Saturday, February 26, 2011

People's revolt looms on Australian carbon tax, Tony Abbott predicts

TONY Abbott has predicted a "people's revolt" over Julia Gillard's proposed carbon tax, saying the measure is a breach of faith with the Australian people and an assault on their standard of living.

The Prime Minister today announced Australia would have a carbon tax for three to five years before the introduction of a full emissions trading scheme.

But this afternoon Mr Abbott moved to suspend question time in parliament to censure Ms Gillard, saying she had broken a pre-election promise.

The Opposition leader said that under a $26-a-tonne carbon price, power bills would jump $300 a year and petrol prices would rise 6.5c a litre.

He said voters had believed Ms Gillard when she promised before the election that she would not introduce a carbon tax.

"Today's announcement is an utter betrayal of the Australia people," Mr Abbott said.

"We will fight this tax every second of every minute of every day of every of very month.

"I think there will be a people's revolt against this carbon tax and I don't think it will every happen because the Australian public will be so revolted by this breach of faith."

In a 2010 election-eve interview with The Australian, Ms Gillard said she would not introduce a carbon tax.

"I don't rule out the possibility of legislating a carbon pollution reduction scheme, a market-based mechanism,'' she said then. "I rule out a carbon tax.''

Moving the censure motion, Mr Abbott asked whether it was the “real Julia” who made the pledge in the first place.

“Nothing is more fake than making a promise to the Australian people before the election and breaking it after the election,” Mr Abbott said.

Ms Gillard said Mr Abbott only wanted to “wreck”, comparing him unfavourably to former prime minister John Howard.

"He wanted to be remembered for the things he created, not the things he destroyed,'' the prime minister said.

She said Australia could not be left behind as the world moved to a low-carbon future.

A price will be put on carbon from July next year under a framework agreed with the Greens and key independents.

The carbon price will apply to the energy sector, transport, industrial emissions and waste. It will not hit the agricultural sector.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet today left the door open for fuel to be included in the cap-and-trade system.

"That is not a settled issue at this point in time, but it is an issue the committee will consider," he said.

Mr Combet said the committee would consider phasing in emissions trading for different sections of the economy.

A review one year before the end of the fixed price period would consider if there were any reasons to delay moving to a cap-and-trade scheme.

The starting carbon price, the length of the fixed period and assistance measures for affected individuals and firms are still to be determined.

The Prime Minister said Australia had to put a price on carbon because "history teaches us that the countries and economies that prosper are those that get in and shape and manage the change".

"I'm determined to price carbon," she told reporters. "The time is right and the time is now."

Ms Gillard predicted a tough fight ahead with Mr Abbott, saying he would wage a sustained fear campaign.

"Can I make it very clear that in the debate that will ensue I am not intending to take a backwards step," she said.

Ms Gillard made the announcement at Parliament House flanked by the Greens, Mr Combet and key independent MPs.

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne said the deal would not have occurred without the party's input.

"It's happening because we have shared power in Australia," she said.

"Majority governments would not have delivered this outcome. It is because the Greens are in balance of power working with the other parties to deliver not only the aspiration but the process to achieve it."

A climate change committee - comprising the government, Greens and independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott - has held four meetings since it was set up in September last year.

Ms Gillard said the government's emissions reduction target was unaltered at 5 per cent by 2020.

She said the system would not remain a simple carbon tax, as it was "hard wired" to shift to an emissions trading system.

Crossbenchers Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott will be crucial in securing a parliamentary agreement on a carbon price.

Mr Oakeshott endorsed the framework, declaring "I would vote for this tomorrow".

Mr Windsor was more circumspect, saying his support was not guaranteed.

"Please don't construe from my presence here that I will be supporting anything," he said.

He said there was "a whole range of unanswered questions" still to be answered.

Both independents welcomed the exclusion of agriculture from the framework agreement.

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