Carbon Tax Bill to be Presented to Australian Parliament
Oz provides an excuse for some comparative politics.
Via the BBC: Australian PM Julia Gillard presents carbon tax bill
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has presented her bill for a controversial carbon tax to parliament.
The legislation would force about 500 of the biggest polluters to pay for each tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.
The tax is central to the government’s strategy to combat climate change, but the opposition say it will cause job losses and raise the cost of living.
The legislation would start with a carbon tax and then move to a cap-and-trade type of program:
It will be introduced on 1 July next year, and will then evolve into an emissions trading scheme three years later.
The internal politics of it all highlight some of the ways politics and policymaking are different in a parliamentary system (as opposed to the separation of powers system as in the US).
A couple of things that struck me as interesting:
1. The fact that the PM is going to introduce the bill means that it is almost certainly going to pass the parliament. This is rather unlike, say, when a President proposing a piece of legislation there is absolutely no guarantees that the legislation will be voted on, let alone passed. Further, even if a vote takes place, the legislation voted upon may bear little resemblance to the original proposal.
President Obama can make a speech to Congress, admonish them to “pass the bill” and then go on a bus tour, but he can no more guarantee his jobs bill passes Congress than he can fly to moon and back under his own power.
2. In parliamentary systems, coalitions are often needed to form a government, which can have political implications:
Thousands of Australians have protested against the bill, accusing Ms Gillard of lying before last year’s election.
Ms Gillard made a pledge during last year’s federal election not to introduce a carbon tax.
The proposed tax was drawn up after Ms Gillard failed to win an overall majority in parliament at the polls and had to rely on the support of the Australian Greens.
3. In parliamentary systems there is a far clearer feedback mechanism between voters and legislators. To wit: if the current parliament passes policies that a majority of voters do not like, then those voters can elect a new majority which would have the power to reverse what the previous parliament did:
The conservative opposition leader has promised to ditch the tax if he wins office.
Tony Abbott said on Tuesday that the government had “no mandate” to “ram the bill through”.
Granted: such things are often easier said than done. That having been said, if one government does massively overreach on policy, the opposition can directly take the matter to the voters in ways that is far more difficult to do in the US (despite frequent campaign rhetoric to the contrary).
This is to be contrasted with separation of powers systems where the feedback loop is more complex (i.e., voters elect the legislature and the executive, with mixed signals possible within the feedback loop), not to mention that in the US system in particular, the internal rules of the Senate make it possible for minorities to block major legislation.
A clear illustration is to be found in the US in the fact that major policy changes are difficult to begin with (e.g., the Obama health care reform took large majorities in both the House and Senate to pass and will require similar majorities to repeal—and those types of majorities do not come around often).
More on the Australian plan (which is a package of 18 bills) can be found here:
Via the Sydney Morning Herald: It’s time to act on climate: Gillard.
Via News.co.au: Help us decode the carbon law