Australia repeals maligned 2-year-old carbon tax - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Australia repeals maligned 2-year-old carbon tax

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File). 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. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File). 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.
(AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File). 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. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File). 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.
By KRISTEN GELINEAU
Associated Press

SYDNEY (AP) - Australia's government repealed a much-maligned carbon tax on the nation's worst greenhouse gas polluters on Thursday, ending years of contention over a measure that became political poison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 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. Conservative lawmakers burst into applause as the final tally was announced.

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 AU$2.55 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.

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 AU$550 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 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • U.S. & World NewsMore>>

  • Gas explosions kill 24, injure 271 in Taiwan

    Gas explosions kill 24, injure 271 in Taiwan

    Thursday, July 31 2014 11:09 PM EDT2014-08-01 03:09:24 GMT
    Taiwan's National Fire Agency says 15 people were killed and 228 were injured a series of gas leak explosions in a southwestern city.
    At least 24 people were killed and 271 others injured when several underground gas explosions ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city overnight, hurling concrete through the air and blasting long trenches in the...
  • 10 Things to Know for Friday

    10 Things to Know for Friday

    Thursday, July 31 2014 10:34 PM EDT2014-08-01 02:34:27 GMT
    By The Associated Press Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
    By The Associated Press Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
  • Death toll hits 51 from mudslide in Indian village

    Death toll hits 51 from mudslide in Indian village

    Thursday, July 31 2014 10:34 PM EDT2014-08-01 02:34:24 GMT
    Rescue workers and desperate villagers dug through deep mud, rocks and the debris of shattered homes Thursday after a massive landslide buried a remote village in western India, killing at least 24 people and...
    Heavy rains hampered efforts Friday by hundreds of rescue workers digging through heavy mud and debris, as the death toll from a landslide that engulfed an entire village in western India rose to 51.
Powered by WorldNow
General information or questions:
kxinfo@kxnet.com

News:
Bismarck:
Phone: 701-223-9197
News Fax: 701-223-1985

News:
Minot:
Phone: 701-852-2104
News Fax: 701-838-1050
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KXNET. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.