Meeting carbon pricing's oddball jury

The climate change views of a ragtag group of rev-heads, gun, bible and sports loving senators is likely to decide the fate of carbon pricing in Australia.

An extraordinary surge in the protest vote means a range of oddball minor parties will likely decide the fate of the carbon trading scheme, and possibly the cornerstone policy supporting renewable energy – the Renewable Energy Target.

Overall, it looks grim for the continuation of the carbon price and it could be all over in July 2014 when the newly elected senators take their seats.

The final make-up of the Senate is still uncertain but current predictions by the ABC are that the following oddball parties will get up:

– Mining business identity Clive Palmers party will get a senator elected in Queensland and Tasmania.

– Family First will get a senate position in South Australia despite getting only 0.26 of the required quota on first preferences. Meanwhile, Nick Xenophon, who got very close to a two senator quota on first preferences (1.81 of a senator quota), has not managed to add another senate seat to his own due to unfavourable preference flows.

– The libertarian, free market Liberal Democrats have managed to fluke a senate seat in NSW by virtue of being in the first position on the ballot paper and having a name that careless voters could easily mistake for another party. According to reports in News.com.au lead NSW candidate David Leyonhjelm (who believes people should have the right to carry concealed handguns) pretty much admitted as much, stating:

"I don't think everybody who voted for us thought they were voting for the Liberal Democrats – maybe some thought they were voting for the Democrats, or even the Liberal party ... We are not going to kid ourselves that 8.5 per cent of NSW thinks they were voting for the Liberal Democrats."

– The obscure Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party could take the last senate seat in Victoria, at the expense of the Coalition.

– The equally obscure Australian Sports Party takes the fifth senate position in Western Australia.

The Coalition is predicted to have 33 senators. To get more than the 50 per cent of votes required to repeal the emissions trading scheme, Abbott needs six of the seven minor party senators (Xenophon wants an emissions trading scheme, just not the current one).  

In reviewing the policy positions and public statements of these minor parties, all except for the Motoring Enthusiasts and the Sports Party have made it quite clear they would vote with the Coalition to repeal the carbon tax/trading scheme.

Based on the ABC’s current predictions of the Senate make-up, this means Abbott is just one vote shy of the 39 he needs to repeal the scheme.

The table below summarises the state of play with these minor parties on the carbon price.

Party

Predicted senators

Position on carbon tax or trading scheme

DLP – John Madigan

1

 Madigan has said he would "repeal the carbon tax at the first opportunity".

Has downplayed global warming as a genuine problem, citing Dorothea Mackellar's I love a sunburnt country poem as evidence that climate has always changed.

However, he has also said: “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.”

Palmer United Party

2

Website states they would “abolish the carbon tax”.

Family First

1

Would vote for repeal.

Website makes clear they do not believe in human-induced global warming. Includes statements: Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, it is plant food ... The more crops can get of it the better they grow. ... Carbon dioxide has had no discernible influence on the world’s climate in the past and there is no reason to believe it should in the future.

Liberal Democrats

1

Website states party’s position is that" “atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing but considers the consequences of this, whether it is due to human influence and if anything can or should be done about it, as too uncertain to warrant government action.” The NSW senate candidate,  David Leyonhjelm told News.com.au that: "We wouldn't stop him [Abbott] from getting rid of the carbon tax."

Australian Motoring Enthusiasts

1

Position not clear. Besides a concern for reducing constraints on four-wheel driving, the party's website doesn’t seem to have any firm policy positions beyond motherhood statements. Under 'core values' it’s first is: We take pride in our vehicles, pride in our nation and promote the notion of a ‘fair go for all’.

It also states that the party believes in: the Australian people, democracy, mateship, freedom of speech, society’s responsibility to the very young and the very old.

Australian Sports Party

1

Position not clear. Website lists objectives and values that solely focus on virtues and importance of sport. Overarching tagline is: Australian Sports Party is focused on helping Australians live a healthy well balanced lifestyle through sport and recreation, which provides enjoyment and creates strong communities.