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 121.

    It's a delicate balance that needs to be sorted out. If black coal becomes too expensive through tax, China will rely more heavily on their brown coal which is far more pollutive. The answer for Australia & China is to encourage underground coal gasification and the shift towards a hydrogen economy by putting fuel cells in the home and piping in "town gas" through the existing networks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Its not going to change much. The cost will simply be passed on to the consumer and there might be one or two winners but thats about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Believe in AGW or not (I dont) this is the right approach to dealing with emissions; the "emissions trading scheme" however should be scrapped.

    I'm pro-Pigouvian taxation as it internalises the costs of an activity which in turn dictates price & encourages innovation where it is needed; trading schemes do not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Mere window-dressing from a sham Prime Minister before her party is overwhelmingly beaten in the next general election. At least Gordon Brown stepped aside after the hung jury, Gillard just scrimped together a few independents and called it a 'victory'. She is no more a beacon of 'progression' for her country than Robert Mugabe.

    Carbon taxes have never worked, and they never will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Look at the projections for CO2 emissions in the next 10 years in China and India and only then consider how effective this will be.
    The reality is that this is like changing the deckchairs on the Titanic- it will have absolutely no practical effect. It's just another way of taxing.
    I'm convinced about the climate risk of CO2 but only action from the BRICs and USA will have any real impact

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Emissions trading; the next bubble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    114. perkinwellbeck yes !
    The BBC don't want us to think and are the enemies of free speech

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    this is what HYS thinks the british public wants to comment on.we have rising unemployment.people can no longer afford rented accomidation.the NHS failing in some areas to give health care,students can no longer afford an education,the economy is on it's way to the double dip saloon, and god forbid what foxy has been up to and you want us to post on aussie c/tax.who are in charge tory central??

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    A sad day - normally Australian rules are of the common sense type we should adopt over here. But now it seems that they're sliding down the same eco-mentalist route we've been forced to follow...

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Its a scam and requires proper scientific argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    It's just an excuse to tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Watch the magicians other hand as they talk "green'
    The chatterring classes rabbit on about issues that are deemed to be `safe' by our masters.
    TV soaps ( safe )
    Green Issues ( safe )
    Diversity & equality ( safe & you get a well done sticker )
    The cost of baked beans ( safe)
    Post 109 yes ... The biggest con in modern times.( one of many)

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Climiate change is just one of those "pick your own expert" gigs isn't it? Scientist A says "unequivocably yes" and scientist B says "definitely no"

    Sadly for us poor consumers, Governments round the world believe scientist A for only one obvious reason. If the answer is "no" then there is no quasi-moral reason for this additional taxation, is there?

    The biggest con in modern times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Science cannot measure if there is global warming or not. It is undecided as to whether or not it could be harmful or beneficial to have a bit more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The IPCC has declared this issue with out facts to back up the claims. Only thing I see for sure is that all governments are piling on the taxes soon as possible. Basically to tax industry is to reduce it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Restructuring for a low carbon economy will never be accepted by the short term thinkers, particularly those that argue an economic case for not doing it.

    How can there possibly be an economic argument for not doing it without considering the cost of the consequences of not doing it, not to mention the untold misery that option will yield?

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Yes, if it helps to encourage reductions in carbon emissions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    If coal is dug out of the ground in Australia and burnt in Australia you pay a tax but if it is exported and burnt elsewhere you do not. Same amount of CO2 is put into the atmosphere and we only have one atmosphere. All this tax is doing is moving jobs out of Australia. Julia will be kicked out at the next election as she broke a promise to the Australian people not to introduce this tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    The Labor government will not get a second term in Australia due to it's lies and betrayal when it promised not to bring in a carbon tax and when elected did the opposite.Polls have 80 per cent of voters against Labor and it's unwanted tax,most Labor ministers are expected to loose their seats at the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Do they give Clean Energy Credits?
    Solar Panels sure do sound like a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    The world gub’ment said we have to pay for carbon emissions because climate change is our fault. The more you emit, the more you pay. Don’t want to pay? then change your behaviour, unless you are rich of course like Al Gore who buys carbon offsets from his own carbon trading firm as he trots the globe in his private jet, dragging his Nobel Peace Prize around on his modern day medicine show.


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