Despite Tony Abbott declaring he will kill the carbon price if elected, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will today get Australia’s first significant policy to cut carbon emissions passed through parliament.

Gillard dismissed Tony Abbott’s claims, insisting that he wouldn’t throw out pension increases, tax cuts and other carbon tax assistances if elected. Gillard told parliament: “… his so-called promise to repeal a price on carbon is just nonsense. He will not repeal a price on carbon if he is ever elected as prime minister. He will not do that because more than half of his political party supports putting a price on carbon.”

Abbott talked back just as big. On AM this morning he said he would “pledge in blood” that a Coalition government would repel the carbon tax. Abbott has been calling for the government to take the carbon tax to an election.

Abbott will have to kill the carbon price if he becomes PM, even if that’s a bad idea, says Lenore Taylor in The Sydney Morning Herald:

“Having built his leadership so successfully on opposition to the tax and keeping political promises, Abbott can never accept it. And perversely, his solemn promise to repeal it will prolong the investment uncertainty the carbon tax is supposed to solve.”

But as Michelle Grattan and David Wroe reported in The Age: “Some in the Coalition privately believe it would be too hard to repeal the carbon plan, which starts next July: a Coalition government could find repeal blocked by the Senate.”

Grattan and Wroe also noted that Malcolm Turnbull, who supported Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme, was the only Coalition frontbencher not to speak on the bill, although he is forced to vote against the carbon tax bill to keep his front bench position.

Although it’s a little easier for the government to get the carbon tax bill through the lower house after Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella was kicked out of the house for 24 hours yesterday. She defied deputy speaker — and Liberal colleague — Peter Slipper and the house voted to suspend her until 10.30pm tonight. This means Mirabella will be unable to vote on the carbon tax bills put forth today.

The Greens yesterday agreed to support the $300 million steel transformation plan, which will allow steel companies including BlueScope and OneSteel to qualify for handouts even if they fire staff and cut production by 77%.

Amongst the constant media chatter about a possible return to Kevin Rudd as PM, Phillip Hudson noted one important difference in the Herald Sun: “Julia Gillard is on track to do what Kevin Rudd couldn’t achieve and get federal parliament to approve a plan to fight climate change.”

This policy is a big deal and it’s taken 20 years to get here, says Tim Colebatch in The Age:

“There are lots of political reasons why each party is where it is in this debate. But the main reason why Labor, the Greens and most of the independents have united to introduce a carbon tax is that the light-touch stuff is not slowing emissions enough. We need to start the heavy lifting, in the cheapest way.”

After the final vote on the carbon tax bill today, it will head to the Senate early November.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey