Green Day: Australian Carbon Tax Passes Senate  

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SP at TOD ANZ notes the passage of Australia's carbon tax bill - Oz Carbon Tax Passes Senate.

The Australian "Carbon Tax" has been passed in the Senate and will become law. It remains to be seen if Tony Abbott, should he get elected, follows through with his hubristic and dogmatic threats of repealing the law.

The Greens are understandably pleased.

Mining interests and The Australian have predicted this will trigger the imminent demise of the entire Australian economy, even though the more likely threat is due to financial problems in Europe. Piers Akerman (hat tip Deltoid) dredges up the old Dark Ages analogy to describe the horror that is about to befall us all at the hands of the "Green Cultists" who, for some unexplained reason want to rain doom on us all.

I guess we all have our own favourite falling sky to fret over...

The SMH also has a report - Senate passes carbon tax.
The Gillard government declared victory for a "historic economic reform" today after the Senate finally passed a carbon tax - laws that have created political havoc for four years and have been debated for more than a decade. The government won the historic vote in the upper house 36 to 32.

Labor and the Greens combined to pass the 18 "Clean Energy Future" bills just after midday, to applause from the packed public galleries.

Finance Minister and former climate change minister Senator Penny Wong said that, on the Labor side of politics, "we accept the science, we accept the need to act [on climate change], and, like John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull, we accept the science and the advice that putting a price on carbon is the best way to reduce emissions."

A $23 a tonne carbon tax will now be paid by about 500 high-emitting companies from next July, with about half the revenue to be returned to households in the form of tax cuts and increases in pensions and family payments, to compensate them as electricity generators pass through the cost of the new tax.

Another $9.2 billion over the first four years of the carbon pricing scheme will be paid to high-emitting industries with overseas competitors not subject to a tax. They will receive up to 94.5 per cent of their emission permits for free.

The carbon price is designed to meet the emissions reduction target endorsed by both major parties of at least 5 per cent by 2020, compared with 2000 levels. Labor is now promising to cut Australia's emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Next the ABC's take - Carbon tax passes Senate.
Earlier, directly following the vote, there was glee from the Government and Greens and dismay by the Opposition who were first out of the Senate doors to voice their protests. ...

They were followed closely by the Greens, when leader Bob Brown prefaced his remarks "from the grim to the grinning".

Senator Brown says today is "a green letter day" that will "echo down through the ages". "The great debate on this legislation is over," he said, vowing the legislation will never be rescinded despite threats by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to do so. People 50 years, or 500 years, from now will thank us for doing this. This is a vote for Australian householders, economic planners and ecologically sound business, as well as the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo, the Murray-Darling Basin and 700,000 property owners on our coastal margins."

Environmental crusader former US vice-president Al Gore said on his website "the voice of the people of Australia has rung out loud and clear". He praised the efforts of Ms Gillard in shepherding the legislation through, saying "as the world's leading coal exporter, there's no doubt that opposition to this legislation was fierce".

The SMH has a roundup of some of the reactions - Climate groups welcome carbon tax.
Climate action groups have hailed Parliament's approval of a carbon tax while warning it is just a first step.

"At last we can begin the long game of catch-up towards more progressive international players on reducing our carbon emissions," Greenpeace spokesman Dae Levin said shortly after watching government legislation clear the Senate today.
While the vote was important, Ms Levin said it was critical not to lose sight of what still needed to be done to protect the community from polluting industries. "This is really just a first step," she said.

Greenpeace is urging the government to drop the $12 billion worth of subsidies provided to the fossil fuel industry. The Australian Conservation Foundation said the new laws would make the big polluters pay. "Industries that do want to contribute to creating a cleaner and healthier future for our children and grandchildren now have a financial incentive to find new, cleaner ways to do business," foundation chief executive Don Henry said in a statement.

The Australian Solar Energy Society said today's vote was a major step forward for the renewable energy industry. "We are finally penalising pollution and rewarding clean energy," chief executive John Grimes said in a statement. "This will deliver substantial investment in solar power and position Australia as a solar nation."

The Investor Group on Climate Change, comprising industry superannuation organisations with $700 billion in funds under management, said the legislation would provide greater regulatory certainty and investment opportunity. "Passage of these bills will provide a platform for future investment in renewable energy and low-carbon technologies," chief executive Nathan Fabian said. "It is in the interests of investors that it remain in place to maintain a certain regulatory environment."

OxFam Australia said the federal government had taken a first step in helping the nation catch up to others on tacking climate change. "The passage of this legislation is a historic shift in direction for Australia that will help build trust with other countries and momentum towards the critical United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Durban, South Africa, later this month," executive director Andrew Hewett said in a statement. ...

The Australian Geothermal Energy Association said the legislation would boost the industry. "The carbon pricing framework and clean energy fund will hasten the development of geothermal energy projects here in Australia," chief executive Susan Jeanes said. "Geothermal energy is the great hope for the future supply of low cost, emissions free, baseload energy around the world over the coming decades and beyond." ...

Clean energy sources will be able to compete on a level playing field with emissions-intensive sources with the passage of the tax, the Clean Energy Council said. The peak body representing Australia's clean energy sector said Australia was now doing its part to tackle the threat of climate change. "Our industry has been calling for the right policy environment and a carbon price is a crucial part of that," council chief executive Matthew Warren said. "The establishment of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation will give emerging technologies the boost they need to prove their potential as mainstream energy sources. "The clean energy sector is poised to unlock billions of dollars in investment that will provide employment for tens of thousands of people."

The peak energy efficiency body says the legislation will save Australian homes and businesses over $5 billion a year. "A carbon price will actually help businesses, by giving them the certainty they need to invest in changes that are long overdue," Energy Efficiency Council chief executive Rob Murray-Leach said.

And finally, Crikey's Bernard Keane has a look at the driving force behind the legislation - It’s the Greens’ day, anyway you look at it.
It’s done. A carbon price, of a fashion, a poor one, so weak it needs to be bolstered by an extensive array of taxpayer spending, passed the Senate at 12.44. The journey embarked on by Julia Gillard on 24 February, which has seen her government and her leadership hammered mercilessly, is mostly over.

The vote passed as expected, last minute efforts by the Coalition to thwart a vote defeated by the Labor-Greens majority. The public gallery — from where Greg Combet watched proceedings — cheered an earlier procedural vote; the final vote went through with a decidedly anticlimactic silence. Opposition senators keen to delay proceedings had to settle for getting up and leaving the chamber after every vote, forcing the maximum period between divisions.

At deadline, the opposition were still trying to prevent the Bill titles being read by the Senate clerks.

This is the package that Labor promised it wouldn’t deliver before the last election, and one that has far more “direct action” than the package agreed by Malcolm Turnbull in 2009. And it comes nearly four years after both parties went to the 2007 election promising Australians an emissions trading scheme. It’s a reform John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull all failed on.

Even Julia Gillard, who’ll go down in history as the woman who managed to achieve what any number of male leaders couldn’t, didn’t particularly want it. Instead, it was the Greens who dragged Labor back to do what it had promised and then resiled from. It’s their day, having seized on the opportunity afforded by a minority government, adeptly exploiting the hung parliament delivered by Labor’s ineptitude.

Much of the post-election commentary on the Greens focused on whether the responsibilities of the balance of power would destroy them as it destroyed the Democrats. By becoming part of the process from the start, rather than only being played in at the death, the Greens managed to shape the package to a form likely to appeal to their base, which was always suspicious of “market mechanisms” anyway. The Greens have thus passed their first major balance of power test with flying colours.

The Coalition has had it good for most of 2011, as Labor struggled with a lack of policy detail and a rampant Tony Abbott. Now, it seems, the tide has turned against it. Its repeal policy looks increasingly problematic, and its own “direct action” policy is discredited. The only thing in its favour remains voter resentment toward Julia Gillard over her backflip on the issue.

But in the chamber today, like their Coalition forebears in 1993 on native title and like the Labor Party on the GST in 1999, the opposition looks a party stranded by ideology and opportunism on the wrong side of history.


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