Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Carbon tax enacted -- price rises soon

The government's controversial carbon tax has passed through the Parliament - and is now set to become law.

Electricity suppliers have warned that their bills will rise under the scheme because they will apply a "risk premium" to current price contracts as a hedge against more expensive carbon permits later on.

But the Government says its compensation package is adequate and will flow to nine out of 10 households and more than fully compensate many for any extra costs. Treasury modelling predicts the average household will pay an extra $9.90 per week under the scheme but will receive $10.10 in compensation.

This is backed by more recent independent modelling, which found the compensation - starting two months before the price applies in May next year - will leave the average household $2.20 better off per week after compensation.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who voted against the scheme, said electricity costs would increase by 10 per cent because the Government had defeated his amendment to allow for the deferred payment of forward-dated carbon permits.

"Energy companies forward-sell electricity - it's a core part of their business. Why would we make them pay upfront for permits which they won't receive the revenue for until years later?" he said.

The Senate vote, which was greeted by applause in the packed public galleries, gives Australia one of the world's first economy-wide carbon pricing systems from July 1, 2012.

It will apply to fewer than 500 of the largest polluting companies and begin with an initial fixed value of $23 a tonne, climbing by 5 per cent a year before moving to a full floating price from mid-2015.

However, the $23 figure, set months ago, is more than double that on Europe's carbon market, where the price has plummeted recently amid its widening economic malaise.

Ms Gillard applauded yesterday's vote, calling it "historic Labor reform", but it remains deeply unpopular with voters and comes at a difficult time for households already facing skyrocketing power bills.

Adelaide electricity prices have increased by 25 per cent in the past year, 4 per cent more than the next-largest increase in Hobart.

Energy Users Association of Australia executive director Roman Domanski said the Producer Price Index information released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed electricity prices had continued to rise by "large and disturbing amounts over the past year" in all states. "The level of electricity price increases we are seeing across the country continues to be of major concern," he said.

Cries of "betrayal" and "doormats to the Greens" echoed across the Senate as the package passed into law.

Ms Gillard acknowledged that some voters harboured "a great deal of anxiety" about the tax. She flagged an advertising campaign, saying the Government would take the necessary steps to give people the facts.

But she faces a steep climb back to voters' hearts, especially as the Opposition will tie all future price rises to the new carbon price - whether related or not. "It is not a defeat - it's an adjournment," said Nationals frontbencher Barnaby Joyce.

Opposition MPs drew out the vote for as long as possible to expose Ms Gillard's no-carbon-tax promise. But in the end, the 18-Bill Clean Energy package passed with 36 Labor and Greens votes to 32 Opposition and independents.


Just who's going to pay our bills now that the carbon tax has passed?

FOR a few, it was a moment to celebrate and to embrace. Greens leader Bob Brown emerged from parliament into a thunderstorm to declare "even the heavens are clapping".

But as the carbon tax Julia Gillard vowed never to impose was passed into law, yesterday marked a dark day for the majority of Australians opposed to it. According to her detractors, Ms Gillard's "betrayal" was now complete.

And with the passing of the controversial tax came an admission from the government it had effectively divided the nation - anyone who disagreed with it would stand accused as a "naysayer" or "denier".

"This has been a victory for the optimists and a defeat for the naysayers," Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan said.

Finance Minister Penny Wong claimed a clear divide in Australian politics between "those who speak to hope and optimism and those who want to drum up fear".

The divide appeared close to home, with a prominent government MP absent when the senate voted on the legislation just after midday. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who reportedly believes the carbon tax is destroying the government, chose to stay in a cabinet sub-committee meeting during the historic vote.

Liberal MPs seized on a handshake between Mr Brown and Labor Senate leader Chris Evans.

"That handshake between the leader of the government and the leader of the Australian Greens says it all about the betrayal and the sellout of traditional Australia Labor Party values to the Greens," Liberal senate leader Eric Abetz said.

He added that the passage of the tax was: "The grossest betrayal of an electoral mandate in Australian political history."

The carbon tax will add an average $514.80 a year to family bills and, while most will receive compensation, high-income families will pay as much as $1031 a year with just $6 in tax cuts.

Concern Australians would pay a $23 a tonne carbon price which is now twice the rate in Europe after a market collapse there were dismissed by the government.

The Greens hailed yesterday's vote as a victory for their share in power, crowing Ms Gillard only won their support to guarantee supply because she agreed to a tax. "I think everybody around Australia knows this has been delivered because we have a power-sharing parliament," deputy Greens leader Christine Milne said.

Mr Brown called the carbon tax "timid" and "short of the mark" but said it was "gallant" and he claimed Australians would be grateful for the tax in 50 to 500 years.

Mr Swan claimed the bills had only passed because Ms Gillard was "tough as nails". "Putting in place long-term reform, tough reform, in this country is always hard," he said.

Ms Gillard was asked if she regretted her comments before the election but she insisted she was proud: "I've made decisions in the nation's interests."

She claimed every living Liberal leader, including Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, supported pricing carbon. Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt vowed to make the next election a referendum on the carbon tax while Mr Abbott said from London he would repeal the tax if he won office.

Ms Gillard vowed to fight, saying Labor would support it "five years, in 10 years".

The government is likely to begin a costly ad campaign, with Ms Gillard saying she wanted Australians to have correct information.


What a story from Mr Story!

University bosses forced to resign but have done nothing wrong???? Tell us another one! Both my son and I are graduates of UQ so this blemish on its administration could damage the reputation of our qualifications

FIVE days after The Courier-Mail revealed an enrolment controversy at our most esteemed learning institution, the University of Queensland still refuses to reveal what happened.

More than 50,000 students and staff, and nearly 200,000 alumni - not to mention millions of taxpayers - have not been told what details were behind the enrolment "irregularity".

The university doggedly refuses to release the independent legal report into the scandal that could explain what may be its biggest ethical challenge in 100 years.

University of Queensland vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield was in the South Korean capital of Seoul yesterday, lecturing an international audience of academics about how universities can prosper in the modern business world.

It was sadly ironic, considering his own university was slipping further into the mire of public mistrust.

Professor Greenfield should have been at home answering questions about his own role in the enrolment saga that has engulfed the top-rank university.

So many questions remain unanswered. The public deserves answers, not obfuscation and half-truths.

There is an overwhelming public interest in telling the full story of why vice-chancellor Greenfield and his deputy Michael Keniger were forced out after the investigation found "irregularities" in the enrolment of a student known to them.

How the "irregularity" was uncovered we do not know.

Was the student at the centre of the allegations asked to give evidence? Did Chancellor John Story engage in an elaborate cover-up enshrined in Prof Greenfield's resignation letter to staff which was deliberately kept from the media?

While Prof Greenfield remains in South Korea he avoids scrutiny. Chancellor Story should order him back immediately.

How long can the university Senate, the governing body, tolerate this controversy? Mr Story confirmed he had ordered an investigation by an unidentified barrister after allegations of favouritism surfaced.

While the report remains under wraps, the community is rife with speculation.

Mr Story's role, too, is under scrutiny. He would not reveal the student's identity, nor the student's relationship with the men who run one of the nation's largest universities.

Mr Story said an investigation conducted independently of the university "confirmed irregularities in the enrolment process" of a student.

A prominent alumni joined the debate yesterday, saying Prof Greenfield should quit immediately.

Dr Andrew Laming, the Member for Bowman and a graduate of the university's medical school, also called on the university to "come clean" and provide a "full and transparent account" of why Prof Greenfield and Prof Keniger were forced out. "How can it be that whatever occurred was serious enough to force two early retirements but not two immediate resignations?" Dr Laming asked.

While Prof Keniger is leaving in December, Prof Greenfield has been allowed by the university senate to stay on until June 2012, shortly after he turns 65.

Financial observers believe this will enhance Prof Greenfield's final payout, which may be in excess of $3 million.

Mr Story continues to shroud the affair in secrecy, refusing to reveal the relationship of the student at the centre of the controversy to Prof Greenfield and Prof Keniger. He insisted there had been no findings of misconduct against them.

Mr Laming called on Prof Greenfield to return to Australia immediately to explain his role in the affair, and for the independent barrister's report to be made public. "I am particularly concerned that the independent external investigation by a senior counsel which was ordered by the Chancellor John Story in September has not been made available," Mr Laming said.

"This report must be made available as a matter of urgency and its author identified so that the process of restoring trust in the system can begin."

Mr Laming said the community insisted on the highest ethical standards when it came to university entrance procedures. "Any deviation will undoubtedly have a serious impact on the university's reputation."


Toothless watchdog steps down

CRIME and Misconduct Commission chairperson Martin Moynihan has announced he will step down from the agency.

His decision announced today was being taken for personal reasons and comes three months before his two-year contract was due to expire in February 2012.

On the advice of his doctor, Mr Moynihan last month took leave after he had an accident which has continued to affect his health.

"It is with regret that I announce my decision to stand down," he said in a statement. "However, under the current circumstances, I believe it is in the best interest of the organisation."

The chairman of the corruption watchdog had indicated to the State Government that he would not extend his appointment beyond February 7 next year.

He said stability was important for the CMC, which has undergone significant restructuring over the past year and is continuing to change.

"The impact of the accident has meant that I can't dedicate the necessary time to ensure that the important work of the CMC continues," Mr Moynihan said. "I would like to take this opportunity to commend my fellow commissioners and all CMC staff for their commitment and hard work during my term. "It has been a privilege to be a part of a unique organisation that answers to all Queenslanders, protecting them from serious crime and ensuring high standards of integrity in the public sector."

Mr Moynihan's resignation takes effect from November 18. The state government will appoint an acting chair. [And hopefully a person to sit in it]


Left ready to fight for gay marriage

THE Labor Left will take on the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, over gay marriage by pushing the party to adopt a policy of outright support rather than a conscience vote.

Firing the first salvo ahead of the ALP national conference in three weeks, the federal minister and senior figure in the Left, Mark Butler, said a conscience vote should not apply to same-sex marriage because it is not a "life-and-death" issue like abortion, euthanasia or stem cell research.

Labor policy opposes same-sex marriage and supports the Marriage Act definition as a union between a man and a woman.
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Ms Gillard, who personally opposes same-sex marriage, is expected to make a statement before the national conference supporting changing the policy to that of a conscience vote.

The Right, including the ultra-conservative sub-faction of the Right allied to the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, is lining up to support a conscience vote.

In a shock outcome, a source from the SDA sub-faction told the Herald it would be backing the Prime Minister's position.

Writing in today's Herald, Mr Butler, whose position will reflect that of the Left, says the definition of marriage contained in the act should be changed and "I will oppose the granting of a conscience vote".

Mr Butler said the Left respects the rights of churches and other religious organisations to restrict marriages in their organisation to that between a man and a woman.

Subsequently, any change to the Marriage Act would be accompanied by legislation to protect churches and other religious organisations from anti-discrimination lawsuits should they refuse to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.

"A price well worth paying to break this deadlock," he said.

He argued that the "essentially religious construction of marriage" has subordinated the civil standard of equal treatment.

"Australia should also recognise that marriage is now predominantly a civil institution and apply standard principles of equal treatment to at least civil ceremonies," Mr Butler said.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Carbon tax will be sold through distraction and mis-direction. Enter Gay Marriage (from Stage Left I suppose).

As I've said before. This issue will never be decided one way or the other because it's too precious as a political distraction/weapon/grandstand. A resolution will destroy its usefulness.