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The Carbon Tax saga goes on: What game is Palmer playing?

Clive Palmer, the coal mining Billionaire and his three (or four) PUP Senators have voted down the Carbon Tax repeal they said they would pass. It was quite the blockbuster day in Australian politics. They supported the government move to bring on the vote at 11:45am today, then decided not to vote for the repeal bill. They hold the balance of power. The carbon tax is still law. It may get voted on again by next Thursday, but if that fails, it won’t be voted on again til August, and millions in carbon tax payments are on the line.

There are at least three version of why the bill failed (the same thing happened the day Palmer met Gore). Sky News suggests PUP wanted to change their amendments. According to News.com, Palmer says the amendments put forward by the Coalition were older ones, and not the newer ones the Coalition agreed to, and he claims the government pulled a “swifty”. In an article in The Australian,  it appears the problem was that the amendments were not circulated at 8.30 this morning. Given that Palmer has been known to feed scurrilous versions to the media, perhaps the confusion here is no accident?

Without seeing the actual amendments (can anyone find them?) it’s difficult to know, though at this rate those amendments will change by Monday, so the point is probably moot.

First up, lets look at the three versions of what happened (all of which may be right, who knows?) Secondly, we consider why the stakes are so high to get this through so fast. Our carbon tax is currently the worlds higest at $24 a ton, and businesses is not sure if it should be collecting it. The Business Council of Australia concludes “Electricity companies will be holding about $200 million in carbon tax by the end of next week”. Lastly we look at a hint that Palmer might be thinking of a real ETS scheme to be “attached” to the Coalitions Direct Action legislation. The joy of Australian politics. With such high stakes, Palmer may plan on having Abbott over a barrel by late Thursday next week.

News.com: Was it the wrong version of the amendments?

CLIVE Palmer’s senators have sided with Labor and the Greens to stop the carbon tax being repealed on a chaotic day in federal politics. They were joined by the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party’s Ricky Muir. The repeal legislation will now have to go back to the House of Representatives, which does not sit until next week. Mr Palmer had made the demand that power companies be forced to pass on price reductions when the tax goes in exchange for his support.

He said the first version drafted by the government wasn’t strong enough and his Senators were under the impression their new one was before the Upper House. They had only realised the old one was before the Senate after they helped support a gag vote, he claimed.

“They pulled a swifty on us.”

We have worked very purposely with Palmer United,” Senator Abetz claimed, rejecting the accusation the government had double crossed Mr Palmer’s senators.

Sky News

“… in a last-minute twist PUP leader Clive Palmer pulled his party’s support, triggering chaos in the upper house. The government has since agreed to the revised Palmer United carbon tax repeal amendment, to be put to the House of Representatives next week. Senator Muir and the three PUP senators sided with Labor and the Greens to defeat the legislation. It is the second time the package of repeal bills has been rejected in the Senate.

The Palmer United Party had an agreement with the government to support amendments that guarantee savings from the abolished tax are passed on to consumers and business. But on Thursday, after supporting a government move to bring on a vote at 11.45 (AEST), Mr Palmer announced changes to PUP amendments.”

The Australian, the issue is apparently that the amendments were not circulated at 8.30 this morning for people to vote on. Is this third version the right one? Who knows?

But its plans were thrown into disarray when Mr Palmer announced his three senators would not vote with the government because his party’s amendment to ensure all savings were passed on to consumers had not been circulated to senators.

“When you give an amendment it normally goes to the clerk’s office by 8.30am and then it’s circulated. So our amendment didn’t do that,’’ Mr Palmer said this morning.

“Our senators went into the Senate thinking that our draft had been circulated when they hadn’t been, and they then brought on the … guillotine and then our senators would have sat in the Senate and voted on the amendment they thought was circulated, which they hadn’t circulated, and then they thought they would have had that conned.”

Mr Palmer said it “could have been” an attempt at deception, although “you never want to underestimate the incompetence of the Abbott government”.

A delay in repealing the Carbon Tax could cost millions

The Australian – explains part of the reason for the Coalitions urge to rush this through (not that it’s been fast since it’s nine months after voters since for it). It is dated as repealing from July 1 and each day there is $11m of tax in limbo.

The Abbott government will on Monday reintroduce legislation to abolish the carbon price, after the Palmer United Party’s three senators voted with Labor, the Greens and the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party’s Ricky Muir to block the repeal in the Senate.

The repeal will “hopefully” pass both houses of parliament before the Senate rises next Thursday, the government said. Senate government leader Eric Abetz said the government would overcome today’s “technical” problem by agreeing on PUP amendments ensuring power price cuts are passed on to consumers. Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the carbon tax needed to be repealed “to ensure that the electricity markets are given the outcome they have predicted”.

“The electricity sector has acted in good faith and there is an importance to proceed quickly and swiftly,” Mr Hunt said.

“At the moment, every day is an $11 million cost in power bills to Australian families and businesses, but it is also important that the markets are given the certainty and we are hopeful and we believe that it is necessary that these bills should be passed by the end of next week.”

The Australian – Sid Maher.

The government will back the PUP amendments in the hope of quickly returning the legislation to the Senate for approval by the end of next week. Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the cost and complexity of unwinding the tax rose with each day that passed.

Business Council of Australia president Catherine Livingstone said parliament must not delay repealing the carbon tax.

Ms Livingstone said failure by the parliament to repeal the ­carbon tax by next week would create significant uncertainty for businesses, particularly electricity retailers, with flow-on conse­quences for consumers. Electricity companies will be holding about $200 million in carbon tax by the end of next week, with the industry paying $11m a day.

The industry warns that a protracted repeal process makes the task of returning the savings to consumers more complex.

What about the Emissions Trading Scheme and “Direct Action”?

There is another potential shift occurring with the Direct Action legislation. According to Mark Kenny, Palmer wants to keep “Labor’s emissions trading scheme“? Is that right? (I’m not sure it is — it could be just a misunderstanding.)  If it’s true, it’s a complete betrayal of PUP voters, and suggests a large Gore influence. But I would think it is a gift to the Coalition government. There is no way they would accept it. There’s a big difference between an ETS at $0 conditional on global action, and the Labor ETS. If it’s true, it would allow the Coalition to turn down that amendment without any loss of face, so Direct Action would be dead, and so would the ETS. We hope… but I want to see those amendments in writing. I suspect that Palmer will not ask for the “Labor” ETS.
Canberra Times, Mark Kenny:

When he addressed the National Press Club on Monday, Palmer’s ”flexibility” was face-slappingly apparent.

Without the slightest hint of the reversal it actually was, he announced his party would now back the government’s Direct Action alternative as long as it agreed to keep Labor’s emissions trading scheme on the books. Both are measures to which Palmer has been implacably opposed in the past.

Is there anyone in Australia gullible enough to believe Palmer now thinks that reducing CO2 will change the weather?
Palmer transparently has no principles, and is not even pretending to have them. Does it mark a new low in politics where politicians stop even wearing the mask that they do something because they’ve been persuaded or convinced?
Graham Richardson “Palmer’s influence very scary “ The Australian

You would be entitled to believe that because four of the eight are in one grouping and only four act as individuals, the task for the government or the opposition to conduct their negotiations would be so much easier. You would be wrong, of course, because that grouping is aligned to Clive Palmer. Never in politics has there been a more unpredictable individual. His capacity to forcefully argue against something he proclaimed so solemnly a week ago is already in evidence. Last week the government’s direct action on climate change was a bunch of old cobblers. Yet this week that same policy gets a tick from Palmer.

There can be no trust or goodwill with a man like Palmer. He will remain enigmatic and erratic. He had no problem in arguing contrary positions in the Senate elections in Tasmania and Western Australia. He got away with it and that has only emboldened him. His shameless populism may have a use-by date but that time has not yet arrived

Peter Van Onselen asks whether voters will enjoy his games, or be turned off?
Will Palmer’s profile see voters turned off his game-playing with Australia’s political system? Or will it add to his cachet as an anti-politician politician, elevating his standing as a portent of voter de­alignment from the major ­parties?
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