Monday, 4 July 2011

Julia Gillard will unveil her government's carbon price policy this Sunday.


"This weekend the Gillard Government plans to announce a price on pollution as the central element of a comprehensive policy to tackle climate change, cut pollution and drive the transformation of the Australian economy to a clean energy future," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement today.

"After hearing a report on the discussions of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, Cabinet agreed tonight that sufficient progress had been made to allow an announcement date to be set for Sunday 10 July 2011." Ms Gillard said considerable common ground had been achieved in talks between the parties in the MPCCC during recent weeks. The committee comprises Ms Gillard, Treasurer Wayne Swan, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, Australian Greens senators Bob Brown and Christine Milne, and independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.

"This reflects the genuine commitment of members of the MPCCC to tackle climate change to protect Australia's environment and support the economy," Ms Gillard said. "While there will be additional discussions with the MPCCC this week, followed by further Cabinet consideration, it is expected that the remaining details will be finalised in these discussions ahead of Sunday's announcement."

The priorities of the Labor government in designing the carbon price had been reducing pollution, protecting household budgets and maintaining jobs, the Prime Minister said. "A carbon price is an important reform that will create incentives to lower Australia's carbon pollution at the lowest cost to the economy," she said.

"It will do this by putting a price tag on the pollution of fewer than 1000 businesses. "More than half the revenue raised will be used for tax cuts and increased payments to households, which will be generous, fair and permanent and will keep pace with cost impacts from the carbon price in the future."

The government would introduce the carbon price bills to Parliament later this year. "This will be an opportunity for all MPs to decide whether they accept the scientific advice that climate change is real and whether they accept the economic advice that a market mechanism is the cheapest and most effective way of reducing pollution," Ms Gillard said.

Earlier today, Ms Gillard has invoked a doomsday-like scenario of metre-high sea level rises and a 2000km southward shift of Australia's climactic zones as she battles an opposition scare campaign over her proposed carbon tax. Setting the scene for a week of intense debate on the government's climate change response - which is yet to be fully detailed - the Prime Minister today returned to scientific arguments for putting a price on carbon. She called for a debate on the facts - those provided by scientists - but refused to provide further information on her own carbon tax plans.

In question time, the opposition demanded to know whether a promised household and small business exemption for petrol would be extended to public transport and freight businesses. Ms Gillard said the details of her plan would be released "soon", and accused Tony Abbott of scaring the public with misinformation. Earlier, the Opposition Leader renewed his now hopeless call for a plebiscite on Labor's carbon tax. But he changed tack, saying he would now accept the result of such a ballot if it revealed public support for the measure.

Ms Gillard warned of threats to infrastructure, failures of urban drainage and sewerage systems, blackouts, transport disruption and private property damage as temperature rose by between 2.2 and 5 degrees by 2070. “Now this is a huge change,”  Ms Gillard told reporters this morning. “It is equivalent to the climate of Cairns being the climate of New South Wales. It's equivalent of the climate of Melbourne being the climate of southern Tasmania. “It means that global warming will see seas rise by possibly up to a metre by the end of the century - that's a huge risk to many parts of our country.” Ms Gillard said she was determined to act on the advice of climate scientists as Mr Abbott called upon her to “heed the word of the people” by giving voters a say on her carbon tax proposal.

The Opposition Leader introduced a bill to allow his carbon tax plebiscite into the House of Representatives, despite his failure to get the Senate to agree to the proposal before the Greens gained the balance of power there today. Mr Abbott had previously said the Coalition's opposition to a carbon tax would not change even if a national plebiscite endorsed the government's proposed scheme. Today he would accept the final vote. “I want to make it absolutely crystal clear - should I succeed (in a plebiscite) and should this matter of the carbon tax be put to the people - that will determine this matter,” Mr Abbott said. But it was a moot point with the support of both chambers required for the ballot to go ahead.

The Coalition has been riding high on the back of Mr Abbott's campaign against the carbon tax, which he says will increase the cost of everything. Ms Gillard refused to comment on the petrol price burden big business would carry under her carbon price scheme, after revealing over the weekend that households and small businesses would not pay more for fuel.

She said the decision to exempt families from petrol price rises meant the Coalition was wrong in its claims that prices would rise by 6c a litre at the pump. “Petrol is out. Everything Australian families have heard about petrol prices going up as a result of pricing carbon is dead wrong,” she said. She said the exemption would continue into the future, despite granting the Greens a Productivity Commission inquiry into the treatment of transport fuels under a carbon price.

Author: The Australian

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