Government says carbon tax will go, whatever the Senate does

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Government declares it won’t extend the carbon tax beyond June 30, even if the Senate does not pass the repeal legislation by then. Another (unstated) message: don’t hold your breath for the double dissolution Tony Abbott has threatened.

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The Conversation

The government has declared that it won’t extend the carbon tax beyond June 30, even if the Senate does not pass the repeal legislation by then.

The draft legislative package was released late today, and business and other stakeholders will be briefed tomorrow, as a new round of the game of bluff and blame begins over the first item of legislative business when the new Parliament commences in mid November.

The consultation paper states: “The Government will not extend the carbon tax beyond 2013-14, even if the Parliament does not pass the carbon tax repeal bills until after 1 July 2014.”

The government is telling business it would eventually get the repeal through and it would retrospectively remove liability for the tax. A spokesman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt said tonight: “There is no requirement for businesses to purchase permits beyond the current 2013/14 year.”

Another (unstated) message is also loud and clear: don’t hold your breath for the double dissolution that Tony Abbott has threatened if he can’t get his way. The government says it wants the repeal asap but in fact it is willing to be patient.

The government today wanted the emphasis on the politics. Holding a news conference before the legislation was released, Abbott, invoking religious rhetoric, insisted that Labor would pass it before June 30.

“The new leader of the Labor party is nothing if not a political pragmatist – he is nothing if not a political survivor.

“The absolute lesson of recent Australian political history is that political parties cannot defy the public view, and the public view is overwhelming that they don’t like this toxic tax.

“Now we are giving the Labor party a chance to repent of its support for the carbon tax.

“We are giving the Labor party a chance to repent of its massive breach of faith with the Australian people in the last parliament. I think the Labor party, being pragmatic political survivors, will ultimately embrace that opportunity.”

So far, there is not much sign of “repentance”.

Labor’s spokesman for climate change Mark Butler said Labor “won’t back down on acting on climate change”.

Noting Kevin Rudd’s pre-election promise to bring forward the move to an emissions trading scheme, Butler said that “Labor stands by its election commitment to support the termination of the carbon tax provided that a market mechanism that reduces carbon pollution is put in its place”.

He said the Coalition intended to throw out the baby with the bathwater and leave Australia with no credible policy on climate change.

Bill Shorten during his leadership campaign indicated he believed Labor should stand by its carbon pricing policy. Labor is expected, as a tactical move, to introduce a private member’s bill or an amendment for an ETS. It is assumed that it will oppose the repeal legislation.

While there are some political costs in not accepting the government’s “mandate” – and the issue is complicated by Labor’s pre-election adjustment of its own policy – there would be difficulties within his party for Shorten in appearing to roll over.

If Labor does hold its line and the government has to wait for the new Senate, businesses in making their decisions would have to take the government on trust that after June 30 they would not be liable for the tax or if they became liable the government would give them a refund.

The expectation is that enough of the new crossbench senators, who include those from Clive Palmer’s party, would back repeal. How much time that would take is another matter, Clive is not beyond playing hard to get for a while, and so may others.

Although much of business is looking forward to the end of the tax, for some companies that will bring fresh challenges, including dealing with contracts that have some carbon factors built in and with later arguments about whether they have reduced prices sufficiently.

Michelle Grattan is a Professorial Fellow at University of Canberra. She does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
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4 Comments
  1. Keith 6 years ago

    More slogans from Tony Abbott “Labor’s chance to repent” …. give us a break.

    When will the Coalition come to grips with the fact it has to go beyond slogans and actually govern? Getting rid of pricing carbon just moves Australia to the back of the queue. It is appropriate for Labor and the Greens to slow this down so that reality and rationality have a chance.

    The international momentum is with not against carbon pricing…. and for good reason as this is about reducing fossil fuel use and addressing global warming. Making it about electricity pricing is pure sloganeering and fear mongering.

    • suthnsun 6 years ago

      agree,
      I wonder how the public will respond to this (bogus) prophetic Tony? Now that he is PM he must be off the leash .. surely no minder would have allowed that?

  2. aniko papp 6 years ago

    A very long comment providing a great article from Crikey.com (thank you Guy Randle) about WHY this Government does NOT have a mandate.

    Part one — busting myths about the election result

    1. “Labor’s lowest primary vote for a century!” Well,
    yes, but no. The point is that every Labor primary vote is going to be
    low from now on. The knowledge/culture/policy producer class has broken
    away and is voting for the Greens. Barring truly weird events, Labor
    ain’t coming back. That’s minimum of 7% — and as much as 12% — down from
    the mid-40s votes the ALP hitherto enjoyed.

    That happened to the non-Labor forces of course in the
    1920s, when the Country Party broke away. Out of that, we got the
    preferential system, and as a trade-off to Labor, compulsory voting. But
    the alliance with the Country Party didn’t turn United Australia
    Party/Liberal voters to Labor. Many of Labor’s voters won’t accept any
    sort of alliance with the Greens. Good luck working out that one.

    2. “It was a landslide.” No, it wasn’t – 88
    to 57 seats, give or take, isn’t a landslide. It’s a zero-sum game, so
    when five seats change hands, a 10-seat gap opens up between the two
    parties. Fewer than 50 seats and you can talk landslides. Mind you,
    getting 18 or so seats back to regain power at the end of a first term
    is a big ask and hasn’t been done since, oh that’s right, 1998, when Kim
    Beazley won a majority of the overall vote two years after Labor had
    been reduced to 49 seats. Despite a 5.5% swing to Labor and a 51%-49%
    two-party preferred margin in Labor’s favour, the Coalition held 80
    seats to Labor’s 67. The next decade of our history was built on this
    manifest absurdity.

    3. “It was a total repudiation of the Labor Party.” Wrong
    again. The two-party preferred vote was 53.5% to 46.5%, a serious
    enough margin in Australian politics. But the effect of two-party
    preferred in a single-member system is to amplify the gap. The previous
    vote was more or less 50:50. This result is the equivalent of one Labor
    two-party preferred voter in 16 changing his vote. That’s being made out
    as if it were on the level of say the ANC’s 63% vote in South Africa
    1994, or Ramos-Horta’s 70% vote in East Timor’s first election. Those
    are expressions of a substantial public will — 53.5-46.5 ain’t.

    4. “Labor will need to totally recondition itself to be electable and this will take a decade.” Labor
    needs to recondition itself for all sorts of reasons — and Australian
    politics may be in for a more comprehensive transformation — but let’s
    not awfulise this. Quite aside from the 1996-98 result, there’s the
    passage from 1975 — 44.3% to 1980 — 49.6%, and then victory in 1983. The
    telescoped relationship between the two-party preferred vote and seats
    won gives an entirely false impression of just how far there is to come
    back from. Whether that happening without a reconstruction of Labor
    would be a triumph or a tragedy is another question.

    5. “Tony Abbott has a mandate, therefore Labor and the Greens should vote up his new legislation.” Where
    did this come from? Abbott has a mandate to govern, and therefore to
    introduce proposed legislation to Parliament. The 46.5% who wanted
    someone else elected their people to oppose it. The idea that a mandate
    abolishes opposition is totalitarian by definition.

    6. “Australian democracy is the best in the world.” Yeah,
    a lower house that does not fairly represent the party vote, a
    compulsory voting/exhaustive preferential system/matched funding system
    that makes it easy for multimillionaires to get a seat and murder for
    anyone else, a Senate where the balance of power is held by five people
    with 4% primary vote between them, where the sheer size of the ballot
    paper sends the donkey vote skyrocketing towards a quota, where
    Tasmanians have five times the representation of New South Wales, two
    elections in 20 years with a majority vote not gaining government, and a
    prime minister-governor-general relationship that still hasn’t been
    clarified since it brought us to the brink of government collapse — and
    where blatant falsehoods in a near monopoly media is subject to no
    immediate sanction. Yeah, nothing needs to be looked at here, finest in
    the world. Nothing can possibly go wrong …(thanks again Crikey com)

  3. Miles Harding 6 years ago

    Labor capitulating to Tony Abbott’s plan to wind Australia back to the 1960s would completely alienate them from those of us, and there are many, who understand the need to de-carbonise our economy. Whether an individual’s viewpoint is environmental or economic, where high dependency on imported energy leaves the country vulnerable to events beyond its control, the result should be the same.

    Particularly, I see transport, which is almost completely dependent on imported oil, as being very important.

    There is some really perverse logic driving the coal-ition government’s policies on environment and energy.

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