Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been assured on the eve of launching her climate package that laws putting a price on carbon will pass parliament.
With the Government already having secured the support of the Australian Greens and independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie said today he would also back the laws.
Mr Wilkie’s assurance came as the Government revealed it would set up an independent agency which will have $3.2 billion to spend on renewable energy projects and research.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the Australian Renewable Energy Agency will bring together a dozen existing programs dealing with such areas as solar and geothermal power and biofuels.
The move was welcomed by the Greens.
“It has been obvious for years that renewable energy programs in Australia are a mess of badly designed schemes run as photo opportunities rather than helping build the industry,” Greens deputy leader Christine Milne said in Canberra.
“ARENA will change all that.”
Having been briefed by Mr Combet on the broad details of Sunday’s launch, Mr Wilkie said: “On all the issues I had concerns about I am satisfied the Government has got the settings right. I will be supporting the policy.
“And in fact I think they’ve done a very good job and they’ve got a good story to sell on Sunday.”
Asked about the impact on Tasmania’s Nyrstar zinc plant, Mr Wilkie said: “I am satisfied the settings that are relevant to the zinc smelter are fair to the zinc smelter.”
Mr Wilkie would not confirm media reports that the carbon price will be $23 a tonne, but said he was satisfied the figure was “fair”.
Senator Milne said the Greens were not satisfied the carbon price would be high enough to drive a transition to renewable energy, but were satisfied this would be supplemented by extra direct spending.
“That’s why we have argued so strongly for a price ‘plus’,” she said.
Media reports have suggested the diesel fuel rebate will be cut, while petrol for cars and light commercial vehicles will be exempt from the carbon tax.
Nationals senator Fiona Nash said there was no justification for changing the rebate.
“The Prime Minister (Julia Gillard) will have the wrath of regional Australia on her doorstop if she moves to move one cent away from this diesel fuel rebate,” Senator Nash said.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said even if petrol was exempted from the carbon tax the price at the bowser would still go up because of the increase in transport and power costs for fuel producers.
“You can’t trust this Prime Minister to look after your interests and, whatever the Prime Minister says, the price of petrol is going to go up under this Government and its carbon tax,” Mr Abbott said in Brisbane.