Carbon tax: it’s been the most contentious issue of Julia Gillard’s prime ministership and yesterday she introduced the historic bill into parliament.

But Gillard’s big day started with a carbon tax rally of a different kind, with a group of children and parents from the Say Yes! To Action on Climate Change group invited in to the Senate courtyard to voice their support of the new legislation, writes Tony Wright in The Age:

“Ms Gillard settled on a picnic blanket amid the rosy-cheeked children (global warming, alas, was giving Canberra a miss, and the temperature mid-morning was chilblain-inducing) and admired their crayon work. ”Say yes to the environment,” one of the infant geniuses had written, complete with correct spelling.

”And what are you drawing?” Ms Gillard inquired of a little boy. ”I’m making a wind turbine,” he replied. Why, of course. What else? These were the children of a clean energy future, offspring of the Say Yes! To Action on Climate Change.”

Parliament wasn’t only filled with happy environment-loving children, with Gillard forced to introduce the historic carbon tax bill to a parliament empty of Coalition MPs. As The Sydney Morning Herald columnist Phillip Coorey tweeted during question time yesterday: “[Christopher] Pyne orders all Coalition MPs out of the chamber as Gillard introduces climate change leg.”

Pyne’s office later denied he had asked Coalition MPs to leave, calling it “complete nonsense”. “Was it a planned evacuation or had they all experienced a simultaneous need for a comfort break? Maybe it was just one of those times you really, really can’t wait another second?” asked Jacqueline Maley in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Regardless, it wasn’t a good look. “Yesterday was a dumb day for Abbott. On three separate occasions he made the wrong call,” writes Geoff Kitney in The Australian Financial Review. He continues: “The empty benches looked like a prank rather than a protest a piece of childishness which sent the wrong signal about the Coalition’s attitudes to the Parliament and the climate change issue.”

Regardless of the political debate around it, it’s time for Australia to make moves in the right direction regarding climate policy, says The Australian‘s editorial:

“Inevitably Australia, along with the rest of the world, will have to adapt to a carbon-constrained future. The legislation before parliament is a step in that direction.”

Want to check out the new carbon laws? is asking readers to sift through the “18 pieces of legislation, making up 1129 pages and 255,539 words,” because “… it’s the most important change to Australia’s laws in decades. But as they say, the devil is in the details.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey