Tuesday 26 July 2011

Julia Gillard | 'I have never backed any direct-action carbon plan'

Julia Gillard mounts a passionate defence of her carbon tax stance to journalists in Canberra yesterday. Picture: Gary Ramage Source: The Australian

Julia Gillard has offered a passionate defence of her belief in the need for a carbon emissions trading scheme.

And has flatly rejected a newspaper report that she dismissed such a scheme little more than a year ago.

The Prime Minister has also likened her fight for action on climate change to Labor battles to introduce Medicare and compulsory superannuation, both landmark reforms opposed by the Liberal Party.

Since ousting Kevin Rudd to become Prime Minister more than a year ago, Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan have been haunted by leaks suggesting they both advised the former leader to scrap his proposed carbon emissions trading scheme.

There was a fresh claim yesterday in the Australian Financial Review, which reported that Ms Gillard had written a document advocating a fallback position under which Labor would dump its carbon trading proposal and instead seek talks with Tony Abbott about areas of action on climate change, outside of a tax or trading scheme, on which they could agree.

The Opposition Leader seized on the report to insist Ms Gillard had never believed in a carbon trading scheme and that "the real Julia" actually supported his direct-action plan for reducing carbon emissions by planting trees and storing emissions in soil.

"The Julia who currently occupies the prime ministership is essentially supporting Bob Brown's policies and not those that she thought best just before the last election," Mr Abbott said during a visit to north Queensland nickel project.

Ms Gillard rejected the AFR report as wrong.

"I have never believed that this nation could reach its minus 5 per cent emissions reduction target other than by putting a price on carbon," she said.

The Australian understands that what actually happened a year ago was that Ms Gillard had floated the idea of attempting to start talks, with whoever led the opposition, on seeking common ground on a tax or trading system.

Several senior sources told The Australian that while many options had been considered, Ms Gillard had never advocated dumping all plans to address climate change through a tax or trading scheme.

Ms Gillard said yesterday she wished there was bipartisan support for emissions trading and had invited Mr Abbott to join the all-party parliamentary committee that designed her proposed $23-a-tonne carbon tax, which she will introduce in July next year.

"In the absence of bipartisanship, this is a bit more like Labor's fight to have Medicare in this country. It's a bit more like Labor's fight to have universal superannuation in this country -- both of which were bitterly opposed by the Liberal opposition," she said.

The latest carbon tax exchanges came after a Newspoll published in yesterday's The Australian found public support for the tax had increased by six points to 36 per cent since final details were announced a fortnight ago.

In the same period, Labor's primary vote rose by two points to 29 per cent, with the Coalition down two points to 47 per cent and the Coalition ahead by 56 per cent to 44 per cent in two-party-preferred terms.

Labor MPs welcomed the shift yesterday, but agreed Ms Gillard had a long way to go to catch Mr Abbott.

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