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Last week, the Australian government made one of its boldest moves in recent memory by abolishing the country’s controversial carbon tax. Following through on one of Tony Abbott’s main policies in his push for the prime ministerial office last year, the Senate voted 39 to 32 to end the tax, which had come into effect in 2012.
The repeal of the tax is a major win for key industries in Australia, such as mining, as can be seen by the flurry of positive feedback and support expressed by the sectors following the announcement. Organisations in these industries had felt they were being held back significantly by the need to pay $22.60 per tonne of greenhouse gases.
However, in removing the tax, Australia reached an unwanted international milestone – becoming the first country to abolish a national policy aimed at combating climate change. Needless to say, reaction to the decision has not been positive in some sections.
Here we’ll take a look at the main reactions – positive and negative – from around the country.
Tax repeal praised as a step forward
Industry bodies were profuse in their approval of the repeal, saying it would finally unlock the development and growth of businesses in some of Australia’s most crucial sectors.
The Minerals Council of Australia, for instance, said the removal of the tax will “promote jobs and investment growth”, allowing Australia to once again re-establish itself as a global leader in sectors such as mining. According to the council, the policy had raised $15 billion in new tax in its two years of operation, imposing a tax burden of $326 per Australian, per year. This is in contrast to the annual tax burden of just $4.30 per person under the European carbon pricing scheme.
In similar vein, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) stated that the repeal will “stimulate business and economic growth”.
“The carbon tax was a dead weight on the Australian economy and abolishing it is a win for consumers, a win for energy users and a win for business,” said Kate Carnell, CEO of the ACCI.
“Australia’s carbon tax was one of the highest in the world, making our key industries less competitive and providing very little by way of environmental benefit. Abolishing the carbon tax should help to stimulate business and economic growth and help restore all-important investment confidence.”
Reaction has also been positive in state bodies around the country. Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive, Michael Roche, said the repeal is “good news for the Queensland economy”, while Treasurer Mike Nahan expressed his satisfaction at the removal of a “massive burden for West Australian families and businesses”.
A need for caution
Not everyone has lavished the decision with praise, however – with experts in Australia warning not to get too carried away. Paul Dobson, lead partner for sustainability at Deloitte, said that “this issue is not going away”, and businesses now need to focus on implementing energy efficiency strategies in the light of the Direct Action Policy and the Emissions Reduction Fund coming into force.
Others were more scathing in their reaction to the repeal, with opposition leader Bill Shorten one of the most vociferous.
“History will judge Tony Abbott very harshly for refusing to believe in genuine action on climate change,” he was quoted in a July 17 ABC News article as saying.
“Tony Abbott is sleepwalking Australia to an environmental and economic disaster.”
Greens Leader Christine Milne agreed, lamenting a “tragic day for Australia” and labelling the repeal an act of “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,” she asserted.
As expected, the announcement of the repeal has certainly led to divisive responses with the country, and developments will be closely followed by all to see just what impact it will have.