Yesterday was a remarkable day here for carbon-related issues.

Clive Palmer has substantially changed position. He won’t support Direct Action – he says that it ‘is a waste of money’. Nor will he support the abolition of various key existing carbon-related statutory agencies or the Renewable Energy Target. What he now advocates is the implementation of an emissions trading scheme (ETS), but one which will be ‘zero-rated’ until Australia’s major trading partners (5  named countries including the US and China) have ‘equivalent’ schemes. He says that he will ‘move amendments’ to the Government’s Bills to do these things. He announced all of this to journalists gathered in the Great Hall of Parliament in the company of no less than Al Gore, both of whom left without taking or answering any questions. There will be plenty of them today.
It appears that he is now advocating a variation on what Rudd announced in July 2013 – an early move to the ‘flexible’ phase of carbon pricing, only a ‘zero-rated’ one. Milne of the Greens has picked up on this saying that she and her party will support moving to the market-based ‘flexible’ phase of carbon pricing under the Clean Energy Act in FY2014-2015 rather than FY2015-2016 as currently proposed.        

Labor has said this morning, through shadow environment Minister Mark Butler, that Labor went to the last election promising to get rid of the fixed carbon price and to move straight to the emissions trading scheme, and that it therefore has no trouble with the repeal of the fixed price but that it does have a problem with the repeal of a meaningful ETS.

Recently, Xenophon and others have made noises that the issues raised by the Government’s Bills are too complex and important to be decided in haste in the first weeks of a new Senate. Palmer’s actions yesterday will add weight to these calls.

Palmer’s position, if maintained, means that it’s likely that the Government’s Bills will be defeated in the Senate, a prospect which was unimaginable until yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Clean Energy Act remains in force unamended.

Stay tuned!

This article was written by John Taberner, Consultant, and Michael Voros, Special Counsel.

For further information, please contact John Taberner, Michael Voros, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.