Independent Rob Oakeshott has threatened to block regulations in Parliament to introduce a price floor on carbon after 2015, as Climate Change Minister Greg Combet called on Labor colleagues to hold their nerve on the clean energy package.
But amid a push from within Labor to amend the carbon package, Greens leader Christine Milne warned there was no practical way to change the carbon pricing scheme due to begin on July 1.
“I won’t be backing a lower starting price because it won’t be happening,” she told Sky News.
In a bid to soothe community concern, Prime Minister Julia Gillard also talked up the benefits of tax cuts and increased pension payments, which will start soon. And in coming days, the government will announce grants to regional communities from its $940 million Biodiversity Fund.
But Mr Oakeshott, from NSW, told The Australian Financial Review one way to meet community concern about the effect of the scheme would be to remove the proposed price floor to operate under an emissions trading scheme from 2015 to enable companies to buy cheaper carbon permits overseas. This could be done by not introducing regulations to implement the price floor.
“It’s a pretty good package,” Mr Oakeshott said, “[But] the strong feedback from business is that it’s restricting investment and if there is anything which needs to be looked at and reflected upon, it is this aspect of the scheme.”
Mr Oakeshott agreed to the price floor as part of the package signed off by Parliament’s multi-party climate change committee. But he said his only obligation from that deal was to support the legislation through Parliament and he now had an obligation as a local member. As a result, he would consider moving to disallow any regulations but said the government should consider not introducing the measure.
Mr Oakeshott’s comments came as the South Korean Parliament voted 148-0 with three abstentions to pass legislation to introduce an emission trading scheme in 2015, despite strong opposition from the country’s business sector.
But Mr Combet rejected the idea of delaying Australia’s carbon scheme until 2015, when negotiations on a new global climate change deal are to be finalised.