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Secret deal: Australia already has an ETS – carbon tax – starts in 5 weeks

Get ready. The legislation was done on the last day Parliament sat in December. The Coalition government knew it would be popular with the voters who all want “carbon action” so they… buried the news. No cheering. No speeches.

It apparently starts on July 1, and applies to 150 companies — about half our emissions. It’s a Cap N Trade system with “Caps” that can be screwed gently down as the climate warms to fill government coffers and raise electricity prices.  The Direct Action plan auctions can be phased out and the SneakTax phased in. It could end up being the main game. A blank cheque.

It’s called “Safeguard” — it was safe for politicians and guards them against their failure to meet pointless, symbolic international agreements to slow storms. A Safeguard for politicians but a SneakTax for the people.

What does it mean? It’s time Australia got a new central political party.

Alan Kohler in The Australian

From July 1, coincidentally the day before the election, the Coalition’s “safeguard mechanism” within its Direct Action Plan will come into force.

One-hundred and fifty companies, representing about 50 per cent of Australia’s total carbon emissions, will be capped by legislation at their highest level of emissions between 2009-10 and 2013-14.

If they emit less than their caps, they will get credits, called Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs), which were created by the Gillard government’s 2011 legislation; if they emit more, they have to buy ACCUs on the market.

The caps specifically include the electricity sector and the ACCUs are “financial products” under both the Corporations Act and the ASIC Act, and can be traded, so an ETS market will be established from July 1.

Kohler claims this Cap N Trade idea has been part of Coalition policy since before the 2013 election. That is a spin doctor story it appears Hunt is providing. Abbott won on a blood oath to get rid of carbon taxes. He wanted to rule out emissions trading. Gore and Palmer forced him to add in a proviso to not rule it out entirely, but to allow a “review” for an ETS. When Direct Action was removed the ETS was sold as a deal that would only happen if and when all the major players signed up. So Hunt and Turnbull said straight after the coup that trading “might” start from mid 2016.  Turnbull can say he’s sticking to the Abbott plan, but Hunt can get an ETS thanks to the Palmer clause that Al Gore flew here to get. In other words, this is a GoreTax. (What did he offer Palmer?)

How did they get the contentious political bomb of a carbon tax through? By keeping it a secret.

The key has been not talking about the ETS part of the policy and to emphasise the lack of a price on all emissions. He hasn’t exactly kept it secret, since it’s in the legislation, but nor has he talked about it publicly and nor has anyone else.

Both the Greens and the ALP passed the legislation in December, even though they probably could have blocked it. Why? It’s because they basically agree with it and want to use the mechanism if elected.

Will it work? That depends on the gradient of the cap reductions when they start. The key is that an ETS has now been legislated in Australia and can be adjusted to fit requirements, either budgetary or political.

This raises several questions. The Liberal, Labor and Green members all voted for it. So not only did the 53 Turncoats sign it off, but so did the 45 Abbott supporters, and Abbott too. If Kohler is right, we heard nothing from the Nats, nor the Lib Dems, or any independents. Did they not realize what they were signing? Possibly not.

Christopher Pyne on Q and A last night:

Audience Question: “Why is the Coalition Government being so quiet about this virtual ETS during this election cycle?”

Pyne circled the question before admitting he hadn’t read the article by Kohler.

“Nobody asked me to become familiar with it before the show so I can’t talk about Alan Kohler’s column,” Pyne said.

“I can tell you with a number of different measures… I believe we will meet our 26-28 percent target without doing what Labor wants to do, which is bring back a job-destroying carbon tax.”

Where are the protests from the 150 companies who will have to pay?

h/t Peter and Jim.

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