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Australian carbon tax will be law on Tuesday, but uncertainty remains

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Having passed through the lower house of Parliament last month, the 18 clean energy Bills are set to be voted into law by Tuesday. A final deadline had been set at November 21, and initial reports claimed next Thursday would be the big day, but things will move faster than that.

Assuming no amendments are carried in the Senate, and the 18 Bills are passed on Tuesday, Senators will then vote on Labor’s A$300 million ($310 million) assistance package for the steel industry.

“If there are no amendments carried in the Senate, the vote will mark the final passage of the legislation,” said Government Senate leader Chris Evans.

The carbon pricing plan has been vilified in the Australian media, with the Australian Daily Telegraph running the headline “Carbon tax exposed as a corrupt fraud”, which claims “the Gillard Labor-Green-minority government’s two-pronged strategy to destroy the Australian economy is all but finalised”.

It has been described elsewhere as “halfway between fantasy and fraud”.

Julia Gillard’s Labor party has said the Telegraph has failed to present unbiased coverage of the carbon tax, but protests suggest many are not happy with the prime minister’s backtracking on her pre-election promise not to introduce such a tax.

The media furore is likely to escalate next week, especially considering US President Barack Obama is set to visit the Australian Parliament later this month, with anti-carbon tax protestors promising to use the occasion as a global platform from which to rally against the Labor government.

Despite Green party leader Bob Brown stating that the opposition had given up on debating the package and effectively conceded defeat, for Australian companies that will be affected by the carbon pricing mechanism these are troubling times. The opposition is adamant that it will repeal the tax if it comes into power, something which the shadow minister for climate change, Greg Hunt, reiterated this week.

“If elected, the coalition will introduce legislation to repeal the tax as the first order of business,” he said.

With opinion polls consistently showing Gillard’s unpopularity within the electorate, this could well be a reality. The uncertainty created by this situation is clearly not welcome news for Australian taxpayers.

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