The bitter sweet taste for Labor on carbon tax win
After four long years, the Australian Parliament has finally passed legislation to put a price on carbon emissions.
So, congratulations to the Gillard Government for pressing ahead with this significant reform to the Australian economy and for demonstrating a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Australia now joins many other nations operating with a carbon tax and joins an even longer list of countries participating in emissions trading schemes, ETS. The sky hasn’t fallen anywhere on the globe where carbon is taxed or priced by the market.
The carbon tax in Australia begins as a fixed price before converting to an ETS in 2015.
Of course, Australia would have had an ETS in place last year, if the Green political party and the Coalition hadn’t voted against government legislation several times in 2009.
It’s stomach churning now to see Green MPs in ecstatic embrace, claiming credit for all of Labor’s heavy lifting in this policy area when they killed off the chance to have an ETS sooner because of their minority objection to the generosity of industry compensation proposed in Labor’s bills.
The Greens ought to be ashamed of the unwarranted delay they caused and quietly thankful that they weren’t subjected to more vigorous public criticism then and now.
For the Australian Labor Party, the reform has come at great political cost and is undoubtedly evidence of conviction politics. Responding to climate change was a key part of Labor’s campaign platform in 2007.
That election win gave the Rudd Labor Government a mandate to ratify the Kyoto agreement and move ahead with pricing carbon to drive private sector investment in renewable energy and lower carbon emitting energy generation projects. We all know what happened after this and so for many in Labor’s ranks, the celebration to mark the passage of the legislation is a bitter sweet moment.
And where is Tony Abbott in all this? He’s overseas and stuck in a rut. He says he’ll repeal the carbon tax if elected and introduce his multi-billion dollar plan to strip funds from the Commonwealth Budget to spend taxpayers’ money directly on projects that reduce carbon emissions. The Coalition plan has little support from economists and other qualified commentators. It’s also a large chunk of the $70 billion of unfunded commitments made by the Coalition.
You can imagine former Treasurer Peter Costello’s eyes roll whenever Tony Abbott adds another burden to the Budget without spelling out a cost saving or revenue measure. Tony Abbott says he’ll keep all the good Labor commitments like increased superannuation and then doesn’t spell out how he’d fund it when he’s opposed to every contingent revenue measure like the MRRT.
The private sector in Australia is way ahead of Coalition policy makers on carbon. They’ve been factoring in a carbon price for years and key players in energy generation, project construction and finance, have been champing at the bit to get a clear policy signal to invest and build.
And now thanks to the Labor Government, they have it.