AFTER more than a decade of political argument, the House of Representatives has this morning passed legislation to put a price on carbon, paving the way for Australia’s most dramatic economic reform in more than a decade.
After claiming two prime ministers, two opposition leaders and severely wounding the authority of Julia Gillard, a carbon price is now on a clear path to being entrenched in law.
The government’s carbon tax package was passed 74 votes to 72, with applause from the government benches as legislation was passed with the support of independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, and Greens MP Adam Bandt.
Labor frontbenchers embraced the Prime Minister following the vote, while Coalition MPs jeered and urged Kevin Rudd to congratulate her.
Mr Rudd then kissed Ms Gillard on the cheek and offered his congratulations, to cheers from opposition benches.
Speaking before the final vote, Ms Gillard said future generations would enjoy the benefits of the historic reform.
But as the 18 carbon tax bills head for a vote in the Senate before the end of the year, Tony Abbott gave his “pledge in blood” to dismantle the tax in government.
Ms Gillard said 160 million tonnes of carbon would be cut from the atmosphere by 2020 under her carbon tax.
“You’ll be able to see the biggest polluters changing their conduct and behaviour,” Ms Gillard told ABC Radio.
Ms Gillard says Mr Abbott will be unable to dismantle the tax because it would involve taking associated compensation measures from pensioners and families.
But Mr Abbott said he was more determined than ever to axe the carbon price if he became prime minister.
“We will repeal this tax, we will dismantle the bureaucracy associated with it,” Mr Abbott said.
“I am giving you the most definite commitment any politician can give that this tax will go. This is a pledge in blood this tax will go.
“If the bills pass today this will be an act of betrayal on the Australian public. We will repeal the tax, we can repeal the tax, we must repeal the tax.”
The government’s related $300 million steel transformation plan also passed the House, 75 votes to 71, with the additional support of Queensland independent Bob Katter.
Former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull – a carbon price supporter – voted with the Coalition as expected.
But he sat stony-faced on the back bench for the votes, next to opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey.
Mr Rudd and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson sat chatting on the Labor back bench for the divisions.
Greens deputy leader Christine Milne sat in the chamber’s guest seats to witness the vote.
Under the government’s package, a fixed carbon price of $23 a tonne will be imposed from July 1 next year, rising at 2.5 per cent a year in real terms for three years.
In 2015, the package will convert to an emissions trading scheme with a floating price.
When the floating price starts in 2015, a floor price of $15 will be imposed and a ceiling price, $20 above the expected international price, will also be imposed to prevent volatility.