The bill, if passed, will mean the nation’s biggest producers of carbon emissions will be forced to pay to pollute from July 1, 2012 – initially at a fixed price before moving to a market-based trading scheme.
“It’s time to deliver the action on climate change we need,” Gillard told the House of Representatives. “To act on climate change. To cut carbon pollution.”
Gillard was cheered by the public after making her statement on the first of 18 carbon tax bills, but during Question Time shortly afterwards faced angry shouts of “No carbon tax” from protesters in the gallery.
Australia, per capita one of the world’s worst polluters and a major exporter of coal, has long grappled with how to combat climate change, and previous bills to introduce emissions trading schemes have been defeated.
Gillard has the numbers to get her Clean Energy Bill 2011 through parliament, but it is bitterly opposed by the conservative opposition, which argues it will be ineffective, affect jobs and increase the cost of living.
Thousands of people have protested at rallies nationwide against the levy, accusing Gillard of lying when she said ahead of her narrow August 2010 election win there would be no carbon tax under a government she led.
Gillard acknowledged that there had been years of heated debate but said most Australians now agreed carbon pollution was changing the climate and harming the environment and economy in the process.
“Today we move from words to deeds. This parliament is going to get this done,” she said.
The government hopes the tax will, by 2050, help lower emissions by 80 per cent of 2000 levels, thereby helping slow global warming and save natural treasures such as the Great Barrier Reef.
The bill, due to be voted on on October 12, provides for a fixed carbon price for three years, starting at A$23 (B714) per tonne of carbon pollution, before moving to a cap and trade emissions scheme in 2015.
The government has pledged to use much of the money raised to provide tax cuts, increase family payments and invest in clean energy.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott said the government had no mandate for the tax and again vowed to repeal it if he can get into office.
“It’s never disruptive to get rid of a bad tax,” he told the ABC.
“It’s always advantageous to reduce business costs. [Manufacturers] don’t want this tax, and if they get it they will want to be rid of it as quickly as they possibly can.” – AFP