New leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott has vowed to fight the Federal Government’s amended emissions trading scheme (ETS), calling it a “great big tax.”
Abbott’s first order of business yesterday as Liberal leader was to have his party vote whether it should support the ETS, which saw a motion to delay the scheme carried by 54 votes to 29.
The ETS was subsequently rejected this morning in the Senate by a vote of 41 to 33, with two Liberal MPs crossing the floor and voting in favour.
The Federal Government and the Malcolm Turnbull-led Opposition last week agreed to several amendments to a proposed ETS, including doubling the compensation to the coal industry to $1.5 billion.
Abbott said he believes in fighting climate change, but not with the current proposals.
“We will have a strong and effective climate change policy, it just won’t be this ETS,” he told journalists yesterday.
Executive director of the Australian Aluminium Council Miles Prosser told MINING DAILY he now fears that all of the positive outcomes of the recent negotiations will be lost.
“The ETS negotiation they got to was, while not perfect, better than throwing the whole thing out and starting again,” he said.
“Our concern is that if this leads to going back to a blank sheet of paper and redesigning a scheme, we will have to go back and work through a whole range of issues that we think we have already had to compromise on.”
Prosser said that the key issue of an emissions scheme, namely Australian companies facing costs other countries are not, had been addressed in the previous negotiations.
“The Government had made various measures to try and address the size of those costs,” he said.
“While it was not a perfect outcome and there were still going to be substantial costs, we think it got to the point where they would be bearable.”
Other members of the mining community have welcomed the uncertainty Abbott’s stance has brought to the proposed ETS.
Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) chief executive Mitch Hooke has said that the delay will allow all parties to revisit the ETS and create a better situation for the mining industry.
Along with other lobby groups, such as the NSW Minerals Council and the Queensland Resources Council, the MCA has long been a vocal opponent of the emissions scheme, saying it will cause fundamental damage to the Australian coal industry.
Abbot and the Liberal Party are reluctant to implement a policy that will jeopardise the country’s export industry, particularly coal.
“I am not going to pre-empt what our policy on this will be, but certainly I think it is very important that we keep a free and flexible economy,” Abbot said.