Tue, Aug 16, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Gillard prepares for protest season

Reuters, CANBERRA

Embattled Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard begins a make or break parliamentary season this week, trying to deliver her key carbon and mining tax policies against a barrage of opposition from voters, business and opposition parties.

Gillard and her minority Labor government remain stuck in a “political death zone” according to a latest opinion poll yesterday and would be swept from office if elections were held.

“It really is the business end of the match for Gillard now,” said political analyst John Uhr from Australian National University, adding that she needs to secure her centerpiece reforms in the coming parliamentary session.

Coinciding with the start of the spring parliamentary sittings today, an anti-government rally will be held on the lawns of parliament house to oppose plans to price carbon.

At the same time, 11 separate truck convoys set off this week for Canberra to demand fresh elections, arguing that the minority Labor government has been hijacked by Green and independent lawmakers who guarantee it power.

“We are anti a system that allows unrepresentative minorities to dominate decision making,” organizer and National Road Freighters Association president Mick Pattel said yesterday.

The truck convoys could act as a lightning rod for growing discontent among Australians who believe they are not benefiting from the country’s resources-led economic boom.

Despite the building protests and business against new taxes caused by global economic jitters, Gillard is determined to push ahead with a series of controversial bills.

The main laws will be plans for a carbon tax from July next year, ahead of an emissions trading scheme from mid 2015, as well as a 30 percent profits-based tax on iron ore and coal mines.

The government will also introduce tough anti-smoking laws, which force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packages. The laws have angered global tobacco giants, who have threatened international legal action.

Gillard will be buoyed by the new numbers in the upper house Senate, where the Greens will hold the key votes needed for the government to pass its laws.

That means Gillard should be able to pass her centerpiece policies mostly intact, enabling her to then to try and move the political debate onto more fertile ground for Labor next year, a year out for the next election.

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