Tony Abbott has warned of a “triple whammy” of carbon taxes from Labor after a leaked document from shadow cabinet proposed a raft of new climate policies including multiple floating carbon prices.
The opposition is in damage control over the confidential “options paper” which proposes two new carbon prices, separating schemes for industry and households, plus vehicle emission standards, new laws to govern power plants and energy efficiency targets for the family home.
This morning Bill Shorten sought to play down a revival of the carbon tax, saying Labor intended to fight the next election with a climate policy that focused on renewable energy.
He said suggestions Labor would return to a carbon tax were “complete rubbish”.
“We believe in climate change, we don’t believe in passing the problems of pollution to future generations and our focus will be on renewable energy and there is going to be no carbon tax,” Mr Shorten said.
Earlier Labor environment spokesman Mark Butler described the document as “one of a series of options papers” to guide thinking within shadow cabinet, and Labor’s election policy had not been finalised.
He affirmed Labor’s longstanding support for “effective and efficient” policies including a floating carbon price and a “bold plan” to increase uptake of renewable energy.
The Prime Minister said the leaked document demonstrated Mr Shorten was “a carbon copy of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard”, whose leaderships were undermined by rows over climate policy.
“Whether it’s fixed or floating, it’s still a tax. Only this time you’ve got the floating tax that will hit households, and then you’ve got this other tax that’s going to hit power stations and then you’ve got a third tax that’s going to hit the price of cars. All up it shows you can’t trust Labor not to be a pain in the hip pocket,” Mr Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB.
“This government, through direct action, and because of the sensible changes that businesses have put in place is actually securing very strong reductions in emissions. Our emissions by 2020 will be at least 13 per cent down on 2005 levels and we are confident that we can continue on a strong trajectory of emissions reduction without damaging the economy through the imposition of carbon taxes, whether they’re fixed carbon taxes or floating carbon taxes.
“We are confident that we can protect the environment, we can get emissions down without doing damage to the economy. Labor on the other hand wants to damage our economy by reintroducing not just a carbon tax but a triple whammy carbon tax on households, on power stations and on cars.”
‘Series of options’
Mr Butler stressed Labor’s policy was not finalised. He described the document as “one of a series of options papers” to guide thinking within shadow cabinet.
“I want to stress that this is just one of a series of papers that have been prepared over a period of time and there has not even been the beginning of a discussion yet in shadow cabinet about this,” Mr Butler said.
“We are committed to Australia doing its fair share to ensure that global warming does not exceed two degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial levels. We’ve been very clear that we will not introduce a carbon tax.”
Mr Butler affirmed Labor’s commitment to an emissions trading scheme comprising “a legal cap on carbon pollution” that would use market forces to determine the cheapest and the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is the sort of scheme you see operating in North America, in the United Kingdom, in places like Germany and France, and increasingly in our own region, like in South Korea, and China. It’s also the scheme that almost all economists and most business leaders accept is the most effective and efficient way to bring down carbon pollution in an economy,” Mr Butler said.
“We’ve also said, though, that we want to take to the election a bold plan to increase Australia’s ambition around renewable energy; that is Labor’s framework for climate change policy.
Mr Butler said it was “obviously unfortunate” the document was leaked to The Daily Telegraph “whether through carelessness or someone wanting to big note themselves”. He denied the leak was an attempt to undermine Mr Shorten’s leadership.
“I want to stress that this is just one of a series of papers that have been prepared over the period of time and there is not even been the beginning of a discussion yet in shadow cabinet about this,” Mr Butler said.
“We are having discussions with stakeholders, there is an orderly process of policy development going on and I can give this assurance to the Australian people: Labor will have the only serious climate change and renewable energy policy at the next election and the details of that policy will be released to the Australian people in due course.”
Mr Butler described the government’s Direct Action program as a “dressed up slush fund” in which billions of dollars are “handed over to big polluters, in most cases to do things they were going to do anyway”.
“Because of Tony Abbott’s attacks on renewable energy, carbon pollution is starting to rise in if electricity sector to a greater extent than polluters being paid to reduce it,” he said.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the leak was “clearly an attempt to either kill the tax or kill Bill”.
“On what’s being reported, there’s a massive double tax but there’s no compensation so pensioners, low income families, farmers, drivers, everybody, will get hit with a massive new carbon tax,” Mr Hunt said.
“If Bill Shorten says ‘don’t believe what my own cabinet shadow cabinet papers say’, the message is very clear: You can’t trust Bill, you can’t trust Labor, your taxes are going up, your electricity is going up, your gas is going up, your refrigerants are going up, your petrol is going up; it’s there in black and white.
“Two things come out of this. A massive tax in electricity prices, gas prices, potentially fuel prices, but there’s also a split of catastrophic proportions. Who leaked Labor’s plan? Why did they leak Labor’s plan? Was it a plan to kill the tax, or to kill Bill?