Australia's Dark Day of Betrayal

February 21, 2019

On 24 February 2011, as part of a minority government deal with the Greens and “independents” that delivered her the Prime Ministership, Labor’s Julia Gillard announced that Australia was going to get a Carbon Tax under a government she led, after all.

Flanked by Greens, Climate Change Minister Combet and rural independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeschott, PM Gillard celebrated the breaking of her own pre-election promise on national television just five days before the August 2010 Federal election on Channel 10 when she said, “There will be NO CARBON TAX under a government I lead.”

No amount of spin could cover the reality that Gillard Labor’s “price on carbon” or “carbon pricing mechanism” (as it was reported in the Budget Papers) was a carbon tax and a monumental breach of a pre-election promise (see further details below).

Worse still, the carbon tax:

  • saddled families with hideous cost-of-living pressures (up to $550 per year per average household)
  • hurt the investment plans and international competitiveness of business
  • curtailed job opportunities (or offshored them), and
  • distorted the energy market yet to be ruined by copious, unreliable renewables (eg wind and solar farms), unhealthy concentration and cartel-like behaviour.

This tax on a colourless, odourless gas was meant to go up in each year (like the temperature of a frog in warming water) until it converted to a fully-fledged emissions trading scheme – something the Greens and Labor are still itching to roll out with their next stint in power.

Mark/commiserate this anniversary of one of the most infamous, egregious and blatant breaches of election promises in Australian political history by:

  • watching PM Gillard’s carbon tax press conference, with her chummy Multi-Party Climate Change Committee in tow
  • reading this and this commentary on that infamous day’s events (some subscriptions required)
  • watching then opposition and Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, in Parliament on the tax
  • viewing these subsequent clips by Labor announcing further details on their carbon tax and the alleged “avalanche of science” supporting its introduction
  • observing how the carbon tax was described, presented and tallied under “Indirect taxation receipts” in the last two Wayne Swan Labor Budgets
  • sharing the Youtube video about Gillard’s “no Carbon Tax under a government I lead” pledge or related GIFs on social media so that Australia never, ever, forgets and goes there again
  • leaving a light on in solidarity with those who lost their businesses, jobs or opportunities in this nation under an economically destructive carbon tax
  • apprising yourself of the Conservative Party’s policies around energy and climate, and
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, conservatives, climate sceptics and those that want cheap fuel, viable primary industries, manufacturing jobs and affordable, reliable energy.

Further details on Gillard’s carbon tax betrayal

During the joint press conference, then Greens’ leader, Senator Bob Brown – calling the tax deal a “nation-building process” – effused that “This agreement is the Greens in action, delivering certainty to the Australian economy, community, investors and the environment after productive negotiations with the Government.” Greens’ deputy, Senator Christine Milne, called the framework agreement “a victory for minority government” and that “It’s happening because we have shared power in Australia. Majority government would not have delivered this outcome.”

The Abbott Government’s removal of Labor’s carbon tax in July 2014 did reduce electricity prices but that significant saving has since been swamped by price rises due to a range of other, bad policy-driven factors, including:

  • more renewables in the system (which need their own firming back-up ie duplication)
  • retirement of coal-fired baseload generators without replacement
  • greater energy market concentration and cartel-like behaviour, and
  • state-based moratoriums on gas exploration and extraction (driving up domestic gas prices, the cost of running gas peaking plants and the average wholesale price of electricity).

About the tax

Just as petrol excise (or tax) is a fixed price on petrol, and a car tariff or customs duty (or tax) is a fixed price on cars, a carbon price (or tax) is a fixed price on carbon – each of which were always reported in the indirect tax area of the revenue tables of the government’s Budget Papers.

In fact, the revenue of the carbon tax – reported as the Orwellian term “Carbon pricing mechanism” – was always included between “Customs duty” (an indirect tax) and “Other indirect taxation” revenue.

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