Palmer to Support Abbott’s Australia Carbon-Price Repeal

Clive Palmer, whose party will hold the balance of power in Australia’s upper house from next month, said he supports the government’s bid to repeal the nation’s carbon-price mechanism.

“The carbon tax is an arbitrary tax and it sets a price on carbon at a level far above the international price for carbon,” mining magnate Palmer told a Canberra press conference attended by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. While his Palmer United Party supports a move to an emissions trading scheme, it would only do so if Australia’s main trading partners established such a program first, he said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s laws to repeal the previous Labor government’s carbon-price mechanism were reintroduced into the lower house on June 23 before a power shift in the Senate, which previously rejected the levy’s removal. The government will have to negotiate with the mining magnate from July 1 to pass legislation.

“What we have seen today is vindication for the government because our plan to deliver families genuine savings by abolishing a policy that is fundamentally failing is set to be passed by the Senate,” Environment Minister Greg Hunt said at a press conference in Canberra. The government is prepared to work with Palmer to discuss any amendments to its legislation, which is a package of nine bills, he said.

Palmer’s party will vote against Abbott’s bid to introduce his Direct Action Plan, which includes a A$2.55 billion ($2.39 billion) Emissions Reduction Fund that will encourage companies to cut greenhouse gases through taxpayer-funded grants, Palmer said today. Abbott’s plan to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corp. and the Climate Change Authority will also be rejected by Palmer’s party.

Obama’s Stance

U.S. President Barack Obama discussed climate change with Abbott when they met in the White House on June 12 during Abbott’s first trip to the U.S. as prime minister. Obama is seeking state-by-state limitations in the U.S. on carbon-dioxide emissions to limit the effects of man-made global warming and has proposed cutting power-plant emissions by 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Labor introduced a carbon price -- referred to as a carbon tax by Abbott -- in July 2012. It was fixed at A$23 per ton of greenhouse gases emitted in its first year, rising every year until it was due to shift to a market-set mechanism from July 2015.

‘Toxic Tax’

Abbott pledged his Liberal-National coalition would repeal what he called the “toxic tax” after winning government in September, blaming it on higher electricity prices. He has said that repealing the price will still allow the world’s 12th-largest economy to meet its promised 5 percent reduction in emissions by 2020.

Palmer’s party will effectively control four upper-house seats in the 76-seat Senate from next month. It supports retention of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target, which was instigated to ensure 20 percent of the nation’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.

Gore, who was the focus of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which warned of the consequences of global warming, flew to Canberra for talks with Palmer yesterday. The former vice president had convinced Palmer to consider Abbott’s laws and that the world needed to work together to combat climate change, the lower-house lawmaker said today.

“While I will be disappointed if the immediate price on carbon is removed, because it is a policy which I believe to be ultimately critical to solving the climate crisis, I am extremely hopeful that Australia will continue to play a global leadership role on this most pressing issue,” Gore said.

Biggest Polluter

Obama’s bid to pressure nations including India and China to help form a world-wide agreement to combat climate change isn’t being supported by Abbott, who is hosting Group of 20 leaders in November. Australia has the highest per-capita fossil fuel emissions among industrial countries.

The U.S. wants climate change added to discussion points at the G-20 meeting in Brisbane, the nation’s Ambassador to Australia John Berry told media in Canberra today. That countered a claim by Treasurer Joe Hockey earlier this month, who said climate change wouldn’t be on the G-20 agenda as it was an “economic forum.”

Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said in a June 15 Sky News interview from Houston, Texas, that Obama’s plan for 30 percent cut in power-plant emissions in the U.S. -- Australia’s main military ally -- was “rhetoric” and “there’s no action associated with it.”

(Corrects spelling of Abbott in sixth paragraph in story published June 25.)
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