Pricing Carbon in Australia: The On-going Political Drama

'Carbon tax' protest 2011 (Image: mugfaker)
‘Carbon tax’ protest 2011 (Image: mugfaker)

With the announcement that our next federal election will be on Saturday September 14 2013, there has been renewed commentary on the likelihood of a possible future federal Coalition government repealing the Clean Energy legislation.

A report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance argues the chances of our current carbon pricing system being repealed are around 32%. As Seb Henbest explains:

  • this includes firstly working out the chances of the conservative Liberal-National Party coalition winning the election (on current polling – highly likely).
  • to repeal the Clean Energy Act will require the coalition to gain a majority not only in the House of Representatives but also our upper house of parliament, the Senate. If this was achieved the earliest the Act could be repealed would be the second half of 2014 (after new Senators have been sworn in).
  • given September 14 will be a half Senate election, gaining control of the Senate is a much tougher hurdle.
  • if the coalition failed to gain a majority in the Senate, they would then have to manoeuvre for a further double dissolution election on the issue of repealing the Clean Energy legislation. Here, the risks are greater still as there is chequered history of success in double dissolutions.
  • finally, the Bloomberg report notes that if a future Coalition government failed to repeal the Clean Energy legislation, they are limited in their ability to re-engineer the carbon pricing mechanism by securities the current government have built into the Clean Energy Act (the so-called ‘Abbott-proof fence’).

Having read this report, little appears to have changed from the situation back in July last year when the Clean Energy Act came into force. In an article Maurizio Floris and I wrote in the Australian Financial Review, we noted similar obstacles standing in the way of the federal Opposition leader’s ‘blood oath’ to repeal ‘the carbon tax’.

While the disastrous economic implications prophesied by the Opposition have failed to materialise, and business has acclimatized to the carbon pricing mechanism, we still have:

  • a bitter partisan political divide over how best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • a sizeable minority of federal politicians on the conservative side of politics who reject the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change; and
  • continued regulatory uncertainty for business about carbon pricing affecting future investment decisions and energy policy.

How far the political landscape has deteriorated from the bipartisan support for carbon pricing that existing in Australia back in 2008/9!

A renewable energy future now in doubt? (Image: Dave Clarke)
A renewable energy future now in doubt? (Image: Dave Clarke)

3 thoughts on “Pricing Carbon in Australia: The On-going Political Drama”

  1. Indeed! The mainstream media have done their work well regarding the demonisation of the so-called ‘carbon tax’ and the non-reporting of the climate crisis. It’s almost surreal researching and writing about climate change given the general apathy of public opinion on this topic compared with the dramatic changes in our climate that are now unfolding:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s