affect me” and “what is the carbon tax and how does it work”.

Of the 17 most-entered search terms not phrased as questions only the least popular, “no carbon tax” suggests anger.

The most popular were the more straightforward “carbon tax,” “carbon tax Australia,” “carbon tax website” and “carbon tax explained.

Displaying on a screen what he said was normally internal Google data the firm’s US-based chief economist Hal Varian told a policy forum in Canberra governments might one day be able to use such information to know instantly the questions the public wanted answered and where their concerns lay.

The search queries paint a picture of a nation hungry for information but far from alarmed.

In the days leading up the Sunday announcement there were very few queries relating to the carbon tax and then an explosion of interest which died away to something like five times the normal number of queries by Wednesday...

The most interest was in the Australian Capital Territory, home of the government and public servants, followed by Tasmania. The least interested Australians lived in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, devoting half as much web search time per person to the carbon tax.

The forum declared so-called “direct action” approaches to fighting climate change the runner up in the annual Economic Society of Australia Dodgy Awards for the worst use of or most callous disregard for economic research.

Judged by former Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Alan Fels on the strength of boos and cat calls after a series of presentations, the most dodgy project was declared to be the national broadband network, on account of both the paucity of economic analysis supporting it and its cost.

Published in today's Age

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