Coalition on carbon tax: Repeal or resign

The Shadow Finance Minister says if the Coalition doesn't repeal the carbon tax, he'll resign. He also spells out the Coalition plan to reshape the Australian economy, and radically alter Commonwealth - state relations.

In the attached Business Spectator video, Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb has committed the ultimate political sin. He has vowed that if the Coalition win the next election and does not grasp the opportunity to implement a particular policy then he will not stand at the next (2016) election.

He went even further.

Robb also committed his leader Tony Abbott to end his political career.

I am, of course, talking about removing the carbon tax either directly or via emissions trading. Readers are able to listen to Robb’s exact words.

Until this statement at the ADC Hayman Leadership Retreat, many who favour a carbon tax were very confident that Tony Abbott will not abandon the carbon/emissions trading tax -- ‘politicians always lie’.

If Abbott and Robb break the undertaking in this video then it will be played over and over again in the 2016 election campaign just as the Gillard carbon "lie” will be a centrepiece of the 2013 election.

Andrew Robb and Shadow Environment Minister Greg Hunt gathered a group of business people at the ADC Hayman Retreat to explain what a Coalition government would look like. It was the first time two senior shadow ministers had at least partially unveiled the curtain that has surrounded so much of the proposed Coalition policy.

Assuming the Coalition won the election on carbon, Hunt was 80 per cent confident that the Labor party would back the new legislation because the 2013 election would have been an effective referendum on the carbon tax just as the previous election was a referendum on Work Choices. The opposition did not stand in the way of Fair Work Australia because of that referendum.

But assuming that Hunt was wrong and Labor blocked the carbon tax removal, the Coalition would immediately go to a double dissolution and theoretically it would be possible for Australia to be rid of the carbon tax eight months after the first election. However, the Coalition was assuming it would take 10 to 12 months from the next election.

The Coalition’s carbon reduction programs would concentrate on incentives not on taxation.

Andrew Robb warned his audience that in 1993, when he was directing the Liberal election campaign, he made a fatal mistake of being pressured into announcing an 800 page Fight Back plan which Paul Keating had over a year to adopt or decimate. It caused the Liberals to lose the "unloseable election”.

Robb is adamant the Coalition will not make that mistake again and as a result will not release the details of its policies well in advance of the election. He did reveal that an incredible amount of work has now been undertaken to prepare a set of policies that might even rival Fight Back in detail and comprehensiveness.

Nevertheless, we are now starting to get a clearer idea of where the Coalition is headed.

Prior to Hayman, Coalition leaders had told business people that the Fair Work act would not be decimated but there would be amendments which would be announced very clearly prior to the election. The Liberals believe there is potential to use the current Fair Work act much more effectively (Coalition shows sign of softening Fair Work stance, August 14).

Shadow Small Business Minister Bruce Billson (Business End of the election, August 3) has flagged that the Rudd-Gillard governments have introduced 18,000 new small business regulations, which would be substantially reduced under a Liberal government. Small business will be a major target for the Coalition. Underpinning the Coalition policies would be a drive to increase growth rather than what the Coalition believes is a Government policy of redistributing wealth.

Robb and Hunt indicated a series of areas where the Coalition would change policy. Here are nine of them:

– The Coalition would separate out a series of industries where it believes Australia is, or can be, a major global leader. Those industries would include mining, agriculture, education, legal services and medical research.
It would do all in its power to foster growth in those areas. For example, it would slash the time required to undertake third stage drug testing, so boosting medial research.

– In the mining sector, apart from abandoning the carbon and mining taxes, an enormous regulation reduction program is planned. Currently, some 8,000 pages of submissions need to be made to get LNG plants off the ground. The requirements would be maintained but the paperwork slashed.

– In agriculture, a new plan to harness northern Australian water resources will be prepared. In the case of the Murray, a new examination will be undertaken aiming to use modern technology to lessen the amount of water required to achieve environmental aims.

– In education there would be a substantial reduction in the regulations for universities and a restoration of most of the visa rules that existed under Howard. Every attempt will made to restore that sector to a major Australian growth area.

– In relations with the states, an entirely new approach is planned. It will revolve around splitting activities between Commonwealth and state. Andrew Robb conceded that past leaders of both parties had been centralists but the new approach would be a federalist one. In the environment area the Commonwealth would undertake the administration of emissions but environmental approvals would be undertaken by the states under clear guidelines set by the Commonwealth. This approach to end duplication would be extended to over a wide area of the Australian landscape.

– As part of the federalist approach, a comprehensive agreement would be reached with as many states as possible. Already there have been extensive consultations with the Queensland government aiming to set out a road map to determine who would do what, where. The Coalition is looking to do similar deals with all other states. By avoiding duplication both the states and the Commonwealth would substantially cut their outlays and improve the services they provide. Those states that do not sign comprehensive power sharing deals were likely to be less prosperous than those that do.

– In defence, the Coalition government will look more closely at ties with India. No comments were made but it was clear that the Coalition understands the deep-seated problems with the Joint Strike Fighter but is not prepared to announce any policies at this point. (However it would seem the Coalition has been reading much of the JSF revelations material that have been published in Business Spectator).

– There is a plan to give state school boards much more power with the ability to reward good teachers. This would be a scheme introduced as part of state cooperation.

– There will be a lot more outsourcing in the Commonwealth.

The government believes that they will mince the Coalition when the Coalition is forced to announce big spending cuts. It is clear that the Coalition believe they are uncovering enormous areas of cost reduction via lesser regulation so services can be improved yet spending slashed.

But not all the Coalition's spending cuts will improve service.

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