Surprise praise from business lobby group centres on ALP climate policy’s potential to become bipartisan, despite Coalition criticism
April 27, 2016 — Labor’s climate policy has won unexpected praise from the Business Council of Australia’s chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, who said the plan could provide a platform for bipartisanship and “build a bridge” for an emission trading scheme.
The BCA has previously lobbied the Senate to repeal the carbon tax and complained of the “high cost of the carbon tax and other green energy policies on business”.
But on Wednesday, Westacott released a statement calling for “Australia to begin the careful transformation of our economy if we are to achieve our lower emission future”.
She welcomed Labor’s differentiation between key sectors of the economy after it proposed two emissions trading schemes – one for big industrial polluters and one for the electricity industry.
“The federal opposition’s climate change action plan, released on Wednesday, could provide a platform for bipartisanship to deliver the energy and climate change policy durability needed to support this critical transformation,” Westacott said.
“The last thing Australia needs is to start from scratch on carbon policy. With the support of business and the community in developing specific measures, the opposition’s plan could build a bridge from the existing regulatory frameworks to the first phase of their proposed emissions trading scheme.”
Westacott said the BCA supported measures to reduce emissions, including shifting the mix of power sources away from higher emission technologies towards low or zero-emission technologies, encouraging greater energy efficiency, better managing land use and encouraging the adoption of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Labor’s outlined its climate policy on Wednesday, proposing two emissions trading schemes and committing to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 on 2005 levels – as recommended by the Climate Change Authority, compared with the Coalition’s pledge of a reduction between 26% and 28%.
The Coalition seized on the policy, repeating Tony Abbott’s arguments against the emissions trading scheme (ETS) in 2013. Malcolm Turnbull described an ETS as “effectively another tax” and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce accusing Labor of trying to push up power prices.
“In order to deliver a near doubling of our emissions targets, [Labor] will have to very significantly increase the cost of energy, the cost of electricity and all other power,” Turnbull said. “So that is going to be another brake on the economy.”
Joyce has revived the Coalition’s $100 lamb roast scare campaign and suggested Labor’s policy to allow the commonwealth to prevent land clearing would lead to “new policemen on people’s farms”.
oyce, who faces a challenge in his New England electorate from former independent Tony Windsor, accused a “Labor-Greens-Independent alliance” of trying to “make people poorer”.
“[The power price issue] is the one that takes that last $20 or $30 or $50 out of your wallet so you don’t have the capacity to go and have a cup of coffee with the other ladies down at the coffee shop … because you have to pay your power bill”.
In 2009, Joyce suggested the carbon tax and the ETS implemented by Labor would lead to $100 lamb roasts – a threat that never eventuated.
Asked on Wednesday whether a return to an ETS would cause the fabled $100 lamb roast, Joyce said “it clearly says if you start putting up power prices of course the price of everything will be affected”.
Labor’s policy would also establish a legal trigger to allow the commonwealth to prevent runaway land clearing, particularly in Queensland, which is threatening to undo Australia’s emissions reductions elsewhere.
Joyce said the issue of land clearing was an issue for state governments and the Coalition policy was to “leave well enough alone”.
He said Labor was disregarding the Queensland and New South Wales parliaments.
“This is a realm for the states, and it’s not a realm for the federal government to be going in,” Joyce said. “This is one of the greatest things that’s absolutely infuriates people. Because they say that’s my private asset.”
Releasing the policy, Bill Shorten said Turnbull was “selling out what he used to believe” and predicted the prime minister would “keep trying to trump up a sort of rich man’s Tony-Abbott-scare-campaign”.
“Before he became the leader of the Liberal party he said Mr Abbott’s policies were an economic can fig leaf, a climate change fig leaf to mask the determination of the Abbott government to do nothing on climate change,” Shorten said.
“Now he’s the champion of the climate sceptics.”