Carbon tax fight takes shape

Andrew Probyn Federal Political Editor
Carbon tax fight takes shape
The day after: Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott. Picture: AAP

Battlelines have already been drawn for the next Parliament, with Labor's most influential figures vowing to oppose Tony Abbott's core pledge to abolish the carbon tax.

As business groups swung behind the Prime Minister-elect to demand Labor respect Mr Abbott's "clear mandate", outgoing deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese and senior Labor MPs said they had their own mandate to protect.

Mr Abbott emphasised his carbon mandate claim when he met the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ian Watt, in Sydney yesterday to receive the incoming Government brief, or Blue Book.

"Obviously, a very early item of business is scrapping the carbon tax," Mr Abbott told Dr Watt before television cameras.

"There's border security. There's economic security and the people expect, quite rightly, that the incoming Government will build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia."

The coalition is on track to win 89 seats, compared with 57 for Labor, one Green, one for the Palmer United Party (its leader Clive Palmer) and two independents.

The Senate looms as a negotiator's nightmare. There might there be two senators representing Mr Palmer's party, alongside senators from the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, the Australian Sports Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and Family First.

The final Senate result won't be known until next week.

Greens leader Christine Milne, whose party lost 3.3 per cent primary support in the election, said the carbon pricing legislation would be defended in the Senate.

This means the Abbott Government would require Labor's help but Mr Albanese ruled this out.

"We are absolutely going to defend taking action on climate change - I could not look my son in the eye and walk away from taking action on climate change," he said. "We have supported an emissions trading scheme for a very long time. We have that mandate and I see no reason why we should walk away from our legacy."

Labor frontbencher Mark Butler agreed.

"We won't be rolling over," he said. "We won't be throwing overboard positions we have held on climate change for a very, very long time."

The Minerals Council of Australia said the carbon tax was a dead weight on the economy.

"Abolishing the carbon tax and minerals resource rent tax will be a positive first step in an industry where our international competitors face no such comparable imposts," MCA boss Mitch Hooke said.

Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd also endorsed Mr Abbott's mandate to scrap the carbon tax, saying it was time to stop the politicking. "We now have a majority government in place for three years. It has a tough task that we all know in our heart of hearts has to be undertaken if we are to turn around a weakening fiscal position and lift productivity and competitiveness," he said.

"Business is looking for urgent action to unwind policies that have hurt our competitiveness, and to begin the long process of structural reform and planning that will position our economy and living standards for the future."

Premier Colin Barnett welcomed the result, saying he had no doubt Mr Abbott would become "a very, very good Prime Minister".

"There is no doubt it will restore international confidence in the mining industry," he said.

After leading Labor to its lowest primary vote in 100 years, Kevin Rudd announced he would not contest the leadership of the party.

Former Cabinet ministers Stephen Smith and Greg Combet said Mr Rudd should leave politics altogether to allow the party to heal.

During his concession speech on Saturday night the former prime minister endorsed Mr Albanese stepping up to the job, but Mr Albanese is still weighing it up.

Bill Shorten said he was "genuinely undecided" about whether to contest the leadership, which under new rules instigated by Mr Rudd would be decided by a ballot of caucus members and Labor's 40,000 members. It is understood that if Mr Albanese runs, Mr Shorten will not contest.

"This process will be . . . marked by the lessons of the past," Mr Shorten said. "No rancour, no external discussions, no division but rather, how do we be the best Opposition and keep the faith with the people who believe in the Labor Party and what we can do in the future."

Business is looking for urgent action to unwind policies that have hurt our competitiveness." *Tony Shepherd * _, Business Council of Australia _