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 138.

    Raising or inventing revenue has never helped you will never see the benefits , as for this carbon tax what a load of rubbish (taxing the air you breath in disguise) oh please what the hell is next having plants gobble up to much CO2, global warming my foot, tax the airlines first they are the major causes in the atmosphere. CO2 floating that high up yeah right people atmospheric pressure.

  • 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 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 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.


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