History is repeating itself as provisional legislators join forces to vote down a budget proposal to increase the tax on diesel fuel. Indeed, the practice is in danger of becoming an annual custom. First, the Government tries to implement measures to alleviate air pollution. Legislators oppose the move because of the burden it places on transport operators. The Government then threatens to withhold other tax breaks if the increase is not passed. But Legco goes ahead anyway, knowing the threats will not be carried through. The following year, the ritual begins again, and so it continues. If there is a solution to Hong Kong's environmental problems, it will have to be sought far away from the council chamber. Livelihood issues weigh more heavily there than threats to public health. Legislators are doing their job by modifying Government policies, but on this issue it is not unreasonable to remind them that they also have a duty to a community hit by rising levels of lung disease and childhood asthma. Hong Kong has one of the world's worst records for air quality. It is enveloped in swirling dust clouds caused by exhaust fumes from diesel engines. It isn't necessary to measure the toxins with scientific instruments. The haze is there for all to see. The view from the highest parts of Hong Kong on a fine day a decade ago extended for more than 50 kilometres. In the same weather nowadays, the limit is around 15 kilometres. Here, unlike most other cities, the majority of vehicles run on diesel, causing air pollution only marginally behind Bangkok and Taipei. Every means possible must be tried to make owners change to cleaner fuel, including the Budget plan to raise the tax from $2.89 to $3.06 per litre. When the same arguments were aired last year, legislators warned that added fuel duty would cause fare increases. The tax was frozen, but fares still went up. These are difficult times, but operators have avoided this tax for long enough. It is time to pay up for the sake of Hong Kong's health.