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Australia repeals maligned 2-year-old carbon tax

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 17, 2014 at 6:46 am •  Published: July 17, 2014
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SYDNEY (AP) — Australia's government repealed a much-maligned carbon tax on the nation's worst greenhouse gas polluters on Thursday, ending years of contention over a measure that became political poison for the lawmakers who imposed it.

The Senate voted 39 to 32 to axe the 24.15 Australian dollar ($22.60) tax per metric ton of carbon dioxide that was introduced by the center-left Labor government in July 2012. Conservative lawmakers burst into applause as the final tally was announced.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's conservative coalition government rose to power last year on the promise of getting rid of the tax, assuring voters that removing it would reduce household electricity bills. He plans to replace the measure with a taxpayer-financed AU$2.55 billion fund to pay industry incentives to use cleaner energy.

"Today, the tax that you voted to get rid of is finally gone: a useless, destructive tax which damaged jobs, which hurt families' cost of living and which didn't actually help the environment," Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

Australia is one of the world's worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita, largely because of its heavy reliance on the nation's vast reserves of cheap coal for electricity.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten lashed out at Abbott after the vote, dubbing him an "environmental vandal."

"Today, Tony Abbott has made Australia the first country in the world to reverse action on climate change," Shorten told reporters. "History will judge Tony Abbott very harshly for refusing to believe in genuine action on climate change. Tony Abbott is sleepwalking Australia to an environmental and economic disaster."

The carbon tax, charged to about 350 of Australia's biggest carbon polluters, was controversial from the start. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard had initially vowed not to introduce a tax on carbon emissions. But after her Labor party was elected in 2010, she needed the support of the minor Greens party to form a government — and the Greens wanted a carbon tax. Gillard agreed, infuriating a public that viewed the measure's imposition as a broken promise.

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