It may be the policy that eventually brings down the government, but there was joy in Parliament yesterday as the lower house passed the controversial carbon tax bill. Is it the greatest political move Prime Minister Julia Gillard has made or just ensuring her own downfall? Hanging over the festivities was Tony Abbott’s “pledge in blood” to repeal the tax if elected.

The Atlantic magazine named Gillard as one of its “2011 brave thinkers” for her resolute strength in pushing through a carbon tax. “Whether you see the move as politically expedient or as a principled course correction, there’s no denying the risk that it entails in a country where climate change is a wildly contentious issue,” writes Geoffrey Gagnon.

At least someone, somewhere, is giving Gillard some kudos: “Some might be tempted to add the word ‘crazy’ to the brave description but after getting her “Clean Energy Future” legislation through the house, the Prime Minister probably deserves some credit from somewhere, although it might have been better if The Atlantic didn’t spell her name ‘Gilliard’,” says Dennis Atkins in The Courier-Mail.

Jacqueline Maley in The Sydney Morning Herald paints a vivid picture of the shenanigans at Parliament yesterday after the bill was passed: “Everybody on the government side ran about shaking hands and embracing, and for a moment it was like we had swapped the House of Representatives for the set of Oprah.”

It’s not surprising parliament was excited, it has taken a long time to get here: “… by the time a carbon scheme finally passes the federal Parliament later this year it will mark more than 15 years since it was first proposed by a government here,” writes Marcus Priest in The Australian Financial Review.

Abbott may keep declaring that the carbon tax will kill the economy, but “the carbon tax is a much bigger political issue than it is an economic one,” notes Peter Hartcher in The Sydney Morning Herald.

This was a big win for Gillard, and she was in desperate need of one, argues Dennis Shanahan in The Australian:

“Her success showed in parliament as the “old Julia” — the one everyone liked when she was deputy prime minister — appeared more confident than she has for weeks and more convinced she would be able to turn the tables on Tony Abbott.”

Annabel Crabb agreed at the ABC: “Bloodied but unbowed, the Prime Minister steams on.”

Is this carbon price policy the new WorkChoices? asks Michelle Grattan in The Age:

“The Labor economic reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s had substantial bipartisan support and so they survived a new government. In contrast, WorkChoices became the basis of the 2007 election contest and bit the dust later. As things stand now, we look to be in for a replay.”

The carbon tax was isn’t over yet, says Sid Maher in The Australian:

“Battlelines have been drawn for the next election, with Tony Abbott’s “blood” vow to abolish the carbon tax ensuring its historic passage through the House of Representatives yesterday will not end the brawl over Labor’s clean energy plans.”

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW