While Prime Minister Gillard has every reason to feel a little glum about the direction of the carbon-dioxide tax debate, she has an unlikely supporter in the form of Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu.
In contrast to feisty federal leader Tony Abbott and his fellow Liberal Premiers in NSW and WA, Baillieu is the only currently-serving Liberal Leader on record as supporting a carbon emissions trading scheme.
In November 2009, at a well-attended gathering, then Opposition Leader Baillieu went on record as saying, in what attendees recall as a long and rambling prepared speech where he passionately advocated the view that human activity was largely responsible for climate change, “We want to see carbon emissions reduced. We support an ETS or a CPRS (carbon pollution reduction scheme).â€ These â€œcap-and-tradeâ€ schemes work by the government selling carbon emission permits (a form of tax anyway), mandating that those engaged in carbon emissions must own a number of permits equivalent to those emissions. Permit-holders would be able to sell these permits should they be able reduce their emissions or shut-down their operations.
Thatâ€™s why folk talk about a price on carbon. Itâ€™s ultimately still a tax though because it involves the sale of a permit from the government and that process will raise many billions of dollars in Commonwealth revenues.
BAILLIEU ON CARBON
Prior to that, in October 2008, Baillieu told the Victorian Legislative Assembly:
We support an emission capping and trading scheme as the least costly way of responding to global warming.
And in Parliament again, in November 2009, Baillieu argued:
I share the view that our climate is changing. I also share the view that human activity contributes to that change, and I accept the science that demonstrates we can and should do something about it. I also note that both sides of politics have for some time been committed to an ETS.ndeed the federal coalition under former Prime Minister John Howard first proposed an ETS before the 2007 federal election. That commitment is now evolving into a more detailed scheme under the label of the carbon pollution reduction scheme. [Of course since then the federal Liberals have changed their mind while it appears Baillieu has not]
Baillieu continued enthusiastically, channeling then Climate minister Senator Penny Wong:
The need for action on climate change has been set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including in recent updates. That conclusion is based on a substantial body of work by climate and other scientists. That science is widely accepted. I do note in that regard a survey published earlier this year in the respected journal Eos. In a 2008 survey of more than 3000 scientists, including a broad mix of geochemists, geophysicists, oceanographers, hydrogeologists and climate scientists, 90 per cent of whom held PhDs, more than 90 per cent agreed mean global temperatures had risen since the 1800s, and more than 80 per cent agreed that human activity had contributed to that rise. It is a compelling or, as the motion suggests, ‘overwhelming’ reminder. As legislators we must acknowledge that and take steps to respond. Action must be taken.
Federal Labor in conjunction with the Greens political party intend to introduce a carbon tax as a precursor to a â€œcarbon pollution reduction schemeâ€ or ETS, if you prefer, within the next five years.
Since Baillieu made his position clear the issue has become one of the great fault-lines in Australian politics. Despite that he recently in Parliament confirmed his support for Gillard’s agenda on March 21st this year in Question Time:
We have had a number of debates in this chamber in recent years, and our side of politics was prepared to support the emissions trading scheme post-2007; we were prepared to support a carbonÂ pollution reduction scheme, which was debated in this house in, I think, November 2009; and we have made the point that if we are going to reduce emissions, there will be a price for and a cost to that.
In taking this position, Premier Ted Baillieu appears to be on the other side from his athletic federal leader, every other state Liberal leader, a growing number of trade unions, many industry leaders and some 60% of Australian voters.
TICKING TIME BOMB
Until explored today for the first time by the VEXNEWS Investigation Unit, this split between Victorian and Federal Liberals on the biggest issue currently in Australian politics had not got any serious attention in more somnolent media outlets.
But now more serious questions must be asked. And we can confirm they are being asked in the otherwise relaxed-and-comfortable-in-victory Victorian division of the Liberal party where many activists and members express horror about Baillieuâ€™s view on carbon taxing. One Liberal player asked:
â€œWill the Premier undermine the actions of his many passionate state and federal parliamentary colleagues who have vocally led protests to oppose this new tax by supporting it? Or will he do the right thing once and for all, and ditch his support of this doomed system?â€
They say that Baillieuâ€™s stand on the Greens was impressive, principled and uncharacteristically bold. But they say that opposing them is not just about How-To-Vote cards but also about doing everything in his power to oppose their extreme agenda and the huge costs burden their carbon tax agenda could impose on working families. Some think this could be as high as $800 a year and that the compensation wonâ€™t be as high.
When asked by VEXNEWS about their views on the carbon tax, Victorian Liberal insiders across the board were unanimous in their opposition to the scheme and reiterated their belief that Ted should do all he can to support Tony Abbott’s efforts to oppose the scheme. Our insider put the case well:
Ted Baillieu, while not a traditional conservative should have the common sense to change his mind and clearly and unambiguously oppose a guaranteed vote loser. He need only ask Kevin Rudd who had much higher approval ratings in his prime about the challenges of a small majority and leading your party down a path it doesn’t want to go.
The closest Baillieu has come to opposing Prime Minister Gillard on the carbon tax is pushing for consultation. In that area, and a growing number of other policy areas where a more activist approach is considered wise, the growing view in his own party is that the Premier is simply not doing enough. With former federal MP and Baillieu-booster Petro Georgiou urging him to support â€œaction on climate changeâ€ it seems unlikely heâ€™ll take much action at all on this issue, much to the disappointment of his Liberal support-base.