Carbon tax plan: Gillard stands her ground

By Greg Ansley

Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Photo / Getty Images
Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Photo / Getty Images

The brutal politics of climate change are hammering Prime Minister Julia Gillard as voters reject her planned carbon tax out of hand and join Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's demands for an early election on the issue.

As the first polls since Sunday's announcement were published, senior Coalition MPs also targeted the marginal seats of regional Labor MPs and zoned in on the two New South Wales independents whose support for both Gillard and the tax angered their conservative electorates.

The new polling has been disastrous for the Prime Minister, smashing Labor's hopes that its A$15 billion ($20 billion) compensation package, including tax cuts and cash payments, would help swing voters back to the Government.

Polls before the A$23 a tonne tax was announced had pushed Gillard and Labor to record lows, with a Newspoll made just before the details were released showing Abbott ahead as preferred Prime Minister and the Coalition leading the Government 58 per cent to 42 per cent in the two-party preferred vote that decides Australian elections.

Yesterday's run of polls was even worse news, confirming the nation's rejection of the tax, seriously undermining Labor's already-slim chances of survival at the next election, and threatening Gillard's leadership.

A Galaxy poll made after Sunday's announcement for the Daily Telegraph said 60 per cent of voters opposed the carbon tax, with only 29 per cent supporting the move and 63 per cent wanting Gillard to call an election before the tax was introduced.

Galaxy said more than two-thirds of voters believed they would be financially worse off with the tax even with the planned compensation, and 67 per cent thought it would be bad for the economy.

About 80 per cent believed the tax would have little or no impact on efforts to improve the environment.

And the Greens - whose support is central to Labor's legislative programme - appear to increasingly be a burden. Only 30 per cent thought they were working effectively with Labor in the best interests of the community, and 62 per cent believed they held too much influence in Parliament.

An internet-based poll attracting about 25,000 respondents after Sunday's announcement also showed strong rejection of the tax.

The www.news.com.au "carbon tax plebiscite" was opposed by more than 80 per cent, with 87.1 per cent saying they now planned to change their vote at the next election. More than 70 per cent said they would vote for the Coalition.

Gillard said she remained determined to introduce the tax from July next year, rejected calls for an early election, and said by the time of the next vote in 2013 Australians would know the real impact.

"They will have looked at what it meant for pollution and how it impacts on them and their families, and then they will be able to decide," she told ABC radio.

Senior Labor MPs have also been publicly rallying around Gillard, denying calls of growing unease within the caucus.

Chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon said that Gillard was "absolutely safe". Telling the ABC: "The only one talking up caucus division is Tony Abbott. I haven't heard any murmurings from my colleagues."

Gillard was supported yesterday by the union movement.

A survey of economists said about 60 per cent believed the Government's package was good economic policy.

But calling for an early poll, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey said: "If Julia Gillard continues to ignore the Australian people she will do so at tremendous cost, not just to herself but to the Labor Party."

And joining the attack on independent MPs, Shadow Local Government Minister Barnaby Joyce said Windsor would have to explain to his voters why electricity costs would rise 10 per cent in the Tamworth region.

- NZ Herald

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