Australian prime minister Tony Abbott’s repeal bill to abolish tax on the country’s biggest polluters has been passed in the senate, with opposition and scientists deeply worried that the move will leave Australia behind in the race to a low-carbon future.
The tax – which has been opposed by Abbott since his election – was passed by the previous Labor government and used to charge the 348 highest polluters A$23 (£13) for every tonne of greenhouse gas produced.
The motion passed with 39 votes against 32, with the government claiming to have abolished a useless levy that was harming the economy and families. It is the first time that the carbon tax has been scrapped after having been introduced.
Abbott said, “This is great news for Australian families and for our nation’s small businesses. Scrapping the carbon tax will save the average family $550 a year. You’ll see the benefits in coming power bills.
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“Today the tax that you voted to get rid of is finally gone. A useless destructive tax which damaged jobs, which hurt families’ cost of living and which didn’t actually help the environment, is finally gone.”
However, Abbott added that his ‘conservationist’ government would not leave the country without climate legislation.
“We are a government which absolutely appreciates that we have only got one planet and we should pass it on to our children and grandchildren in at least as good shape as we found it,” he said.
Critics and climate campaigners are worried the measure will leave Australia behind in taking action to stop climate change.
Christine Milne, Greens leader, said, “The repeal of the price on pollution is intergenerational theft. Tony Abbott has delivered a massive blow to jobs, a massive blow to clean solar and wind energy, and a massive blow to our kids and grandkids who will live on a planet permanently changed by global warming.”
John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute think tank, commented, “Today’s repeal of laws that price and limit carbon pollution is an historic act of irresponsibility and recklessness.
“With the senate’s vote today, Australia not only lurches to the back of the pack of countries taking action on climate, but sees the responsibility of emission reductions shift from major polluters to the taxpayer.
“Today we lose a credible framework of limiting pollution that was a firm foundation for a fair dinkum Australian contribution to global climate efforts.”
Australia is the worst polluter per head of population among developed nations and is already experiencing some of the effects of climate change, with bushfires, droughts and heatwaves expected to get worse over the coming decades.
Photo: Nevalenx via Flickr