The Federal Opposition will make a last-ditch effort today to delay the start of the carbon tax as Parliament resumes to debate the proposed legislation.
In what looms as a crunch week for the Gillard Government, the carbon tax is expected to pass both houses of Parliament with the support of the Greens and several independent MPs.
Less certain of Parliamentary approval is the Government’s $300 million steel industry assistance package, and the proposed changes to the Migration Act.
Barring any last-minute hiccups, the Government’s carbon tax should pass the House of Representatives in a final vote on Wednesday, and will then be considered by the Senate.
But the Coalition will move an amendment to delay the start of the tax until after the election.
Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt says the public should get a vote on the issue, and says the Coalition will move an amendment.
“It defers commencement of the carbon tax until after the next election,” he said.
“It is an avenue for genuine democratic consultation – an opportunity to do what the Prime Minister refused to do at the last election, and give the people a say and a genuine choice.”
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says after a decade of debate, he is relieved action on climate change is drawing near.
“I’ve been dealing with the public policy issue now for quite a period of time and I’d like to get it done, I have to say,” he said.
Despite the expected safe passage of the legislation, there is still significant interest in the debate and, in particular, whether former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull will speak in the chamber.
He crossed the floor to vote with the Government during the debate on the ETS in 2009, but has reiterated that will not be repeated.
“You ask me this question all the time and either you think I’m changing my mind a lot or you’ve got a short-term memory problem,” he said.
“I’ve said for some time that I’ll be voting with the Opposition, voting with the Coalition.”
The future of the steel industry assistance package that was announced as part of the carbon tax compensation is less certain, with the Greens yet to declare whether they will support the plan.
Migration Act bill
There is also likely to be attention on whether the Government or Opposition can secure a psychological blow over the proposed changes to the Migration Act.
The bill to resurrect the Malaysian asylum seeker deal is certainly doomed in the Senate, but both sides of politics are furiously lobbying the crossbench MPs in the Lower House for their support.
Unless the Government can win over West Australian Nationals MP Tony Crook and Queensland independent Bob Katter, the Migration Act legislation will be the first Government bill lost on the floor of the House in 82 years.
The bill would secure the future of offshore processing, allowing the Government to send asylum seekers to Malaysia.
Mr Katter and Rob Oakeshott are not saying which way they will vote, and Mr Crook says he has not made up his mind.
He is expected to meet Opposition Leader Tony Abbott this afternoon and a Government representative sometime before the bill is brought on for debate on Thursday.
The Government has lost the votes of two MPs it usually relies on – the Greens’ Adam Bandt and Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie – but believes it has the support of Queensland independent Mr Katter.
If the vote is lost it will be a substantial setback for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who wants a symbolic victory on an issue which has loomed large since she assumed the Labor leadership.