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Carbon tax back on track

Clive Palmer
AAP
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The Abbott government is confident of repealing the carbon tax next week after an assurance from Clive Palmer that changes he wants won’t apply broadly to business.

Talks between Palmer United Party staff and government officials were progressing on Friday, a day after the party’s senators joined with Labor and the Greens to vote down the government’s carbon tax repeal.

However, PUP leader Clive Palmer was not directly involved, he’s taking a short break in New Zealand before parliament again debates the legislation on Monday.

“The Palmer United Party is fighting for Australians to have a fair go,” Mr Palmer tweeted on Friday.

“We want lower gas/electricity prices and (are) not trying to disrupt government.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday talked down the scale of the problem facing the government on fulfilling the key election promise to axe the tax.

“This is the kind of thing that you could expect with a new Senate, with people coming in who don’t have a lot of parliamentary experience,” Mr Abbott said, adding, again, he was determined to scrap the tax as quickly as possible.

A government spokesman said Mr Palmer had confirmed the amendment he wants would only narrowly apply to electricity and gas retailers, which should calm nerves in the business sector.

Australian Industry Group chief Innis Willox feared the changes would mean tough new penalties will not only apply to electricity and gas companies, but also force businesses that use a lot of refrigerants – such as abattoirs or cafes – to justify their prices once the carbon tax is scrapped.

“It seems that good policy has got lost in the wash for what we believe is a very ill-thought out reason and it just has the potential to create chaos,” Mr Willox said.

Peter Strong, from the Council of Small Business, said the amendment appeared to have many “unintended consequences”.

PUP negotiators said their aim was to guarantee cost savings were passed on to consumers and business quickly.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Kate Carnell said she was optimistic the government would achieve its goal.

“But the negotiations of getting a way through are going to be incredibly difficult,” she said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott had been too arrogant to properly negotiate with the crossbenchers.

“He thinks he’s the only team on the football field,” he said.

“He doesn’t understand why those in the grandstand should even be allowed to disagree with him.”

Government Senate leader Eric Abetz expects the “technical difficulty” with the repeal bill could be overcome when reintroduced with amendment to the lower house on Monday.

“That should then enable the legislation to come back to the Senate late Monday, hopefully for discussion on Tuesday, with resolution, one would hope, Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said.

“But I’ve been in the Senate long enough not to try to predict outcomes.”

The government needs the three PUP senators and three other crossbench votes to repeal the tax.

 

HOW THE CARBON TAX LIVED ANOTHER DAY

Monday

  • Government tries to introduce bills into the Senate one week early. Motion fails without crucial Palmer United Party support. A deal is later struck and debate begins

Tuesday

  • Rookie senator Ricky Muir introduces amendment to safeguard funding for climate body ARENA

Wednesday

  • Senator Muir splits from PUP allies and votes against government motion to gag debate, which causes the motion to fail and continues debate
  • New senator David Leyonhjelm splits off and then defeats a bill in the repeal package with Senate support, allowing carbon tax compensation to proceed in 2015
  • PUP announces it won’t support Senator Muir’s amendment but will vote with him against ARENA abolition down the track. Senator Muir drops amendment in exchange for PUP support
  • The quartet agree to back government moves to repeal the tax by Thursday

Thursday

  • Tony Abbott declares Thursday “should be the day when the carbon tax is finally scrapped” and reminds the crossbench senators of their election commitments to back the repeal.
  • The government seeks to cut debate short on the bills in the Senate and force a vote as a matter of urgency, setting an 11.50am deadline
  • Clive Palmer sends parliament into a spin by announcing his party won’t back the repeal until the government agrees to last-minute changes to his amendment
  • The three PUP senators and the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party’s Ricky Muir – all expected to back the government’s repeal – side with Labor and the Greens to defeat the legislation
  • The government announces it will support PUP’s changes and vows to reintroduce the carbon tax repeal legislation to parliament next Monday

 

WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT THE CARBON TAX VOTE:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott before the vote:

“I have great confidence in the ability of the Senate leadership team.”

Labor Senate leader Penny Wong tells parliament about the government’s move to force an urgent vote on the carbon tax repeal bills:

“It certainly takes a special blend of arrogance and incompetence to seek both to guillotine and filibuster in the same debate.”

Wong again:

“The Palmer United Party may have been sold a PUP. Sorry, I had to say that once.”

Labor climate change spokesman Mark Butler tells reporters in Adelaide:

“What we saw over the last 20 minutes or so is utter chaos.”

Government Senate leader Eric Abetz says with a straight face:

“This is a technical issue which we believe will be overcome.”

Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett on Clive Palmer:

“He reminds me of a great blimp flying around this world of ours, this country of ours, and every now and then it lets off steam, or, to use a Clive Palmer expression, he just farts.”

Clive Palmer:

“Of course the matter may be sorted out, I don’t know. But that’s how it stands at the moment.”

Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne tells the Senate:

“The government says it hates red tape and green tape but apparently it loves yellow (the colour of the Palmer United Party) tape.”

Milne tells reporters:

“Tony Abbott is a crash or crash-through prime minister, and today he crashed.”

Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm and Family First’s Bob Day tell reporters after the vote:

“We think this is not a good situation.”

Abetz ends a press conference at Parliament House:

“All right, thanks a lot. Thank you. Thank you.”

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese reminds everyone about the record of a certain minority government by tweeting:

“Gillard Labor Govt managed to pass 595 Bills through House of Reps with 0 defeated by the #noalition.” (sic)

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young sums up reaction to the vote and events leading up to it with a one-word tweet: “Wow”.