Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday promised generous tax cuts and payments to compensate households for the impact of a new carbon tax as she steps up efforts to win public support for an increasingly unpopular policy.
Gillard has staked her troubled leadership on introducing a carbon price, but a new poll yesterday found most voters no longer regard tackling climate change as a major goal.
The prime minister said 90 percent of Australian households would receive tax cuts to compensate for the impact of the carbon tax, while 3 million low income households would be better off, with compensation payments to be 20 percent higher than any carbon price impacts.
“That is 7 million Australian households getting a tax cut or payment increase,” Gillard said. “People believe climate change is real. They want us to do something effective. The most effective thing we can do is put a price on the big polluters, get them to pay and they will work out how to reduce their carbon pollution.”
The government, Greens and independent lawmakers are working on final details of the carbon tax, with the carbon price and levels of compensation for industry and householders to be announced within weeks.
The Lowy Institute for International Policy poll found that for the first time in seven years there was no longer majority support for action on climate change.
Only 46 percent of Australia’s believe fighting climate change is a very important foreign policy goal — down 29 points from 2007 when the Labor government was first swept to power on an environmental platform.
Gillard is struggling to gain political support for her carbon price scheme, to come into force from the middle of next year, and is banking on it and a new mining tax to turn around her poor standing with voters before elections by 2013.
Her minority government, dependent on a handful of Green and independent members of parliament, would be thrown from office if an early election was called, according to opinion polls.
The fall in support for tackling climate change in Australia coincides with the failure of global talks on climate change.
Australians said protecting jobs was their top policy priority, which is interesting as the country enjoys virtually full employment.