The federal government aims to legislate for a price on carbon late next year and have a scheme operating well before the next election in a bid to lessen the impact of a predicted fear campaign as voters go to the polls.

The Herald understands the strategy banks on the assumption that if a carbon price is introduced and allowed to operate for a while, people will realise it is not the monster opponents are making it out to be.The theory is based on John Howard’s introduction of the goods and services tax on July 1, 2000, amid a scare campaign. By the time of the election more than a year later, the public had grown used to it and there was little desire to revoke it.

Consequently, the central policy in 2001 of the then opposition leader, Kim Beazley, to ”roll back” the GST fell flat.

Last week, the multi-party climate change committee held its first meeting to develop a mechanism for putting a price on carbon. Its options include an emissions trading scheme, a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme with a temporary fixed price for a tonne of carbon.

It is understood the committee’s most likely proposal will be a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme with a fixed price, as these will cause the least disagreement between Labor and the Greens, which comprise the bulk of the committee. They will also control the Senate after July 1.

But there is an awareness in the government that at the end of the process, a carbon price or fixed emissions trading scheme could be agreed on, but the two parties could still differ over what price to put on a tonne of carbon. The Greens are unlikely to accept anything less than $23, which was recommended as an interim measure after the emissions trading scheme collapsed. The government would want a price of about half that to lessen the impact as the scheme began.

Should the hung parliament last three years – the next election is due in late 2013 – a scheme could be operating from mid-2012 if all goes to plan.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has barred any of his MPs or senators from sitting on the climate change committee because membership requires support for a carbon price. Instead the Coalition is promoting ”direct action” in which federal government money is spent directly on measures to reduce pollution.

Mr Abbott gave notice yesterday that the cost of living scare campaign he successfully used to force the previous prime minister Kevin Rudd to shelve the emissions trading scheme would be used again. He also indicated it would be expanded to include the recommended cuts to irrigation along the Murray-Darling Basin which farmers have warned would push up food prices.

”The Gillard government just doesn’t get it when it comes to the cost of living,” he said. ”Gillard government policies are going to make electricity dearer and food more expensive.”

The government reasons that its best chance is to get a mechanism in place as soon as possible and hope to leave Mr Abbott flat-footed.

The economist and climate change expert Ross Garnaut said last week that he did not want to pre-empt what the committee should recommend but pointed to his suggestion after the collapse of the emissions trading scheme of a fixed price per tonne of carbon until there was meaningful international action.

Source: Green Times.

Advertisements