Australian Climate Plan Has `Backfired' on Gillard, Lawmaker Windsor Says

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s mishandling of a push for climate change laws may prevent her from actually submitting the legislation to parliament, independent lawmaker Tony Windsor said.

Gillard’s support fell to a record low in a Newspoll published in the Australian newspaper yesterday as voters rejected her plans to tackle climate change. The government wants to introduce a carbon price next year before moving to emissions trading as early as 2015.

“People want to see the detail of the climate plan rather than just the framework,” said Windsor, one of four independents the government needs to pass laws and a member of its multiparty climate change committee. “This has backfired on the government.”

Gillard revisited climate-change plans that helped undermine her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, who was ousted last year by the Labor Party. Rudd’s popularity plunged after he shelved the carbon strategy and announced a tax on miners like BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the world’s largest.

“I will be having discussions with Tony Windsor,” Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio today. “He is very important, so obviously I will be talking to him about this issue.”

Voter Opposition

About 53 percent of voters oppose Gillard’s plan announced Feb. 24, the Newspoll said. Companies including BlueScope Steel Ltd. (BSL), Rio Tinto Group and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL) have urged changes and the government said living costs will rise as a result.

The multiparty climate change committee, which will recommend a strategy before the government introduces laws to parliament, is next due to meet on March 18.

“Opinion polls reflect what people think of the government’s approach,” Windsor said today in a phone interview from Bundarra, New South Wales state. “I agree that the framework should have been released, not that I agree with the framework. I want to get more information on the carbon price and how the emissions trading scheme will work.”

Ninety-nine of 106 people surveyed by the Northern Daily Leader, a newspaper in Windsor’s electorate, said they did not think a carbon tax was a reasonable way to address climate change. The Tamworth-based newspaper published the results of the on-line poll on March 5 and it did not include a margin of error.

Seeking Support

Gillard’s minority Labor government needs the support of four non-party lawmakers to pass laws after the August 2010 election delivered the closest result in 70 years. Windsor, fellow independents Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie joined the Greens party’s Adam Bandt to back Labor.

Combet has said the carbon price would affect 1,000 Australian companies. According to the government’s greenhouse register for the year ended June 30, 2010, the biggest polluters were power generators led by Macquarie Generation and Delta Electricity.

“We knew it would be a difficult argument,” Combet told ABC today. “It is important to see beyond the day-to-day politics.”

The government will use proceeds from the levy to compensate industry, households and fund clean energy projects to create jobs, Combet said without detailing the compensation.

Countries are already spending billions of dollars to reduce emissions and promote renewable energy. Low-carbon energy investment surged to a record $243 billion last year, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said on March 2.

The government and opposition have agreed to reduce emissions at least 5 percent by 2020, yet with different policy approaches. The coalition wants to plant more trees and encourage sequestration of carbon in soil.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gemma Daley in Canberra at gdaley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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