Carbon tax bills head to the Senate

Senate will now vote on carbon tax bills after the House of Representatives passed them today

By Brad Gardner | October 12, 2011

The carbon tax is one step closer to being introduced after the House of Representatives passed legislation to usher in the scheme.

The Federal Government’s 19 carbon tax bills have now been sent to the Senate to be voted on before the end of the year. The carbon tax is scheduled to begin on July 1, 2012 and will apply to around 500 of the nation’s biggest polluters.

Despite fierce opposition to the tax from the Coalition and claims the government should "hang their heads in shame" for supporting the inclusion of the trucking industry in the scheme, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet labelled the vote an "historic moment".

"For the first time Australia will have a price on carbon that will put us on the path to significant reductions in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere," Combet says.

He labelled the carbon tax package as "one of the most important environmental and economic reforms in this nation’s history".

"The government’s clean energy legislation addresses the science. It will reduce carbon pollution, it will drive investment in clean energy and it will ensure that Australia plays its part internationally," he says.

But during debate on the tax yesterday, Nationals Senator John Williams criticised the government for its plan to apply the tax to the trucking industry from July 1, 2014 through a 6.85 cent-per-litre reduction in the fuel tax credit.

He referred to comments made by Transport Workers Union (TWU) boss Tony Sheldon, who likened the carbon tax to a "death tax" because it would eat into the already tight profit margins of small operators.

Without a safe rates scheme, Sheldon claims the introduction of the tax will drive down safety because operators will need to work longer and harder to make ends meet.

"People in the Labor Party, supported by the Transport Workers Union, should hang their heads in shame – a $510 million tax a year on the truckies when they have already introduced their Euro 5 motors," Williams says.

"I wonder whether those on the other side, who are supported by the Transport Workers Union, will heed the warning of Mr Sheldon."

However, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday argued the carbon tax would have a small impact on the industry’s fuel bill in the context of fluctuating prices operators already deal with.

Williams claims trucking companies that have switched to the Euro engines are effectively paying a tax because the units use 10 percent more fuel than older models.

"Hence the truckies have already paid their tax by cleaning up their motors," Williams says.

During an interview with ABC Radio today, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott gave "a pledge in blood" he would scrap the carbon tax if he won office.

"We can repeal the tax, we will repeal the tax, we must repeal the tax," he says.

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