With the announcement yesterday from the AEC that Palmer United candidate Zhenya Wang has likely won a Senate seat, the carbon price now appears doomed.
The latest count has the Coalition with 33 seats, requiring another six votes to achieve a majority.
The Palmer United Party gives them a further three votes for repeal.
The Tasmanian Palmer United senator-elect Jacqui Lambie had said: “There still needs to be a carbon tax, but it just needs to be a lot lower than it is”. But subsequently recanted, falling into line with Clive Palmer’s overtly hostile opposition to a carbon price (not surprising, given Clive’s interests in developing a huge new coal mine in Queensland).
In addition, Zhenya Wang, (who is managing director of Australasian Resources, majority owned by Palmer) said during his campaign that his priority was abolition of the carbon price.
Another two unambiguous votes for repeal come from the Liberal Democrats' David Leyonhjelm and South Australia’s Family First Senator, Bob Day.
Leyonhjelm told news.com.au that: "We wouldn't stop him [Abbott] from getting rid of the carbon tax."
Meanwhile, Family First are overtly hostile to the proposition that rising levels of greenhouse gases could influence the climate, even though the earth would be frozen solid without them and Venus is 475 degrees for a reason (CO2 makes up 96.5 per cent of Venus’ atmosphere).
The government, then, only needs to convince one of either the DLP’s John Madigan or Australian Motoring Enthusiasts' Ricky Muir for repeal to succeed, which seems pretty much a given.
While Ricky Muir is yet to state what his position would be on repeal, his party don’t exactly appear to be the greatest enthusiasts for environmental regulation.
In addition the DLP’s John Madigan has said he’d "repeal the carbon tax at the first opportunity".
However, there is one extraordinarily faint hope for a carbon price, although in another form.
It would require a bizarre alliance between Nick Xenophon, Madigan and Muir to insist the current emissions cap and trade scheme be replaced not with Direct Action but a baseline and credit emissions trading scheme. Under such a scheme firms that undershoot their pollution baseline would generate emission credits, while firms that exceed their baseline would need to acquire credits.
Nick Xenophon has been a long-time public backer of such a scheme. But in recent months Madigan spoke in favour of something similar stating:
“Instead of imposing a tax we should instead have a penalties scheme whereby a company must, for example, reduce pollutants from 100 per cent to, say, 75 per cent within a defined time period, which is then broken down into yearly reduction targets. If that company fails to adhere to its annual target it must pay a financial penalty that would come straight out of its back pocket, not the consumer’s.”
The “penalty” he refers to could be the requirement to purchase a credit. But the fact is Madigan’s statement doesn’t really make much sense, because what he describes is pretty much the same as the existing emissions trading scheme.
Of course, there seems no reason why Muir would join up in such alliance, so such a push seems likely to fail, and with it a carbon price.
With this outcome the Greens have some tough questions to answer because it was their decision to preference Family First instead of Xenophon that has helped bring on the demise of the carbon price. In a classic case of political pragmatism gone mad, the Greens delivered their preferences to the following parties instead of Xenophon’s running mate:
· Palmer United
· Country Alliance
· Australian Fishing and Lifestyle
· Australian Motoring Enthusiasts
· Shooters and Fishers
· Australian Christians
· The Nationals
· Family First
· Liberal Democrats
and……. drum roll……
· the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics.
Think about that for a second. The Greens in South Australia chose to provide preferences to the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics party over Xenophon’s party.
Worse, they gave them to a party with some hope of getting a Senate quota in Family First who have an explicit and unambiguous public position that increased CO2 will help plants grow better and have no effect on climate.
Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.
*Abbott now expects Senate majority, October 4.