The Senate’s decision to approve Billie Jean King’s controversial private member’s bill to abolish the carbon tax is set to be one of the biggest political headaches of the new Senate.
It is likely to be the most damaging of the five major bills approved by the Senate on Thursday, with a loss of power to change the GST and the Medicare levy.
The bill has faced a barrage of criticism, with some Liberal senators arguing it will not achieve the desired result, while others say it will cause further damage to the economy.
Labor has sought to frame the legislation as a “victory for common sense”.
What are the bills?
The carbon tax was a government-funded tax on emissions that has been scrapped.
The government also abolished the carbon price, and the carbon-tax-like carbon rebate was scrapped.
But the Abbott Government has kept the carbon levy, which pays a fixed price on carbon to consumers, by increasing the amount of money a company is required to pay on each tonne of carbon emissions it emits.
What’s the Coalition’s argument?
The Coalition argues that the carbon policy is one of many that it is pursuing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The carbon levy will reduce emissions by an average of 2.2 per cent by 2030 and is expected to save the Government $500 million a year by 2020-21.
But Labor says the carbon pricing is “an expensive tax and is only a small part of the plan”.
Labor also says the policy will cause greater hardship on the poor, while Labor’s shadow energy minister, Nick McKim, has said that the Government should instead invest in renewable energy.
The Government is also arguing that the bill will have no effect on carbon emissions, because the carbon fee and the rebate will only be implemented on a voluntary basis.
It says the Coalition Government will spend $100 million a week on “cost-effective” initiatives to reduce emissions, such as a carbon tax and renewable energy incentives, while it will spend only $3 million a month on carbon offsets, such on “green energy”.
The bill will also cost the Australian economy $8.5 billion over the life of the carbon auction, according to Labor.
What’s the Senate’s role?
The Senate has the power to overturn a bill, but only by a two-thirds majority.
When a bill is passed through the Senate, it is referred to the lower house of parliament, which will then make a decision.
If the bill is approved, the government will then need to pass a second bill to implement it, which is known as a royal commission.
If a second Bill is passed and the government loses a two votes, the Senate must vote again to overturn the bill.
Should the Coalition lose the vote, the Coalition will then have to seek to override the Senate and pass a third bill.
That bill then needs to pass through the lower chamber, which in turn requires a two thirds majority, or a three-fifths majority.
The Government has argued that this will make the Senate more difficult to change.
“The Senate has no power to override a bill passed by the upper house,” Liberal senator Michaelia Cash said.
“It is up to the Senate to decide how the bill can be amended to suit their own interest.
But the Labor opposition has argued the bill was “a sham”. “
This bill would only give the Government power to pass this legislation in the Senate if it had the confidence of the House of Representatives.”
But the Labor opposition has argued the bill was “a sham”.
“The Billie King bill would be a giant waste of money for the Government if it were passed and signed into law,” shadow energy spokesman Peter Costello said.
Labor also said the bill would result in an increase in electricity prices and higher carbon emissions.
Labor’s energy spokeswoman, Catherine King, said the carbon emissions reduction bill was another example of the Coalition trying to use the Senate for political advantage.
“Labor is opposed to the carbon and the coal tax,” she said.
The Coalition has been critical of the Government for the carbon bill, which has faced criticism from some Liberal Senators.
“If the bill had passed the Senate it would have made a huge difference to the lives of Australian families and the Australian dollar, so it is very sad that it has been passed,” the Government’s energy spokesman, Brad Hazzard, said.