A long time coming …
… but the legislation for a carbon tax/fixed price emissions scheme has finally passed the House of Representatives, and is assured of passage through the Senate. Assuming the government can survive that long, it will come into force at the beginning of 2012-13.
Before any analysis, some (qualified) congratulations are in order. The Greens (with my support at the time, for what that was worth) took a big gamble in rejecting the badly-compromised Rudd-Turnbull deal, and have contributed to the passage of a much better bill now. Still, it turned out to be a long-shot. If the Gillard government had either won an absolute majority or lost to Tony Abbott, there would be no carbom tax. Kevin Rudd laid a lot of the groundwork, but failed to call a double dissolution, which he would surely have won, when the first version of the emissions trading scheme was blocked. Malcolm Turnbull has been a voice of sanity throughout, but still voted the party line. Last but not least, Julia Gillard, having almost succeeded in killing the whole idea in 2010 demonstrated her skills in getting an exceptionally contentious piece of legislation through, despite disastrous polls and the most fragile conceivable majority.
Now, a bit of a look towards the future
Now that the legislation has been passed, the doomsayers who predicted economic ruin will be put to the test. Will the businesses who have claimed catastrophic effects cease investment or een shut up shop altogether? Will the economy go into a tailspin? Unless the global economy collapses at the same time, these predictions are going to look sillier and sillier as the date for the tax approaches, and even sillier once it comes into effect. On the other hand, benefits like the increase in the tax-free threshold will be obvious to all.
So, if the government can run its full term, they have a much better chance of re-election than it might seem at present. Abbott will be shown up for the fraud he has always been, as will the entire right-wing commentariat.
But getting there is a big problem. Getting this legislation passed was a big achievement, but a great many voters will never forgive Gillard for the promises she made before the election (and semantic disputes about whether it’s a price or a tax won’t convince anyone who doesn’t want to be convinced). I remain of the view that she could do most to salvage her place in history by gracefully stepping aside once the bill passes the Senate.