Palmer carbon amendment tweaked as government talks tough on repeal

With Clive Palmer’s support, the carbon tax should be repealed this week. AAP/Lukas Coch

The government has adjusted, in consultation with PUP, Clive Palmer’s amendment to the carbon tax repeal legislation as it tries again to expedite terminating the tax.

The amendment, to ensure power companies fully pass on the savings, contains a provision for a fine of 250% of any savings withheld. But there was concern from business it could apply more widely.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said today there had been “some minor edits to ensure that any remaining questions about the scope and unintended consequences on small business are removed. We wanted to make sure that was the case and to be fair, the Palmer United team has wanted to make sure that was the case.”

Hunt said he had spoken with Palmer, who has been in New Zealand, on Friday and had a “sort of electronic engagement” with him at the weekend. There will be a meeting early tomorrow before the legislation is reintroduced into the House of Representatives.

“I am sending a very, very, very clear message that anybody who wants to prevent the Australian people getting the benefits which have been promised and anybody who wants to stand against what they themselves told the Australian people they would do, will need to explain it,” Hunt said.

He was “firming up my approach from diplomacy to sending a very clear message that we all went to the election, all eight crossbench senators and the Coalition members, with a pledge to repeal and the Australian people would be deeply disappointed and I imagine in many cases angered, if that were not followed through this week”.

Blaming PUP for Thursday’s embarrassing hitch to the repeal, Hunt said: “Let me be clear. There were three sets of amendments presented by the Palmer United Party last week – all were accepted by the government.

"The final version which had been ticked off by the Clerk – or the umpire of the Senate – was constitutional.”

It was about to be moved by the PUP senators but “they walked out on their own amendment and never presented that constitutional version”, he told Fairfax radio.

Hunt later clarified that he was not referring to the amendment the Senate Clerk said did not meet the constitutional requirements. The Clerk’s advice was that PUP’s amendment amounted to imposing a tax – tax measures can only be introduced in the House of Representatives.

Hunt said PUP had to explain why the repeal did not go ahead on Thursday. The result could have been delivered “literally within a matter of minutes”.

He expected the bills would be passed by the end of this week and “everybody has lower electricity bills from Friday onwards. There should be no barriers. There were no barriers on Thursday.”

Hunt said he had spoken with some crossbench senators over the last couple of days. “They want to get on with it and I hope that there are no delays and there should be no excuse or reason to create any delays.”

Liberal Democrats’ David Leyonhjelm and Family First’s Bob Day were now comfortable with the clarifications made to the Palmer amendment “to provide extra certainty that businesses wouldn’t be affected”.

The Australian Industry Group has also been consulted. Its chief Innes Willox said tonight the revised amendment was “much better than it was on Thursday and probably workable in this form but we’d need to keep an eye on it in practice”.

Glenn Druery, adviser to the Motoring Enthusiast Party’s Ricky Muir, said Muir needed to have a look at the revised amendment’s implications for business.