The carbon tax will finally get the boot

With a group of unknowns keen to hold their new power in the Senate, Tony Abbott should be in the clear on the carbon tax. But smaller issues will be tougher for him.

During the election campaign countless thousands of words were written claiming Australia’s carbon tax would either not be removed because Tony Abbott would have second thoughts or would be blocked in the Senate. Assuming the Coalition was convincing, it was always a very dubious argument because the ALP would not want another election after a big defeat.

But, as it happens, the election gave effective control of the Senate to a group of unknowns and that makes the end of the carbon tax virtually certain, without a double dissolution. Leaving aside Nick Xenophon, who attracted votes in his own right, the independents were elected on complex preference arrangements and now have six years in the Senate. If there is a double dissolution in the second half of 2014 they may not be re-elected and their term will be closer to six months. So once it becomes a double dissolution issue carbon taxes will go, although there may need to be a committee on electoral reform set up to please the Palmer party.

It might be harder but the proposed new building laws should also be passed once it is clear the Coalition will take them to the people in a double dissolution.

Smaller matters will be tougher but on big issues where Tony Abbott is prepared to risk a double dissolution most of the independents will fall into line.

My attitude to the carbon tax has been consistent – if Australia wanted to price carbon, start with a minor price that sets up the mechanism but does not cause major disruption. To introduce a big carbon tax when our power prices were going through the roof was a very poor decision when no one else in the world was doing it.

Those who favour a carbon tax have given the Coalition’s Direct Action plan the thumbs down. I am not saying it will work but it is a clever idea that is certainly worth a try and it’s a lot smarter than the carbon tax. I describe direct action in “change number six” in my series Abbott's 12-point plan to transform Australia  (September 9). 

At this point I want to thank all the readers who contributed to what was a very lively conversation – it was the debate we never had in the election. Some people have asked me why the 12-point Abbott plan was not brought forward in the election campaign and how I obtained the information.

Most of it came from briefings by Coalition people, and public statements. People were so besotted by the personalities of Rudd and Abbott, the refugees and the carbon issues that they missed what was happening on the wider front.

In the debate in our conversation columns it was clear that many small enterprises dislike the write-off and loss changes made by the Coalition and many readers do not like toll roads. It’s also clear that many of the regulations that are set to be removed came in via the Howard government.

Don Gilbert pointed out smaller enterprises need:

1. Fair labour laws to make businesses competitive;
2. Security of tenure for all leases: commercial, industrial, retail;
3. Lease/rent dispute resolution mechanisms e.g. S 51 ACT Retail Leases Act;
4. Compulsory lease rent offerings at current market rent.

Not everyone will agree with him (shopping centres will be furious) but we have a big debate coming.

But my award for the best suggestion in the conversation goes to Robert Parry:

“Cutting red tape in the Medicare system can be simply done overnight by allowing doctors to claim the scheduled fee from Medicare and their patients to pay the "gap" on the spot to the doctors.

“This change would slash credit card and bank fees, reduce the work-load of doctors' receptionists and greatly enhance the efficiency of the Medicare officers who monitor doctor-shopping drug users as well ends as over-servicing by some doctors.

 “In 2004 I received an email from Tony Abbott (the then Health minister) saying it was a great idea but Julia Gillard (the then opposition's shadow Health Minister) would not let him”.

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