Business, Finance & Economics

Australian lawmakers pass Julia Gillard's controversial carbon tax bill


A hot air balloon stands in front of Parliament House during a pro-carbon tax rally in Canberra on October 12, 2011. Australia's lower house on October 12 passed a contentious new tax on carbon pollution.


Alan Porritt

It's complicated.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been spotted kissing the man whose job she took in a political coup, Kevin Rudd, the Australian newspaper reports.

Such PDA between Gillard and the man rumored to be building support for a bid to take back the country's top job, which he could be forgiven for feeling he deserved after winning a general election, would be unthinkable on any other day. 

But on Wednesday, all animosity was set aside after the lower house of Parliament passed a historic but controversial set of bills to establish the world's most broadly based tax on carbon emissions. 

"Historic hug as climate bills pass," was the headline on the

Australia's carbon tax is set to become law, with the ruling Labor Party winning a vote on the legislation — comprising 18 "clean energy" bills — 74 to 72. 

The package of laws — which introduce a price on carbon pollution and encourage investment in clean and renewable energy — is now assured easy passage through the Australian parliament.

Government ministers embraced and clapped following the vote — including Gillard and Rudd, who had been unable to land the bill during his time as prime minister.

The tax to combat climate change, has angered many voters and is seen — along with Gillard's perceived disloyalty as Labor Party leaders sought to remove the unpopular Rudd — as having cost him his job as prime minister. 

The law will require about 500 of the biggest carbon-emitting companies in Australia to pay a price for each ton of carbon they emit, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. 

Those most likely to feel the pain are electricity generating firms, mining companies and heavy industry manufacturers.

Gillard, in an interview on ABC News, called it a "significant day for the Australian nation," particularly for "the generations of children to come who will live in a cleaner environment as a result of today's legislation." 

The passage of the bills were, the SMH reports, crucial for Gillard, whose popularity has fallen steadily since last year.

Environmental groups also hailed the passage of the carbon tax laws. 

Climate Institute chief John Connor said it meant that Australia could cut up to 1 billion tons of greenhouse emissions by 2020, the equivalent of taking more than 200 million cars off the road for a year.

“For the first time in Australian history, our largest businesses will soon have to operate under a limit on the amount of carbon pollution they produce,” the West Australian quoted him as saying.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott promised to repeal the law if he became prime minister at the next election, saying (dramatically) that his pledge was written in blood.