Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd savoured a moment of victory as the government’s far-reaching emissions trading legislation passed the House of Representatives this morning, sparking jubilation and relief on the Government benches.
Labor and independent MPs broke into applause as the hotly-contested bills passed the Lower House by 74 votes to 72 after weeks of debate.
Amid the celebrations, there was a show of public solidarity as Mr Rudd planted a kiss on the cheek of Ms Gillard, the person who took his job and, by some reports, the person whose job he wants back.
The bills will now go to the Senate where they will pass with the support of the Greens and the legislation will come into force on July 1 next year.
Earlier Ms Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott traded barbs about each other’s honesty in bitter exchanges during media appearances.
Mr Abbott “pledged in blood” to repeal the carbon tax laws if he forms government, despite the certainty of any such move being blocked in the Greens-controlled Senate.
The climate bills had majority support anyway, but the Government’s position was boosted last night when Opposition frontbencher Sophie Mirabella was thrown out of the House for 24 hours for defying the speaker.
Hitting the airwaves ahead of the vote, Mr Abbott again raised Ms Gillard’s promise before the last election not to introduce a carbon tax, accusing her of betraying the Australian people.
“We have a Prime Minister who is the great betrayer of the Australian people. She was absolutely crystal-clear before the last election - ‘There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead,’” Mr Abbott told AM.
But Ms Gillard hit back on the honesty question, bringing up a “cast iron” promise Mr Abbott made before the 2004 election not to raise the Medicare safety net threshold.
Mr Abbott’s promise that “That is an absolutely rock solid, ironclad commitment” was broken in 2005.
Ms Gillard this morning questioned the reliability of Mr Abbott’s word: “Guess what, immediately after being elected he changed the Medicare safety net.”
Audio: Julia Gillard welcomes historic day (AM)
On AM, reporter Sabra Lane asked Mr Abbott if he would put his pledge to repeal the legislation in writing.
“We can repeal the tax, we will repeal the tax, we must repeal the tax,” Mr Abbott said.
“I am giving you the most definite commitment any politician can give that this tax will go. This is a pledge in blood. This tax will go.
“No parliament can bind its successor. It’s a fundamental principle of Westminster democracy that no parliament can bind its successor.”
But with the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate, the legislation will not be repealed unless Mr Abbott, if he wins government, calls a double dissolution election and wins a majority of Senate seats.
That would give the government the potent strategy of campaigning on “a vote for the Coalition means a vote for two elections”.
But Mr Abbott insisted the climate legislation will be repealed ...
• Historic, says Nick McKim
HISTORIC FEDERAL CLIMATE VOTE
Nick McKim MP
The Tasmanian Greens today welcomed the passage of the Clean Energy Future Bill 2011 successfully negotiated by the Australian Greens through the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth Parliament.
Greens Leader Nick McKim MP congratulated Tasmanian Senator Christine Milne and Lower House Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt for their crucial role in negotiating an outcome that sees Australia at last taking a global leadership role on climate change.
“This is a historic day in the fight against climate change, and it’s been made possible because of the constructive contribution the Australian Greens have made during negotiations with Federal Labor,” Mr McKim said.
“This package charts a new course for Australia as a leader in the global effort to tackle the climate crisis, and finally kick-starts action to shift toward a carbon-neutral economy.”
“There are major potential economic benefits for Tasmania through the $1.7 billion dollar biodiversity fund negotiated by the Greens, which will support landholders to undertake projects that establish, restore and protect biodiversity carbon stores.”
“With its strong renewable energy potential, Tasmania will be eligible for a major share in the $10 billion available through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.”
“We Greens look forward to seeing this Bill pass through the Senate, and look forward to the clean, renewable energy future that it promises to deliver for us all,” Mr McKim said.