Labor’s carbon backflip

Labor is expected to support axing the carbon tax, with senior figures – including leader Bill Shorten – now convinced that its case for action on climate change is more easily sold if the politically ”toxic” tax is abolished.
Nanjing Night Net

The Opposition has been wrestling with the repeal of the tax, with some saying it must hold the line to show voters and demoralised supporters it still stands for something. But party leaders have progressed their thinking to consider what the party will put to voters in the lead-up to the next election.

They argue that Labor proposed to ”terminate” the tax at the election and to simply block its repeal would allow the government to continue to punish it politically.

Mr Shorten is also worried an endless focus on the carbon tax would distract from serious flaws in the government’s $3.2 billion Direct Action policy, which Labor will oppose.

Direct Action uses taxpayer funds to pay polluters to start reducing emissions and pay for other initiatives in forestry, carbon capture, and recycling.

A survey of economists by Fairfax Media found only two out of 35 supported Direct Action over an emissions trading scheme.

Labor will continue to back some form of carbon pricing but reserves the right to deliver its policy closer to the election. In the meantime, it will scrutinise Direct Action, independent analysis of which suggests it won’t be able to reduce emissions by 5 per cent in 2020, a bipartisan goal, without more funding, something expressly ruled out by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

A senior Labor source said the party would not countenance weakening the target, amid concern that the draft legislation to repeal the carbon tax changes the status of the 5 per cent reduction from a legally enforceable cap to merely an aspiration.

‘‘We are happy to get rid of the tax but we do think there should be a cap on pollution,’’ said a Labor insider.

The Climate Change Authority will release its recommendations for Australia’s emissions cuts target on Wednesday morning. The independent advisory body may recommend that the 5 per cent cut be revised upward to 10 or 15 per cent. It will also assess the nation’s progress towards its short and medium term emissions cuts.

Mr Abbott has made the repeal of the carbon tax his legislative priority when Parliament resumes in three weeks. He urged Labor to ‘‘repent’’ and support the government.Multiple Labor sources acknowledged there had been a shift since the election.

Even so, shadow cabinet is yet to finalise Labor’s position and the party also wants to see the final shape of the government’s legislation before finally committing to its position.

Labor’s climate change spokesman Mark Butler hinted strongly on the weekend that the option of allowing the repeal bills through was being actively considered, revealing the final policy ‘‘will be informed by the fact that we took to the last election a commitment ourselves to terminate the carbon tax’’.

John Scales from JWS Research said polling showed that the carbon tax had dominated the climate change debate in recent years and undermined support for action.

He said the tax was widely seen through the prism of former prime minister Julia Gillard’s broken promise when she introduced the impost, as well as its impact on electricity and other prices.

Mr Abbott has already begun calling Mr Shorten ‘‘Electricity Bill’’ as he goads him to support the repeal of the tax.

With it gone, Mr Scales  reckoned that Labor would have the clear air to make direct action the target and develop its alternative.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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