Australia Labor Government Support Drops to Record on Climate Change Plan
The government’s primary voter support fell to 30 percent, the lowest on record, from 36 percent two weeks ago, according to a Newspoll published in the Australian newspaper today. Some 53 percent of voters opposed Gillard’s plan to set a carbon price from July 2012, three to five years before an emissions trading program starts. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Gillard has revived the climate-change plan that contributed to the ouster of Kevin Rudd last year and made it a policy centerpiece. Companies like 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.
“People don’t like the carbon plan because they’ll have to pay for it,” said Rick Kuhn, a political scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra. “It was supposed to be this government’s heroic measure but it has been tactically inept in selling it.”
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has said the carbon price, the level of which has not been announced, would affect 1,000 Australian companies. The plan would increase costs for households and the government will compensate low income earners and retirees with subsidies, he said March 7.
Gillard’s support also fell to its lowest point since she became leader last June, with 39 percent saying they were satisfied with her performance compared with 50 percent two weeks ago, the poll of 1,122 people said.
Gillard’s plan, announced Feb. 24, has faced opposition from one independent lawmaker who lent his support for her to form a government as well as from the opposition Liberal- National coalition. Gillard holds power by one seat in the lower house, thanks to the backing of four non-party lawmakers. The August 2010 election delivered the closest result in 70 years.
“The politics of getting this across the line is paramount,” said Anthony Hobley, a Sydney-based lawyer and climate-change specialist at Norton Rose LLP. “It will be Gillard’s biggest test to get consensus on this enormous reform.”
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.
Australia’s government and opposition have agreed to reduce gases at least 5 percent by 2020, yet with different policy approaches. The coalition wants to plant more trees and encourage separating sequestration of carbon in soil.
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