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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Comment: Coalition losing its grip on carbon tax mandate | SBS News

Comment: Coalition losing its grip on carbon tax mandate | SBS News




















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    Prime
    Minister Tony Abbott arrives for House of Representatives question time
    at Parliament House, Canberra, Monday, July 14, 2014. (AAP)






"Scrapping this toxic tax" was meant to be a slam dunk for the Prime Minister. What happened?


By
Simon Copland


16 Jul 2014 - 1:00 PM  UPDATED YESTERDAY 1:00 PM







It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

After more debate yesterday the vote on the repeal of the carbon tax was delayed once again.
It seems likely the bill will limp through the Senate today. As the
Government celebrates however the victory must feel bittersweet.

More than anything the 2013 election was supposed to be
the mandate on the carbon tax. Just like the 2007 election resulted in
Workchoices being ‘dead, buried and cremated’, 2013 was supposed to see the end of carbon pricing for good.

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As the repeal bill makes its way through the Senate
however, it has become clear the mandate the Coalition received has
slowly slipped away. The bills have been stripped of much of their
infrastructure - with the survival of the Clean Energy Finance
Corporation (CEFC), Renewable Energy Target (RET), The Australian
Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Climate Change Authority (CCA).
In doing so, each are making it through with significant opposition -
opposition that seems to refuse to back down.  

This is the problem for the Government. Whilst it will
pass the repeal it has done so with none of the authority required to
have a long-lasting impact. It has temporarily gotten rid of the carbon
price but it has not gotten rid of the debate - and in fact made it
worse for Tony Abbott and his cabinet over the past months.

“The Coalition’s campaign on the carbon
price has failed. Now in Government, their authority on the issue has
quickly vanished - leaving an emboldened opposition and climate movement
- even in spite of the major set back coming today.”

This is best highlighted by the reaction of Opposition
to the legislation. In the lead up to the vote, Opposition Leader Bill
Shorten accused the Prime Minister of
“sleepwalking his way into a major climate policy disaster, a disaster
for the Australian economy and for our environment, a disaster that
guarantees that forever more Tony Abbott will be remembered as an
environmental vandal”. For a leader that at one point actively
considered voting to support the repeal this is a massive turn around.

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This sort of belief has been reflected in the broader community as well. Whilst there was basically no discussion of climate change in the 2013 election,
debate on the issue has exploded once again. Tony Abbott’s position has
taken Australia’s role onto an international level, activism on the
ground is growing, and more people are now in favour of the carbon price. This is quite a remarkable turn around in just ten months.

The Coalition’s campaign on the carbon price has failed.
Now in Government, their authority on the issue has quickly vanished -
leaving an emboldened opposition and climate movement - even in spite of
the major set back coming today.

This means that climate change is definitely not going
to be leaving the agenda any time soon. With the upcoming debate on the
bills to repeal the other parts of the legislative infrastructure, the UN Climate Summit in September
and the G20 in November, in fact it is just going to get stronger.
While this was supposed to be a good thing for the Coalition - an
opportunity to slam the Opposition for refusing to pass the repeal
legislation - this is no longer the case. The Government has showed a
weakness on the issue - one that has allowed the cross-bench to define
its agenda and that has lost them the narrative on climate change.

Herein lies the biggest problem of all. If the
Government can’t win on the carbon price, it shows how weak it truly is.
This was supposed to be its slam dunk - Tony Abbott's easy and major
victory. But instead it has been the opposite - a shambolic process that
has highlighted many of the Government’s weaknesses.

That shows lots of worrying signs for the next two years.

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer and blogs at The Moonbat

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