Australia will price carbon emissions from July 1 next year as part of the effort against climate change after the Senate this morning passed the controversial carbon tax.
Labor and Greens senators joined to pass the Bills, the culmination of months of negotiations between the Government and crossbenchers.
Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said he would be cracking open a bottle of bubbly while Climate Change Minister Greg Combet lauded it as a historic day for reform.
"This will be the resolution of what's been a long-running, difficult public policy debate," Mr Combet told ABC Radio before the vote today.
"It's gone on for many years, it's a reform that the country does need to make and it's a reform the Government's very proud to make."
But with new figures showing European businesses are paying between $8.70 and $12.60 a tonne - almost half the Australian cost of $23 - Mr Combet was forced to shoot down suggestions the tax needs to be reworked.
Australian Greens senator Christine Milne told the chamber during the Senate debate preceding the vote that it wasn't parliament's job to prop up “last century” businesses.
Liberal senator Michael Ronaldson asked the Government whether there would be any international events that would influence a decision to delay the carbon tax.
Liberal senator Simon Birmingham said Australians would suffer a 10 per rise in electricity prices under Labor's carbon tax. “This is a black day, a shameful day for democracy,” he told the chamber.
The Opposition unsuccessfully tried to have the Bills amended.
Finance Minister Senator Wong said it was strange the Opposition was seeking to amend legislation it had promised to repeal in government.
It was convenient that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had “jetted off to the UK“, she said, urging him to speak to conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron who supports climate change action.
Just before the vote, Senator Wong said it had been a long road to achieve the bills' passage.
The Senate previously has rejected an emissions trading scheme.
“But today we deliver,” Senator Wong said. “This is a reform for our children. Today marks the beginning of Australia's clean energy future.”
Senator Wong congratulated Prime Minister Julia Gillard for having the courage and fortitude to deliver the pollution price regime in the face of “the worst scare campaign in recent history”.
But Opposition Senate leader Eric Abetz said the Labor party had sold its policy soul to the Greens for the sake of staying in power.
“(This) is the grossest betrayal of an electoral mandate in Australian political history,” he told the Senate.
The tax was economically reckless, would increase the cost of living, hurt jobs and perversely not help the environment.
Senator Abetz said the next election would be the referendum on the carbon tax the people were previously denied.
A coalition government would axe the tax, he said.
Greens leader Bob Brown insisted it was an historic day for Australia and the seven billion people on the planet.
“What we are doing here today is legislating ... to hold back the great nemesis of climate change for the whole future of humanity and indeed our millions of fellow species on this planet,“ he said to cheers from the public gallery.
Under the carbon tax, the 500 biggest emitting firms will need to buy permits worth $23 for each tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.
The carbon tax is forecast to push up the cost of living by 0.7 per cent but households will be compensated through a combination of tax cuts and increased welfare payments to offset higher prices.
Industries that compete against foreign businesses not encumbered by a carbon price will get up to 94.5 per cent of their permits provided free.
Passage of the tax is a major legislative achievement for the Prime Minister and fulfils a key demand of the Greens in return for propping up the minority Labor Government.
But it has come at great personal and political cost, with Ms Gillard and Labor’s poll numbers slumping, fuelled by voters angry at the PM for breaking her pre-election promise there would be no carbon tax under her government.