Now Or Never To Stop The Carbon Tax?

26 Apr

A great bloke over at Business Spectator, Rob Burgess, has crunched the Senate electoral numbers with a view to the likelihood of Tony Abbott actually being able to repeal the Labor/Green/Oakeshott carbon dioxide tax at any time soon.  It makes for troubling reading (free subscription access) –

Labor is revealing its carbon pricing policy with all the coy teasing of a professional stripper – a glimpse here, a peek there. All Greg Combet showed us yesterday was that 50 per cent of carbon tax revenue would be handed back to households. The rest of his National Press Club speech was old hat.

And all the while Tony Abbott hopes he can get them off stage and close the club before we see ‘everything’.

In an important sense, that’s Abbott’s only hope of triumphing in the highly polarised debate over the carbon tax. The anti-carbon-tax rallies and marches of the past few weeks have elicited rash promises from the Coalition figures who have attended, that they will repeal any carbon tax and get on with reducing emissions their own way. As Abbott put it in February, “we will oppose it in opposition, we will rescind it in government”.

I doubt the thousands of concerned Australians turning up to the rallies know that the Coalition can’t deliver on this promise.

While it’s certainly true an Abbott-lead government would wish to repeal the tax, there is an infinitesimally small chance it would have the Senate numbers to do so in its first term. And it’s pretty clear there would be no help from Labor or the Greens to overturn legislation for which they have so bitterly fought.

The Senate is a tricky beast. Indeed, it’s designed to be that way – the manner in which the house of review is elected virtually ensures a broader range of parties will be represented than in the lower house. Moreover, because only half the 76 seat chamber is elected at each general election, it takes a bit of scribbling on the back of an envelope to work out what’s going to happen (okay, I do it in Excel).

And here’s the results.

The probability of Tony Abbott winning government, whether from the floor of the house, or through an early election, or through a normal general election in 2013, and having enough votes in the Senate to repeal the carbon tax … practically nil.

The odds of Abbott winning government, serving something close to a full term and winning the next election (in 2016, say) with a Senate majority … slim, but not impossible.

To win 22 seats at the next election, the Coalition needs to retain the one seat it holds in each of the territories, and win 20 seats in the states. With Tassie likely to repeat its familiar pattern, that means winning:

— four out of six seats in three of the non-Tassie states

— three out of six in the two remaining states

— one seat each in ACT and NT.

That would give the Coalition the 22 votes required to repeal the carbon tax. That would also give bookmakers across the land heart attacks, because the odds of such an electoral coup are so extraordinarily long.

That fact remains, therefore, that if Tony Abbott’s team does not find a way to bring down the government before the carbon tax is legislated – most likely in November of this year – the Coalition will be powerless to repeal it until two Senate elections have taken place. That most likely means a carbon tax for four years, and by that time who knows where global carbon politics will have taken us.

Our only other hope would be a double dissolution election – where both houses of parliament are dissolved, and full elections for both houses held:

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: