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The coalition says Labor has a plan to introduce a ‘sneaky carbon tax’. Is there any evidence?

False claims are emerging about what every major party in government would do if it won the election. This article is part of a series on terror campaigns: their origins, how they are disseminated, and how the claims relate to the parties’ stated commitments.

With the election campaign in full swing, the coalition has revived a tried-and-true attack on its political opponents by claiming that if elected, Labor would introduce a carbon tax.

Queensland LNP Senator Matt Canavan has used social media to attack Labor’s climate policy, warning that an Albanian government would introduce “a new carbon tax”. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made similar allegations during the campaign.


The issue relates to Labor’s proposal to strengthen a key component of the coalition’s existing climate policy framework: the so-called “guarantee mechanism”.

But what is that? And would Labor’s planned adjustment of the mechanism amount to introducing “a new carbon tax”?

It comes down to

Coalition politicians say Labor’s proposed changes to the safeguard mechanism amount to a “creeping carbon tax”. “carbon tax” A carbon tax is not part of Labor’s official policy platform, nor could Fact Check to find any evidence that it intended to introduce such a tax.


Origin of the claim

When assessing the origins of the government’s claim of “carbon tax”, it is impossible to ignore the long and fraught history of the term in Australian politics.

Following the lead of the UK and the European Union, it was first proposed in 2007 by the then Liberal Prime Minister John Howard to put a price on carbon by introducing an “emissions trading system”.

That same year, however, Labor’s Kevin Rudd defeated Howard in a landslide victory over a platform promising strong action on climate change, calling the issue “the great moral challenge of our generation”.


But when Mr. Rudd introduced his carbon trading model the following year — the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) — the legislation quickly became politically toxic, only to be voted down twice in the Senate.

This coincided with replacing then-opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull with Tony Abbott, a staunch critic of the CPRS.

When Julia Gillard replaced Rudd as Prime Minister, she promised, “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”. However, her government would successfully introduce a price on carbon.


Abbott continued a ruthless campaign against the measure, arguing it would tax industry and drive up ordinary Australians’ living costs.

Facing significant internal and external pressure, Ms. Gillard herself was to be replaced in June 2013 by Mr. Rudd, who pledged to “end” the carbon fixed price and move to an emissions trading scheme.

By declaring it a “referendum on the carbon tax”, Mr. Abbott won the 2013 election. He abolished Labor policies and established the “Emissions Reduction Fund” (which included an effective carbon price), forming the basis for the current policy framework.

However, this would not mean the end of the so-called “climate wars”. Spats over carbon prices would then haunt opposition leader Bill Shorten in the run-up to the 2019 election and continue to lead to ongoing rifts within both Labor and the Coalition.

So when Senator Canavan recently took to Twitter to claim that Labor’s proposed changes to the coalition’s defense mechanism amounted to a “new carbon tax,” the term had considerable historical – and political – weight.

How was the claim revived?

Although Labor announced its climate policy in 2021, the “new carbon tax” story resurfaced after confusion over whether coal mines would be included in Labor’s proposal to lower the allowable emission threshold for major polluters under the existing “guarantee mechanism”.

In an interview with the Nine Network’s Today program, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, confirmed that coal mines would be included in Labor’s proposed changes – which contradicts previous comments by his party colleague Pat Conroy.

In a series of tweets, Senator Canavan accused Conroy and the Labor Party of dishonesty and continued to characterize the policy as “Labour’s new carbon tax”.


These comments add to a slew of social media posts reinforcing the message of a “carbon tax on labor” spread through Senator Canavan’s social media profiles and generating tens of thousands of views.

On April 27, while campaigning in Queensland, Morrison accused Labor of introducing a “creeping carbon tax”.


That same day, the Queensland Liberal National Party launched a Facebook ad claiming that “regional Queensland” would pay for “Labour’s carbon tax”, an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 views.

A full-page advertisement, authorized by the NSW National Party and published in the May 3 Hunter Valley publication At The Coal Face, also claimed, “Labour’s new carbon tax risks 10,000 Hunter Jobs”.

How the security mechanism works

The major energy companies are among the largest emitters in the country. (Juergen PM: Public Domain)

The safeguard mechanism is essential to the government’s climate change policy, alongside the Emissions Reductions Fund, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent to below 2005 levels by 2030.

As Deakin University environmental law expert Samantha Hepburn told Fact Check, the ERF allows companies to apply for funding if they demonstrate a decarbonization project.

Meanwhile, the safeguard mechanism part of the legislation ensures that these benefits are not offset by higher emissions elsewhere.

“In very basic terms, large emitters, i.e., companies that produce more than 100,000 tons of CO2 per year, are assumed to apply baselines to them.

“The baselines represent business as usual — what they would normally emit — based on historical calculations.”

According to the ERF, if emissions cross the baseline, companies would have to either buy offsets in the form of Australian carbon credit units or renegotiate their baseline, she added.

As the Parliamentary Library explains, baselines are set by the Clean Energy Regulator individually and can be adjusted or varied when exceeded. This flexibility in allowing revisions to the baseline has led some critics to question the mechanism’s effectiveness.

Changes to the safeguard mechanism proposed by Labour

Do Labor’s proposed changes to the safeguard mechanism amount to a carbon tax? (Chevron)

The Labor Party under Anthony Albanese has proposed a more ambitious emissions reduction target of 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

As part of its efforts to achieve this, Labor says it would better implement the government’s existing protection mechanism by accepting a proposal from the Business Council of Australia to lower the baseline of major polluters included in the existing framework of the scheme. , to gradually decrease.

According to the Labor policy paper, it would “ask the Department of Industry and the clean energy regulator (which already administers the scheme) to establish revised baselines for each facility in close consultation with industry.”

This would likely mean that the biggest polluters would either have to cut their carbon emissions or buy offsets in the form of carbon credits.

Does Labor’s proposal amount to a ‘new carbon tax’?

Given that Labor’s policies are an improvement on the coalition’s existing policy framework, it’s reasonable to ask whether the safeguard mechanism in its current form is a carbon tax.

According to Michael Dirkis, professor of tax law at the University of Sydney, not.

Unlike a carbon tax, which he described as a “blunt instrument” that normally applies generally and at a fixed price to all emissions above a certain level, the baselines established as part of the safeguard mechanism are similar to speed limits.

“legal” [the safeguard mechanism] is no tax; rather, it is a form of punishment (like a speeding ticket),” he said.

“Tax is a mandatory levy,” added Professor Dirkis. “You make a certain amount of dollars, and you’re in a certain tax bracket, you have to pay a certain number of dollars…while you don’t pay if you enter a fine — like speeding — if you stay within the speed limit.”

So what about Labour’s proposed changes? Sticking with his speed limit analogy, Professor Dirkis compared Labor’s plan to lowering speed limits, telling Fact Check, “again, it’s not a tax by law”.

In addition, both Professor Dirkis and Professor Hepburn agreed that this was not a true “carbon tax”, despite the origin of the “carbon tax” claim being rooted in Ms. Gillard’s emissions trading system.

That’s because Ms. Gillard’s emissions trading system sets a general limit on emissions. If exceeded, a certain number of CO2 credits can be bought and traded. A carbon tax does not impose such a limit.

But as director of the Grattan Institute Energy and Climate Change Program, Tony Wood pointed out, the cost of cutting emissions ultimately fell back on the taxpayer, regardless of how the policy was implemented.

“We shouldn’t argue about the label,” he said. “We should discuss the most effective way to get there.”

It comes down to

A carbon tax is not part of Labour’s official policy platform, nor could Fact Check to find any evidence that it intended to introduce such a tax.

The changes proposed by Labor to the existing safeguard mechanism represent a reinforcement of a policy developed by the coalition that experts say will not amount to a “carbon tax”.

Dorothy R. Barrett

I’m a full-time blogger by passion. This is my first blog, and I'm excited to share everything that I love about technology, business, and lifestyle with you. I’m a writer by trade, and I can be found writing about tech, business, and lifestyle on my personal blog.

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