Coalition doubles down on carbon price repeal

Intro

The prospect of not just one, but two elections in the coming 12 months was highlighted by Coalition MPs over the weekend, with the Greens committing to block the Coalition’s pledge to repeal the carbon price in the Senate, and calling on Labor to do the same. If they do, a double dissolution election would be firmly on the cards to force a repeal, which would then be unlikely before 2015. Meanwhile, banking and business groups are steadily lining up behind carbon pricing solutions, and speaking out about the damage uncertainty about a repeal of the carbon price does to business confidence. The uncertainty is made worse by the Coalition’s intent to implement its heavily criticised “direct action” plan, which Federal Independent Rob Oakeshott warns is “undeliverable policy” that will be more expensive and less effective.

Tweet

MT @tvdude34: Carbon pricing is working yet Abbott wants to double dissolution over destroying it. Get ready to vote twice in a year #auspol

Key Points

  • The Coalition is prepared to call a double dissolution election in 2014 should the Senate’s check and balance system block a repeal of the carbon price. Liberal MPs claim that Labor blocking a carbon price repeal amounts to denial of its mandate and disrespect of the will of the Australian people.
  • The Greens have called on Labor to commit to protection of the carbon price and stand firm in the Senate. Labor was given a mandate for strong climate action when it was elected in 2007, and some argue it has a duty to protect its policy given it is working.
  • Opposition to the carbon price is decreasing as it becomes part of our economic landscape, with increasing amounts of business and banking leaders coming now supporting carbon pricing. By comparison, the Coalition’s “direct action” plan’s lack of detail, potential for larger cost for lower impact, and general inferiority is being increasingly criticised.

Background

The “nuclear option” of a double dissolution election in 2014 was raised again over the weekend, with Coalition MPs threatening that voters will be taken back to the polls should Labor and the Greens block a repeal of the carbon price. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has repeatedly affirmed that the Coalition will scrap the carbon price within a month should he win the election in September, however his ability to do this could be scuppered by the Labor and Greens-controlled Senate.

Post-election senator changes will not manifest until mid 2014, giving Labor and the Greens the numbers in the upper house to block repeal legislation and a double dissolution election the only chance for the Coalition to fulfill its promise.

This has led to September’s vote being framed as a “referendum on the carbon price”, enabling the Coalition to claim to have the mandate to repeal following a win, and, if blocked, paint Labor and the Greens as not respecting the will of the Australian people.

While the true costs of a carbon price repeal and the Coalition’s ‘direct action’ policy remain nebulous, banking and business groups are steadily lining up behind carbon pricing solutions, and speaking out about the damage uncertainty about a repeal of the carbon price does to business confidence and the economy. The Australian Industry Group, for one, supports an “internationally linked market-based arrangement” as the best solution to “deliver emission reductions at least cost” according to the group’s chief executive Innes Willox.

What is clear is that Australia must urgently transition to a low carbon economy. Spending a year or more switching from a carbon pricing scheme that, like the GST, is being increasingly accepted despite its unpopularity, to a heavily criticised “direct action” plan that is likely to be more difficult to administer and less likely to drive the necessary transition is tinkering we cannot afford.

Resources

Related Coverage

Tools and Resources

House of Representatives double dissolution information

Key Quotes

  • “[The Coalition is] proposing to repeal the carbon laws and then leave at least 100 days of carbon confusion while they undertake a public consultation process; I think it’d be far better for the Parliament and the public to have a thorough look at the alternative before you repeal what is in existence.” Chief executive of The Climate Institute John Connor.
  • “A robust price on carbon has never been more important if we are to avert dangerous climate change. We need a global response that will drive mitigation action in top emitting countries, get incentives and prices right, and get finance flowing to drive low-carbon growth. [T]hat global response should include supporting the removal of harmful fossil fuel subsidies and placing a robust and predictable value on carbon.” Vice president for sustainable development at the World Bank, Rachel Kyte.
  • “Tony Abbott is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His double dissolution plan shows he will stop at nothing to implement his disastrous plan for the environment. This plan is all about rolling back action on global warming and gutting environment laws so that all the most important decisions are made by state premiers.” Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt.

More Tweets

  • RT @EcoNewsDaily: #Australia’s #LibNat opposition has blueprint for sweeping changes to #climate #change #legislation http://t.co/18oRwWFyc5
  • MT @ABCenvironment: @GregHuntMP confirms Libs will go to a double dissolution to scrap #carbontax, if needed (listen) http://t.co/BAAF8nNyC4
  • MT @newsfliporg: #Australia only state to ever have dismantled universal healthcare. Could be the same with #carbonprice under Abbott #LNP