Bloomberg News

Crucial Australian Independents Back Gillard’s Climate Plan

July 05, 2011

(Adds opposition lawmaker Wilkie in second paragraph.)

July 5 (Bloomberg) -- Two Australian independent lawmakers whose support Prime Minister Julia Gillard needs to pass a carbon emissions plan, gave conditional backing ahead of a July 10 announcement on how it will be structured.

Tony Windsor, who is from New South Wales, said for the first time he would back the trading system as long as it reflects recommendations from the Multiparty Climate Change Commission on which he sits. Tasmanian lawmaker Andrew Wilkie said he would vote for the laws as long as household and corporate assistance is provided.

Gillard is battling declining public support for the climate measures in the world’s biggest coal exporter, with the number of Australians who say the nation should take action slipping to a record low 41 percent, according to a Lowy Institute poll published June 27. She needs backing from the Greens Party and three independent lawmakers to get the plan through parliament.

“I am confident that if the legislation reflects the committee’s recommendations that it will get my support in parliament,” Windsor said in an interview today. “It will be a big deal for regional areas.”

Gillard has said that the emissions trading system, which is due to start next July, will be based on advice from the Multiparty Climate Change Committee and that laws will be introduced to parliament in the second half of the year.

Low Income Earners

The committee has provided recommendations to the government on a fixed carbon price for the first three to five years of an emissions trading system. Gillard, a committee member, has said more than half the revenue raised would be used to help low income earners and pensioners and that there would be assistance to exporters with high emissions.

“I support in principle the government’s move to put a price on carbon, but the settings must be right,” Wilkie said in an interview today. “People on low incomes must be properly compensated, high-emission trade-exposed industries such as the zinc works in Hobart must be fairly treated, there must be a high level of investment in renewable energy sources.”

Opposition Liberal-National coalition leader Tony Abbott, who has said he will repeal the plan if he becomes prime minister, pledged on June 25 to deliver tax cuts without a levy on carbon. Abbott has accused Gillard of misleading the public on the carbon tax and said the plan will increase electricity costs by A$700 per household each year.

Discussions will continue this week on the trading arrangement that will affect fewer than 1,000 companies, Gillard said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The July 10 announcement will mark the culmination of those discussions and will result in the creation of the world’s third trading system behind the European Union and New Zealand.

“It will cut our pollution while still allowing strong economic growth and jobs growth and growth in living standards in the future,” Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said today on Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. “It’ll help drive the transformation of the economy to a clean energy future.”

--Editors: Patrick Harrington, John Brinsley

To contact the reporter on this story: Gemma Daley at gdaley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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