Australia parliament passes divisive carbon tax

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard - 18 July 2011 The carbon tax vote is an important victory for Prime Minister Julia Gillard

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Australia's lower house of parliament has narrowly passed a bill for a controversial carbon tax.

The legislation would force about 500 of the biggest polluters to pay for each tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.

The tax is central to the government's strategy to combat climate change, but the opposition says it will cause job losses and raise the cost of living.

Australia is the world's largest coal exporter and one of the biggest per capita greenhouse gas emitters.

"Today is a significant day for Australians and the Australians of the future who want to see a better environment," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said before the vote.

After her Clean Energy Bill 2011 was passed with 74 votes for and 72 against, she hugged colleagues and waved to supporters in the public galleries.

Along with a companion bill for A$300m ($298m; £191m) in assistance for the Australian steel industry, it is expected to pass the Senate with the help of the Greens next month.


The victory is an important one for the prime minister, whose popularity with voters in opinion polls has been declining against the opposition.


  • To start on 1 July 2012
  • 500 companies affected
  • Agriculture, forestry and land are exempt
  • Compensation for polluters
  • Market-based trading scheme kicks in from 2015
  • Target to cut 159m tonnes of CO2 by 2020

The bill has polarised Australian opinion. Thousands of people have protested against it, accusing Ms Gillard of lying before last year's election.

Two previous failed attempts to pass similar bills were partly responsible for the fall of her predecessor as prime minister and Labor Party leader, Kevin Rudd.

Ms Gillard made a pledge during last year's federal election not to introduce a carbon tax.

The proposed tax was drawn up after Ms Gillard failed to win an overall majority in parliament at the polls and had to rely on the support of the Greens.

Australia's 500 heaviest polluters will pay A$23 for each tonne of carbon emissions.

The government says nine out of 10 households will be compensated through tax cuts or welfare increases for any increased costs, but the opposition says 60% will be worse off.

The tax will be introduced on 1 July next year, and will then evolve into an emissions trading scheme three years later.

The conservative opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has promised to ditch the tax if he wins office.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    yes well done what about the real climate change problem? Yes, What about your Coal exports?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Well done the Aussies! Taking the difficult decisions (and big business) everyone else don't want to make.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I am with Old Aussie Girl, save I am Old Aussie Boy. I have done my research and lived a life through greed,consumption and political spin.
    Today I enjoyed a celebration lunch and toasted a Female Prime Minister who,swallowed her pride and successfully managed a Bill through the House after saying she would not do,what is clearly right for the country, if not the world.
    Thank You, PM Julia Gillard

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    When they were first launched, Credit Ratings were only for big companies but now everyone has a Credit Rating. The same will be true for Carbon Credits - within a few years each household, perhaps each individual will have a Carbon Credit Rating. It's turning legitimate concern for the environment into tax revenue for the Government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    No legislation has been passed whatsoever.

    The bill was only passed in the lower house, it has yet to go through the senate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Tim this domestic carbon tax is a storm brewed in a small teacup. A start, sure, but mainly a toe-in-the-door by the Greens.The real climate change elephant is Australian coal exports. It's perverse. 100's of millions of tonnes per year (the world's biggest coal exporter) and expanding. Our exports to China, India, Japan, Korea, are a key ENABLER of climate change. Therein lies the twisted irony!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    @ 32. Stuart McLoughlin - Once upon a time "Flying machines" could meet that description. I'm glad you weren't a resident of Kitty Hawk around 1900.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Reduce global population. Stop burning fossil fuels, by definition, they are finite. Human generated CO2 may or may not be an issue compared to volcanic action, water vapour etc so why not argue about certainties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Its about time a government had the stones to pass this type of legislation. Here in the States, it keeps getting muddled in bs and end up never getting passed. Great job AU!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    This is yet another example of lunatics running the asylum in Austrlia. Carbon taxes do not work. They never have. It's just another excuse for taxing more to get more. Simple as that. It's a scam, ripoff and WILL cause job losses to which the government will have to pay income support. Julia: your days are numbered me thinks. Roll on the next election - you'll be out of a job!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    A carbon tax isn't a bad idea. The problem is that it's too high because they've limited it to only 500 business of a certain type instead of just taxing carbon output or usage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    13. Sir_Kitt_Breaker - Yes its all a gian Conspiracy... With the end result of a trip piling of the tax free threshold for ordinary australians. How disgraceful...

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    16. Garfy
    Shirley the idea of taxing emissions misses the point?

    No; quite the opposite. Taxing emissions puts up the price of higher polluting products and thus comparatively lowers the cost of greener products. Encouraging you to buy the better product.

    We need to move to an economy where the total cost of a product is considered - including the pollution cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    from Australia:
    Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter. Our coal is the life blood of the world coal trade-thus making us a key player in global climate change. So, it redefines 'hypocritical' to herald a domestic carbon tax on one hand, whilst ramping up coal mining and exports on the other and taking no responsibility.
    The current coal mining and export frenzy in Queensland is shameful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Please do not judge the Australian public by this latest sham policy foisted on us by a bunch of narcissistic desperados [labor - correct spelling] who are willing to do the biddings of the Greens and Independents who hold the balance of power. Our government is a huge disappointment to almost all of us but we have to live with them and their idiotic policies until the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Encouraging businesses to be green should be one of the top priorities the world over. But we shouldn't simply introduce additional taxes so that everybody pays more than present. The greenest companies pay less and least green companies pay most, not relatively but in absolution, should be an international priority. Something scientists would have done years ago, but politicians repeatedly fail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    If climate change is a serious threat we ought to be investing in surviving it rather than stopping it.

    Unless we go back to Dark Age living, the planned worldwide CO2 cuts - even at the high end - will do no more than buy us a (very) few more years.

    And regardless of alleged CO2 effects, the climate will change anyway - it always has done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    20. Welsh Ben,

    I apologise if you took it personally. I don't believe this about the Welsh, but we know how easy stereotypes can develop. I assume you are welsh, so please do speak out and tell the Aussies that the Welsh don't agree with what she has done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I am an "older" Australian, with grandchildren. I have personally researched and analysed the reasons for the Bill, as have the members of Parliament who voted for it. It's been a long debated and hard won vote.
    As a former Liberal voter, I'm very proud of the Parliament for passing this necessary legislation, which has far reaching positive repercussions. Congratulations Ms Gillard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    The passage of the Carbon Tax Bill was a success for the Greens and a day of shame for the left wing Labor Government. Julia Gillard broke her word and sold her soul to buy the Greens support to form a minority government. The Greens, a minority party, won the day, Labor lost and the nation will pay.


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