Abbott wields axe over carbon tax

abbottPRIME Minister Tony Abbott has authorised the drawing up of legislation repealing the carbon tax and associated organisations that were introduced by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2012.
The newly elected Federal Government is also planning a substantial rewrite of the administration of carbon abatement schemes and would break down 33 climate change schemes run by seven departments and eight agencies into just three bodies, run by two agencies.
The dramatic restructure of the federal climate change bureaucracy was expected to save the government $7 million this financial year and $13 million each year for the next three financial years.
Under the new plan, the Environment and Resources and Energy departments would run all climate change programs as part of the Liberal Party’s Direct Action plan, aiming to deliver a 5 per cent reduction on 2000 carbon levels by 2020 at a cheaper cost to the taxpayer than the previous government’s initiatives.
The Abbott Government is set to abolish the Climate Change Authority, which sets emissions caps; the Climate Commission, which has conducted research into climate change; and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which funds renewable technologies. The Treasury would take control of the new Low Carbon Australia scheme, which will be responsible for purchasing emissions.
Federal Environment minister Greg Hunt told the ABC that the CEFC was risky as it “borrowed in taxpayers’ name for investing in speculative ventures”.
“We will of course meet with the board and the executive once ministerial arrangements have been confirmed and any swearing in has occurred, but our position is very clear – our policy is very clear,” he said.
“We have always said we do not support the creation of a $10 billion green hedge fund.”
The CEFC confirmed it had stopped making loans for energy efficiency and clean energy programs and chief executive Oliver Yates said meeting with Mr Abbott was a high priority for the corporation.
“The CEFC has approached the Coalition to engage in consultations about the transition and looks forward to engaging with the new government concerning how its activities can best be supportive of their policy priorities under Direct Action,” he said.
The government would need to pass legislation to abolish the CEFC, which holds a $560 million investment portfolio and has leveraged $1.6 billion in private sector investment.
However, the Labor Party was not convinced that Mr Abbott’s plans would be beneficial.
After the election result was announced, senior Labor member Bill Shorten told media the party was not ready to see the end of the carbon tax.
“I can say now, Labor believes in the science of climate change,” he said. “We believe there should be a price on carbon pollution.”
Following declarations from Labor and Greens members that they would oppose the abolition of carbon pricing, Mr Abbott said he expected the parliament to “respect the mandate that the new government has”.
“It will obviously be an issue [for the Labor Party]…whether it learns from its mistakes and whether it’s prepared to accept that it simply got it wrong when it came to these toxic new taxes,” Mr Abbott said.
Chief Scientist for Australia Professor Ian Chubb told the ABC that abolishing the organisations was unfortunate.
“These sorts of issues are not going away just because we ignore them,” he said.
“They are things we are going to have to deal with and grapple with and understand better and then make informed choices rather than go out there and guess at what we might do.”
In the weeks since the election, analysts have told media that Mr Abbott’s eagerness to roll back emissions policies may have been over enthusiastic, and ran the risk of over-reliance on a single approach to climate change issues.
“Most countries don’t rely on a single measure like a Direct Action policy or a carbon pricing mechanism,” University of Melbourne climate scientist Professor David Karoly said.
“They also use complementary measures.” The full details of the Coalition’s Direct Action plan would not be available until at least 100 days after the new government was formed and a period of public consultation was completed.