Australia repeals carbon tax legislation

Australia’s Parliament has repealed the carbon tax legislation that this year imposed $24.15 (Aus.)/tonne of carbon dioxide emissions.

The legislation was introduced and passed into law by the previous Labor Government in 2011. The Conservative Parties led by now-Prime Minister Tony Abbot vowed to repeal the tax if they gained leadership. This pledge was a major plank in Abbot’s election manifesto.

The repeal legislation easily passed the House of Representatives where the government has a majority, but it took several attempts to pass the Senate where mining maverick-turned politician Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party (PUP) senators hold the balance of power.

After some 40 hr of debate and an amendment imposed by PUP, the repeal legislation finally passed through the Senate early July 17 with a vote of 39 to 32. The amendment stipulates that companies pass on all savings (from not having to pay the tax) to consumers by July 2015 or face a fine equivalent to 250% of what they have saved.

Abbott labelled the tax “a useless, destructive tax which damaged jobs, which hurt families’ cost of living, and which didn’t actually help the environment.”

Abbott added that his government planned to replace the tax with a taxpayer-financed $2.55 billion (Aus.) fund to pay industry incentives to use cleaner energy.

David Byers, chief executive officer of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA), said the repeal of the carbon pricing mechanism was significant as it removed a cost facing Australian LNG exporters competing in global markets. He said it was a cost that did not exist for Australia’s international competitors.

The tax has been controversial from its inception.

The original carbon tax, brought in by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011 under pressure from the Greens party (after she initially vowed not to), required Australia’s top 500 polluting companies to pay a price on carbon emissions from the beginning of July 2012.

It formed a central plank of the Gillard Government’s commitment to cut carbon emissions by 5% of the 2000 levels by 2020.

The regime began with a fixed price of $23 (Aus.)/tonne on carbon imposed from July 1, 2012, set to rise 2.5%/year in real terms for 3 years. It was planned to transform the tax into an emissions trading scheme with a floating price in mid-2015 with a floor of $15 (Aus.) and a ceiling of $20 (Aus.) above the expected national price to prevent volatility.

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