Numbers shaping up for carbon tax repeal


Numbers shaping up for carbon tax repeal

DateMay 3, 2013 – 1:43PM 197 reading now

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Jonathan Swan

Jonathan Swan

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Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
The numbers are lining up for Tony Abbott to fulfil his pledge to repeal the carbon tax. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is looking more likely to be able to make good on his oft-repeated assertions to scrap the carbon tax should the Coalition win government in September.

Analysis of voting trends shows that should the present pattern continue to the election, the Coalition would effectively control both houses of parliament, making it powerful enough to repeal the carbon tax.

While Prime Minister Julia Gillard has previously claimed Mr Abbott will not have the numbers to honour his ”blood pledge” to scrap the carbon tax, an analysis of Senate seats up for re-election reveals a majority will likely fall into conservative hands.

Senior lecturer in politics at Griffith University Paul Williams said ”there should be no electoral or numerical obstacles to Tony Abbott repealing the act early in his first term”.


”The numbers would probably align to repeal the carbon tax,” agreed ABC election analyst, Antony Green.

”Whether the minor parties would agree to the withdrawal of the compensation measures could be another matter.”

If current polling trends continue, and Mr Abbott wins a majority in the House of Representatives, then to repeal the carbon tax he would need 39 votes in the Senate. Currently the Coalition controls 34 out of the 76 seats. The Coalition will win another seat in Tasmania and is likely to get an extra South Australian seat at the expense of Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Mr Green said.

That takes the Coalition to 36 votes – three shy of the majority it would need to repeal the tax.

While the Coalition is unlikely to win any more seats in the Senate, it is likely the three extra seats it needs will be held by conservatives who oppose the carbon tax. Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan told Fairfax Media he opposes the tax and would not hold the Coalition to ransom over it – they can count on his vote. That leaves Mr Abbott needing only two more votes to repeal it.

”The key benefit of minor right-wing parties being elected to the Senate is it gives the new Coalition government a negotiation path for legislation through the Senate that doesn’t involve talking to the Greens or Labor,” Mr Green said.

To get his way, Mr Abbott needs minor right-wing parties to swap preferences tightly and in several states he needs the left-wing vote to plummet to historically low levels.

To control an extra Senate seat in Western Australia, Queensland or NSW, conservatives need the combined first preference vote for Labor and the Greens to fall below 43 per cent.

Such a plunge in the progressive vote almost never happens but Mr Green says it is likely to occur in Western Australia and Queensland.

Western Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlum looks set to lose his seat to a minor right-wing party and in Queensland, Labor will probably lose a seat to Bob Katter’s Australian Party. A spokeswoman for Mr Katter confirmed he remains a climate change sceptic and opposes the carbon tax.

Dr Williams said that Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is also gaining traction in Queensland ”no doubt about it” and the party could threaten Katter’s party to take a seat from Labor in that state.

If those results occur, Mr Abbott will have the power to remove the carbon tax and the result in NSW would become academic.

Still, the Coalition could find itself in the luxurious position of having 40 conservative votes in the Senate. Left-wing parties almost always win three Senate seats in NSW but the results of the last state election raise prospects of Labor losing its third seat to a conservative party.

The new Senate comes into effect on July 1, 2014 – making this the earliest date Mr Abbott can hope to repeal the carbon tax.

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