Julia Gillard will ask Labor MPs to hold their nerve over her carbon tax policy. Picture: AFP Source: AFP
JULIA Gillard faces growing backbench unrest over the carbon tax with sceptics quietly planning to push for changes to the incoming tax – or the leadership.
Labor MPs have voiced concerns about the level of the July 1 fixed carbon price — $23 a tonne — and the timetable to transition to an emissions trading scheme in 2015.
A new caucus sub-committee, created to cool MPs’ anger over the government’s foreign-worker deal with mining magnate Gina Rinehart, is set to be a forum for sceptics to push for change, several Labor MPs suggested.
“I just hate the carbon tax. Never wanted it,” one Labor MP told The Sunday Telegraph.
‘We might have a few like-minded sceptics coming out. If I had my way we wouldn’t be having a carbon tax but that’s not possible.”
Former Labor leader Kevin Rudd raised the idea of reviewing the carbon tax during the recent Labor leadership contest, with a view to possibly beginning the market-based ETS sooner than 2015.
But Labor frontbenchers maintain this would have huge budget implications and might not be a sustainable option.
Australia’s Workers Union President Bill Ludwig said there was little prospect of change to the carbon tax.
“Nothing will happen. It’s set in stone. It will be all right, don’t worry about it,” he said.
Transport Workers Union boss and ALP vice-president Tony Sheldon said his members had concerns about the impact of the carbon tax on owner-operators, but those concerns were addressed by new ‘safe rates’ legislation.
“I am not a carbon sceptic,” he said. He then lashed the government for allowing Jetstar to use cheap foreign labour to staff international flights for $400 a month and called on Labor frontbenchers Chris Bowen and Martin Ferguson to condemn it.
“Chris Bowen and Martin Ferguson need to hold Qantas to account for these Thai workers who are getting paid as little as $400 a month,” he said “(Ferguson) needs to speak on the behalf of the tourism industry, not just Qantas.”
Mr Sheldon said suggestions that unions were xenophobic over foreign workers being brought into Gina Rinehart’s WA mines were offensive.
“Gina Rinehart is not racist, she just wants everyone to be paid the worst wages in the world,” Mr Sheldon said.
AWU boss Paul Howes said he made “no apologies” for lashing the Gillard government over the foreign workers’ deal for Gina Rinehart.
“I guess that’s how she got to be the richest (woman) in the world,” he said.