Australia has repealed the tax, not because it has reached a new level of energy efficiency or produced a more streamlined alternative – in fact, as of 2012 Australia produced 24.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person, which is four times the world average.
The tax was repealed because, politically, it was extremely unpopular.
Australia remains one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita due to its reliance on coal-fired electricity, a plentiful – and therefore cheap – resource. The carbon tax, ever a political hot potato, was passed only because former Prime Minister Julia Gillard needed the support of the minor Greens party in 2010. The Greens insisted on the tax and Gillard compromised. The tax was levied on about 350 of Australia’s biggest carbon polluters.
Immediately the tax was criticized from businesses and conservative politicians alike. “It really did impact on the competitiveness of many Australian businesses and of course it put up the price of power,” said Kate Carnell, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Last year, Tony Abbott ascended to Prime Ministership largely on the promise of killing the tax and reducing voters’ energy bills. Today stands as a victory for Abbott and his party.
“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,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten does not share Abbott’s views. “Today, Tony Abbott has made Australia the first country in the world to reverse action on climate change,” he 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.”
Rupert Murdoch, the Australian multi-billionaire media mogul, applauded the decision. Murdoch, who recently stirred controversy in the climate community, called the carbon tax a “hand brake” on the economy. “Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here… Things are happening. How much of it are we doing, with emissions and so on? As far as Australia goes? Nothing in the overall picture.”
The Australian senate overturned the tax by a vote of 39 to 32.