Labor considers carbon policy changes, as government’s carbon repeal faces potentially hostile Senate

As late as the eve of Bill Shorten’s election as Opposition Leader, he wasn’t talking about the changes to the ALP’s carbon price policy, but that appears to have turned around.

A report today in The Australian states the ALP has ordered a review of their pollution policy, which the Coalition government has vowed to replace.

The newspaper made the claim after Environment Minister Greg Hunt told the media his $1.55 billion policy of repealing the carbon price and replacing it with a direct action carbon abatement policy could be introduced as legislation.

Direct action includes tendering for emission reduction projects funded from a pool of $1.55 billion over three years.

Hunt’s approach would avoid introducing a bill which would hit a roadblock in the current Senate, and means the Coalition may be able to enact its policy before the new senate – considered to be more likely to pass the repeal – sits. The government has a majority in the lower house but not in the Senate, and after July 1 will need a host of minor parties’ support in the Senate.

But the government’s repeal plans could be heading for conflict. The plan goes that the government will split the bill to repeal the carbon price from the bill to introduce their direct action policy on the first sitting day on November 12.

This action would give the parliament the choice whether to scrap the current carbon price with nothing to replace it. It’s unclear whether the upper house would back the bill without an alternative proposal.

The time frame allows less than a month for the ALP to conduct its review and offer an alternate policy, which party officials believe is an achievable timeframe. Any decision on whether the opposition would support a split bill to repeal the carbon price would be considered at shadow cabinet, but it is understood there is still strong support for a price on carbon.

Shadow environment minister Mark Butler has said earlier this month on Sky News: “We agree with Tony Abbott on the repeal of the carbon tax, the question is what is put in its place? And on that point, there is nothing in this legislation.”

The Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong said the carbon price did not make a big impact on the peak body’s members.

“It really is a low priority for us,” he said. “I’ve never had anybody [from COSBOA’s membership] talk to me about the carbon tax.”

Strong said the previous government did not communicate their policy effectively, but when it was introduced it was found to be a minor issue, affecting mainly refrigeration, power and transport. He said the direct action policy could fund innovation from small business.


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