Promises all round

FORMER prime minister Kevin Rudd called climate change the great moral challenge of our generation.

Five years later, Australia is about to enter the era of the carbon tax, and the political debate is as robust as ever.

To the true believers, it's the start of a brave new era and the start of the end for fossil fuels.

To the federal opposition, it's a dishonest tax that will cost the nation $36 billion over the coming four years.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott promised yesterday to repeal the tax should the Coalition win office, an outcome many believe is all but certainty at the next federal poll.

Responding yesterday, Climate Change Minister and MP for Charlton, Greg Combet, said it was "ludicrous" to suggest the Coalition government could repeal the carbon price in a month.

Mr Combet said Deutsche Bank analysis suggested it would take at least eight months to repeal the legislation.

Mr Combet said that after decades of debate about climate change, Mr Abbott now wanted to "rip assistance away from Australian families" and "deliver nothing more than uncertainty to Australian businesses".

On business uncertainty, Newcastle MP Sharon Grierson pointed out that Shell chief executive Peter Voser "strongly backed" a price on carbon and said Labor's legislation would not change Shell's plans to invest $30 billion in Australia over the coming five years.

Paterson MP Bob Baldwin said the opposition's spokesman on climate action, environment and heritage, Greg Hunt, would be in the Hunter on Monday and would look at the impact the carbon tax would have on operations, including Maitland City Council's waste facilities.

Mr Baldwin said the failure of the carbon tax was shown clearly by Treasury modelling that showed emissions would continue to rise for another 15 years. It would take until 2045 for emissions to return to current levels.

"Even then, most of Australia's efforts in cutting emissions by 5 per cent in line with international obligations will come from buying carbon credits overseas," Mr Baldwin said.

"Mr Combet and [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard can dress it up all they like but the compensation will not be enough, especially when the compounding effects of the cost increases are taken into account.

"And they still don't like calling it a tax, but it's a tax and a tax is a tax is a tax."

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