Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - In this July 2, 2014 file photo, smoke billows out of a chimney stack of steel works factories in Port Kembla, south of Sydney. Australia's government repealed a much-maligned carbon tax on the nation's worst greenhouse gas polluters on Thursday, July 17, 2014, ending years of contention over a measure that became political poison for the lawmakers who imposed it. The Senate voted 39 to 32 to axe the 24.15 Australian dollar ($22.60) tax per metric ton of carbon dioxide that was introduced by the center-left Labor government in July 2012. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)
Australia repeals maligned 2-year-old carbon tax
Pollution » Conservative government repeals tax it pilloried in last year’s elections.
First Published Jul 17 2014 09:01 am • Last Updated Jul 17 2014 09:01 am

Sydney • Australia’s government repealed a much-maligned carbon tax on the nation’s worst greenhouse gas polluters on Thursday, ending years of contention over a measure that became political poison for the lawmakers who imposed it.

The Senate voted 39 to 32 to axe the $22.60 tax per metric ton of carbon dioxide that was introduced by the center-left Labor government in July 2012. Conservative lawmakers burst into applause as the final tally was announced.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s conservative coalition government rose to power last year on the promise of getting rid of the tax, assuring voters that removing it would reduce household electricity bills. He plans to replace the measure with a taxpayer-financed $2.4 billion fund to pay industry incentives to use cleaner energy.

"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," Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

Australia is one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita, largely because of its heavy reliance on the nation’s vast reserves of cheap coal for electricity.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten lashed out at Abbott after the vote, dubbing him an "environmental vandal."

"Today, Tony Abbott has made Australia the first country in the world to reverse action on climate change," Shorten told reporters. "History will judge Tony Abbott very harshly for refusing to believe in genuine action on climate change. Tony Abbott is sleepwalking Australia to an environmental and economic disaster."

The carbon tax, charged to about 350 of Australia’s biggest carbon polluters, was controversial from the start. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard had initially vowed not to introduce a tax on carbon emissions. But after her Labor party was elected in 2010, she needed the support of the minor Greens party to form a government — and the Greens wanted a carbon tax. Gillard agreed, infuriating a public that viewed the measure’s imposition as a broken promise.

Labor’s popularity plummeted, particularly when consumers saw their power bills soar. In reality, the tax accounted for a relatively small portion of that increase, but many blamed it for the hike nonetheless.

Desperate to improve its standing with the public, Labor replaced Gillard with previous Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who promised to get rid of the tax and transition it earlier than planned to a cap-and-trade scheme, which would have significantly lowered the per-ton carbon price.

story continues below
story continues below

But it proved too little, too late. Abbott’s party swept to power in last year’s elections by vowing to get rid of the tax for good.

The prime minister said families will be $517 a year better off now that the tax is gone.

Big businesses and industry groups across Australia rallied behind the tax’s abolition, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which dubbed the levy a dead weight on the economy.

"It really did impact on the competitiveness of many Australian businesses and of course it put up the price of power," the group’s CEO Kate Carnell said. "So it’s a good step forward for competitiveness and also for employment in Australia."

In a fiery speech ahead of Thursday’s vote, Sen. Christine Milne, leader of the Greens, called it an "appalling day for Australia."

"A vote for the abolition of the clean energy package is a vote for failure," she said. "If this parliament votes to abandon the clean energy package, you are voting against the best interests of the nation."

Environmental groups called the tax’s repeal an international embarrassment.

"It’s a very sad day because it was working, this carbon price," said Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy. "Our government has failed Australians and they need to go and look their kids and their grandkids in the eye and tell them why — why — they are unwinding laws that will protect people in this country from climate change."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.