Comeback Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Question Time in the House of Representatives yesterday.
Source: News Limited
KEVIN Rudd will push to dump the carbon tax and go straight to an emissions trading scheme in a bid to unshackle the government from the politically toxic policy.
The Daily Telegraph understands the carbon tax, which is due to rise by $1.15 per tonne to $24.15 next week, will top the agenda when the new Prime Minister convenes his first cabinet meeting, scheduled for Monday.
Sources close to Mr Rudd confirmed it would be a high priority and most likely be at the top of the cabinet agenda.
However, in a signal that he would conduct a consensus government, Mr Rudd indicated to colleagues no changes would be made without approval of the cabinet.
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It is believed the sticking point will be how quickly Mr Rudd could drop the fixed carbon price and go straight to a floating market price, considering the significant cost in also retaining the household compensation package.
Axing the current fixed price for a market-based floating price could see the cost drop to as little as $6 a tonne.
It’s estimated the move could cost the government several billion dollars in lost revenue.
With Parliament not due to return before an election, Mr Rudd is likely to announce it as an election policy, with changes to come in next year.
Such a change would require legislation, which the Greens have indicated they would not support.
“This is a priority issue,” a source close to Mr Rudd said.
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The move would allow Mr Rudd to keep Labor’s commitment to a carbon price but distance his new government from Julia Gillard’s broken promise to not impose a carbon tax.
Yet carbon is also something of a vexed issue for Mr Rudd, who famously described the onset of climate change as “the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation”.
His credibility was in tatters when, under attack from Mr Abbott for his “great big tax”, he dumped his government’s controverial emissions trading scheme in April, 2010.
Greens leader Christine Milne today said any changed position Mr Rudd takes is electioneering because Parliament will have risen.
”He has backflipped on climate so much I don’t think people will really trust him to actually respond to the science,” she told ABC Radio.
”He will be much more interested into caving into business and caving into the big miners than responding to the climate crisis.”
Government minister Jason Clare this morning said Australia would move to a floating carbon price as soon as it could be done.
”As soon as we can do that, we want to do that,” Mr Clare said on the Nine Network.
”Prime Minister Rudd has said he will have more to say about that in the next few days.”
Treasurer Chris Bowen was more circumspect about the timing of the change.
”It does go to a floating price in the future … That’s something that the Labor Party and the Liberal Party used to both agree on and the Liberal Party did a flip and changed their position,” he told Seven today.
Opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop warned a floating carbon price would leave a big hole in the budget and lead to significant cuts in health and education.
Cabinet minister Mark Butler played down the reports, saying it was ”all speculation”.
But the issue was likely to be discussed by cabinet early next week.
”We are moving to a market-based system, floating price,” he told ABC Radio.
Mr Butler admitted there was a great number of implications for a decision to bring forward an ETS.
Cabinet would need to consider a range of information, including revenue projections and the impact on household assistance, he said.
Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said the government’s carbon policy was wrong and an Abbott government would axe the carbon tax – whatever name it was called.
”Any move by Prime Minister Rudd to change name of the carbon tax will be a con. No matter what he calls it, the carbon tax still goes up on Monday and Australians will pay it,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.
Liberal senator Simon Birmingham said all the government was planning to do was rename the controversial carbon tax.
”A tweaking of what the carbon tax may look like in the next year or two won’t change what the carbon tax will be for the next five, 10, 20 years,”’ he told reporters in Canberra today.
The tax would increase by 150 per cent to $38 in 2020, and reach $350 by 2050.
”We’ll see the carbon tax spiral up and up and up, whatever this government does,” Senator Birmingham said.
Mr Rudd was sworn in yesterday as Prime Minister by the Governor-General for a second time, along with his new deputy Anthony Albanese and new Treasurer Chris Bowen. Mr Rudd will announce his ministry today.
Those being considered for the frontbench include former ministers Joel Fitzgibbon and Kim Carr as well as western Sydney MP Ed Husic, Victorian MPs Jacinta Collins, Anthony Byrne and South Australian Nick Champion.
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His new leadership group will include Mr Albanese and Mr Bowen, Penny Wong, Jacinta Collins as well as the man who helped orchestrate Mr Rudd’s political assassination in 2010, Workplace Minister Bill Shorten.
In his first address to parliament Mr Rudd sought to rally the troops, taking Opposition Leader Tony Abbott head-on.
“(Voters) want us to build the house up, not tear it down. It’s time for the old politics of negativity to be dead and buried,” he told parliament.
Mr Abbott returned fire, demanding Mr Rudd explain to the nation why Julia Gillard had to be replaced by the “faceless men”.
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The number of Julia Gillard’s cabinet ministers to have announced their departure from the front bench grew to eight yesterday, with Defence Minister Stephen Smith confirming he would not recontest his seat of Perth.
He said he would serve on the frontbench until the election.
Mr Rudd, however, is still refusing to reveal when he might take Australians to the polls.
There is believed to be disagreement among some of Mr Rudd’s closest advisers about whether the current September 14 date should be retained, moving it forward to August or even delaying to October or November.
Australian business leaders yesterday demanded Mr Rudd call the election quickly to rescue the economy.
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Senior business groups warned that patience with the government’s “anti-business policies” was close to breaking point and an early election was needed to boost confidence and get shoppers spending again.
They also called for the carbon tax to be dumped.
– with AAP