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This week on the election campaign trail the phrases “carbon tax” and “net zero” have been flung back and forth between the major parties.
There is a split within the Coalition on climate policy, with Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan declaring net zero by 2050 “dead” before the prime minister was forced to hose this down.
Scott Morrison has also accused Labor of planning to sting voters with a “sneaky carbon tax” – despite no evidence of a new tax.
So, is there a carbon tax? Is it new?
No. The “sneaky carbon tax” Mr Morrison appears to be referring to is a safeguards mechanism introduced by former Coalition prime minister Tony Abbott years ago.
The measure was legislated by Mr Abbott’s government after the then-prime minister repealed a “carbon tax” that wasn’t actually a tax.
Mr Morrison today insisted the Coalition use of the mechanism and Labor’s was different, with one a tax and the other not.
“No, the difference is, as would you know, how the thresholds work and the fact we put incentives in place,” he said.
“What Labor is doing is binding them on this and issuing penalties on those companies, so they couldn’t be more different.
“What Labor has is a tax, a sneaky carbon tax and that’s not good for regional Australia. It is not good at all.”
Labor spokesperson Jason Clare today described Mr Morrison’s claim as a “great conspiracy”.
“This goes to show just how desperate the Liberal Party have got now that they’re now saying that something that Tony Abbott created is a carbon tax,” he said.
“Apparently now Tony Abbott created the carbon tax and not only that, he had the vision to do it almost a decade ago and plant it just now in the teeth of an election campaign.
“It is absolute rubbish.”
The safeguard mechanism requires 215 large polluters in Australia to keep their emissions below a certain level or face a penalty.
Labor says it has the mechanism has the support of those 215 large polluters.
“Most of them are represented by the Business Council of Australia and the Business Council of Australia… have given us recommendations on how to make it work better and we’re going to do just that,” Mr Clare said.
The Business Council reiterated its support of the safeguard measures in a statement posted online today.
“The safeguard mechanism is already in place alongside a suite of other measures to reduce emissions, with careful consultation with industry we believe it is the right incentive to drive investment, deliver more jobs and meet our net-zero commitments.
“The concrete, bipartisan commitment to net-zero emissions was a critical step towards giving businesses the certainty they need to make investments, create new jobs, keep Australia an energy superpower and deliver affordable, reliable and secure energy.”
It comes after days of infighting in the Coalition over climate change policies.
What about net zero by 2050?
Both parties have committed to net zero emissions by 2050, with Labor setting a more ambitious target of a 43 per cent reduction by 2030 based on 2005 levels versus the Coalition’s 26 to 28 per cent mark.
This week’s climate wars began with the LNP candidate for Flynn, Colin Boyce, suggesting there was “wiggle room” on net zero before Senator Canavan said the entire target was being scrapped.
The prime minister has needed to put out fires and is insisting the Coalition – except for a few dissenters – are on the same page.
Mr Morrison this morning said Senator Canavan’s position is “not the Coalition’s position and it’s not the government’s position”.
“That’s his view. It’s no surprise,” he said.
“He’s held it for a long time, that debate has been done in the Coalition and is resolved.
“Our policy was set out very clearly.”
Nationals MP Michelle Landry, speaking alongside the prime minister today, was more blunt: “Pull your head in, Matt.”