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 61.

    Another easy tax to fill government coffers. Like the EU the Australian government sees easy money and are taking full advantage. Nothing to do with affecting climate change, how could it possibly be when Australia produces about the same amount of carbon as Britain. The two together probably produce in a year what China produces before breakfast every day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    High taxation on carbon emissions will at the end of the day make big CO2 producers rethink their environmental approach. After all, they are throwing money out the window.

    The question is when this is introduced on household emissions, especially cars, most likely the biggest emission generators of them all.

    Also, never mind who is responsible to GW, anything that can be, must be done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    A typical government response....we don't like it so we will charge you. Never mind trying incentives or looking for solutions, take the easiest approach and make a bit of money out of it until you get thrown out of office.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Lunatic have taken over the asylum.
    Sweat in the dark

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Just goes to show how out of touch I am.
    500 companies in Australia produce carbon.
    Must be one of the biggest coalfields in the world.
    Why shouldnt they pay taxes

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Here are some interesting links:

    I would be rather upset as an Australian if I had voted for Gillard on the strength of her pre-election promise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    There's a fairly simple solution to the problem of potential jobs impact; a forward-thinking nation like Australia can impose a carbon tax, then also impose import tarriffs on nations not adhering to the same carbon limits they impose on their own businesses. People start making better choices as soon as the bad ones become more expensive...

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Has anyone done a survey of people for and against the carbon tax and attitudes towards science in general, and the environment in particular? It is often the case that those with strong religious belief also lack trust in science and motivation to protect the environment, on the grounds that the nature is there for man to subdue and consume. And, after all, the next life is what matters. Right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Not completely pointless Joseph. A step in the right direction. Australia's real climate change elephant is her coal exports, which dwarf her domestic greenhouse emissions. So let's be 'fair dinkum' and move to tackle this injustice. We are in denial. We wash our hands of our global responsibility. Otherwise known as turning a 'blind eye'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    By the Australian governnment's own figures and climate models this measure will reduce warming by 1/10000 to 2/10000 - completely pointless gimmick and it will be very damaging to the wealth creation and industries of Australia

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Whilst the idea of a carbon tax is quite noble, this is nothing more than revenue raising by a government that failed to bring the budget into surplus. Look at the fine print of this law & you will find less than 30% of the revenue raised from the carbon tax actually goes towards offsetting carbon emissions, whilst the remaining 70% of this tax goes to the government! This is just another tax!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Although this may not work at first or have little impact on emissions overall but it is a step in the right direction. I hope the UK government introduces a scheme like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I'm from Australia and can categorically say that chrisozman has never spoken to me...... thank the Lord.

    Here Chris, take a good gander at this

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Most people I know here in Australia think the climate is changing, as it always has one way or the other. Almost nobody I talk to thinks it is substantially human-induced. It seems the biggest drum-bangers on this are the Brits and Europeans who also gave us the increasingly-suspect "Theory of Evolution" of which the BBC is its most ardent fan. Carbon tax? Hasta la vista Australian Labor Party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    here an Australian protest song to help put things in perspective!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    32.Stuart McLoughlin
    "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."
    Quite right, and wait until it's proven that man's CO2 emmissions have nothing to do with GW - this money has effectively been obtained by deception.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Opponents of a carbon tax say that these kinds of measures will cost jobs, growth etc. However, unless and until we start putting a value to negative externalities by incorporating these into prices, we're kidding ourselves that the only cost will be lost jobs. Polluted environments, climate migration, worsening health, decreased food security all carry a much higher cost. This is a welcome move.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    ah GK? Zero effect is a little disingenuous......It's a start. It starts the process.
    The real elephant in the room re Australia, is her coal mining and exports. Now that's where the climate change buck actually stops. Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter. The vital artery of the world coal trade. Choke it and the game really changes...
    See? I'm no watermelon (nor religious) and I can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    CO2 is plant food. Australia has begun the process of de-industrialization in order to reduce the world's food/plant yields. This tax will have exactly zero effect on the climate. This is an ideological tax imposed by the watermelon (green on the outside-red on the inside) environmentalist's, new wave religion. Australians will dig deep to pay their tithe to religious beliefs.


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