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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

News: No Longer the Wong Way: The Results of the Liberal-Labor Party Negotiations Released

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Today the Government released a set of proposed changes to its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) legislation. These changes stemmed from negotiations with the Opposition Liberal Party, whom with the support of the Government aims to pass the bill through the senate. Heading each side of the negotiations are Labor Minister for Climate Change Penny Wong and Liberal Opposition Energy Spokesman Ian Macfarlane, who have been negotiating a deal for weeks. These changes include excluding agriculture from the scheme, further transitional assistance for affected industries and measures to ensure that the burden on households of increased prices on goods and services is lessened.

Today’s Media Release from the Department of Climate Change outlines the areas in which changes have been proposed. Included amongst these propositions is the Government’s previously announced exclusion of agriculture from the CPRS. The details of the proposed changes document also supplied by the Department of Climate Change says that this exclusion will be “indefinite” and the bill will “explicitly exclude agriculture”. This means that any change to this part of the passed CPRS legislation will need to be voted on by the parliament of the day.

The changes also include $1.1 billion for a Transitional Electricity Cost Assistance Program, designed to assist medium to large businesses with the increased electricity costs. An additional $4 billion is also proposed for the Electricity Sector Adjustment Scheme (ESAS) making the total investment in this area $7.3 billion. The ESAS is designed to lessen the financial shock of the CPRS on fossil-fuel powered electricity generators such as coal powered power stations. Coal fuelled power stations will also be receiving a further $750 million in “transitional assistance” over five years, making the total transitional assistance for the coal industry come to $1.5 billion. $270 million for the Coal Mine Abatement Fund has also been proposed.

The changes also suggest including voluntary household action in the goal of the CPRS, and the details mention that an assistance package has been designed for low- and middle-income households. The carbon price estimate has also been lowered by $3 to $26 per tonne in 2012-2013 due to the strong Australian dollar, which will reduce the cost of goods and services. The media release says that “voluntary action by households will now allow Australia to go beyond our 2020 emissions reduction target.”

The details mention that eligible Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) producers will receive free permits.

The media release also describes making the Global Recession Buffer for affected industries permanent, meaning that eligible industries for 60 and 90 per cent assistance will have a 10 per cent and 5 per cent buffer respectively to ensure sufficient assistance.

The media release explains that with these amendments, Australia will still be able to achieve its “ambitious” unconditional target of a 5 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on 2000 levels by 2020. It also argues that the “deal” is economically “responsible”.

The media release closes with a plea to the Liberal Party. “We call on the Opposition to support this negotiated package and ensure a vote on this package before Parliament rises this week” - a timetable which many Liberal party members may still not agree with.

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