Clive Palmer has emerged from talks with the Prime Minister, confident the carbon tax will be scrapped and savings to power prices passed onto consumers.
Late yesterday, Mr Palmer revealed his party’s position that it would vote with the Coalition in the Senate to repeal the carbon pricing scheme, but only if lower power prices were locked in.
“I think we can work a solution out on carbon tax, we can ensure that electricity prices will come down for Australians. I think that’s a positive thing,” Mr Palmer said shortly after this morning’s meeting.
“I think that’s an important aspect of it. What’s the point of reducing it if we don’t get the benefit for Australians?”
Tony Abbott’s office has described the discussion as “constructive” and says the Government will consider the detail of any amendments.
WA Premier warns PM about Palmer
But West Australia’s Liberal Premier Colin Barnett has warned the Prime Minister not to negotiate with the businessman-turned-MP.
“I think he is a volatile individual, and I fear for Australian Government if he is going to be given a prime place on policy issues,” Mr Barnett told ABC Local Radio in Perth.
“If I was in [the PM’s] position I would be simply bowling in the legislation to abolish the carbon tax and force Clive to vote one way or the other.”
The two met just before federal MPs resumed debate in the Lower House on the Government’s repeal legislation.
Labor’s environment spokesman, Mark Butler, says the Coalition’s move is based on falsehoods.
“These bills represent the culmination of the most hysterical and mendacious campaign in modern Australian political history,” he told the House.
New Senate may debate carbon tax repeal bill in early July
But the bill is destined to pass the House on the Coalition’s numbers – a vote the Government hopes will happen today.
It could then become the first order of business before the new Senate, which will sit for the first time on July 7.
The billionaire businessman’s Palmer United Party (PUP) will hold three seats in the Upper House – a balance of power role that has been bolstered by an agreement with the Victorian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir.
Mr Palmer says his meeting over “a cup of tea” with Mr Abbott – the first since the two men fell-out two years ago – focused on his announcements yesterday that PUP would vote to repeal the carbon tax, with the significant caveat that power companies would – by law – be forced to pass on any savings to customers.
The party leaders also discussed the PUP decision to vote to block the Government’s bid to abolish climate change bodies – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Authority – as well as the Renewable Energy Target.
The PUP leader said his party also wanted to see the creation of an emissions trading scheme similar to the one proposed by former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd.
But the PUP version would only come into effect when Australia’s main trading partners establish a scheme.
“The PM was prepared to look at things. He has got certain policy objectives. He wants to listen to the Australian community, that was clear,” Mr Palmer said this morning.
Mr Palmer says there was no animosity between them and that he believes Mr Abbott is a “good guy”.
“I smiled at the prime minister when I met him; when you smile at someone they smile back at you,” he said.
“Hopefully then you can see into their soul, there’s a meeting of common purpose.”
- Keep the 5 per cent emission reduction target
- Scrap the price on carbon and associated corporations
- Establish a $ 2.55 billion fund to pay businesses for emission reduction projects
- Create a 15,000 strong Green Army to conduct conservation work
The Greens have welcomed Mr Palmer’s move to support the retention of the climate change institutions it set up with Labor.
But Greens leader Christine Milne says the current scheme should be kept as well.
“My job now is to try to persuade Clive Palmer that the emissions trading scheme we have got that is legislated, that is operating, that is bringing down emissions, should stay,” she told AM.
The Senator also pointed to Mr Palmer’s own commercial interests in the debate.
“It’s very clear that he’s a coal billionaire – he wants to develop a new coal mine and coal port. He operates a nickel smelter,” she said.
“All of those things are absolutely the case which is why he abstained from the vote in the Lower House and which is why I’ve said all along that his senators should abstain from the vote as well.”
Mr Palmer revealed his party’s position at a media event in Parliament’s Great Hall, flanked by climate change campaigner and former US vice-president Al Gore.
MP questions Al Gore’s credibility
Liberal MP Dennis Jensen says Mr Gore has lost all credibility.
“Gore will take money for anything,” he told Parliament.
“Everything Al Gore does is with a view to profit him directly or to benefit him in some way.”
Mr Palmer has stressed that he did not pay Mr Gore – whose international speaking fee begins at $ 150,000 – to attend the announcement.
“He came here for the air. I did buy him dinner I think when he got here and said I was happy to meet with him,” the PUP leader said.
“Al Gore’s a person of great integrity and he’s got an excellent reputation. It challenges the concept of journalists themselves, to see me and Al Gore together.
“Is it so bad that two people talk try to get a resolution?”
Mr Gore served as US vice-president for eight years from 1993 and has spent most of his time since leaving office focusing on ways to combat climate change – efforts which were the subject of the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
He praised Mr Palmer’s plans for a new ETS in Australia but admitted axing the carbon tax was not favourable.
“While I will be disappointed if the immediate price on carbon is removed because it is a policy which I believe to be ultimately critical to solving the climate crisis, I am extremely hopeful that Australia will continue to play a global leadership role on this most pressing issue,” Mr Gore said.
If Labor and the Greens oppose government legislation, Mr Abbott will have to negotiate with a micro-party crossbench of eight senators, six of whose votes will be needed to pass any bills.
Mr Palmer has already declared PUP will not support billions of dollars in budget measures including the $ 7 GP fee, the increase to fuel excise, the new paid parental leave scheme and changes to pensions.
Legislation to axe the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – which funds renewable energy projects – has already been knocked back by the Senate twice, giving the Abbott Government its first trigger for a double-dissolution election.
The renewable energy target (RET), which also aims to boost the use of renewable energy, is currently being reviewed by the Government.
And the Government wants to scrap the Climate Change Authority, which was set up to review the RET and Australia’s emissions reduction targets, but the Senate has knocked back that legislation once.
Legislation for the Government’s direct action plan passed the Lower House on Wednesday night but faces almost certain defeat in the Senate.