From The Australian:
A COALITION government elected next year could repeal the carbon tax without risking a multi-billion-dollar compensation bill, a prominent legal identity says.
The opposition has been dogged by claims it will be forced to pay billions for carbon units issued by the commonwealth if it honours its commitment to end the tax under the provisions of Section 51 of the constitution, which stipulates the government can only acquire property “on just terms”.
But Sydney barrister and former law academic Bryan Pape — whose 2009 challenge to the $900 million Rudd government stimulus payments led to the High Court demolishing the long-held assumption that the commonwealth can spend money in whatever area it wishes — says under the operations of the Clean Energy Act no acquisition of property issues would arise until 2015.
The opinion emerged as Julia Gillard confirmed the government was continuing to consult on the shape of the floor price in its carbon pricing legislation.
“We’ve been consulting on floor price arrangements as is well know,” the Prime Minister said.
“We will continue with that and when we’re in a position to say something about that, we will.”
In an opinion provided to the Institute of Public Affairs think-tank and obtained by The Australian, Mr Pape cites Section 100.7 of the act and says: “Up to June 30, 2015, any carbon units which were issued to persons by the regulator are taken to have been surrendered immediately after the issue of the unit.
“In short, there would be no property capable of being acquired.”
Given the situation, Mr Pape writes: “In my opinion there would be no consequences with respect to Section 51.”
Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt welcomed Mr Pape’s opinion.
“It fits with exactly what we always knew to be the case,” he said.
“There never has been and never will be a basis for compensation because nobody loses anything.
“The point about carbon units issued to companies now is that they are only ever issued for part payment of a carbon tax bill.
“Every single company that gets some compensation still has a bigger bill to pay.”
Mr Hunt repeated the Coalition’s determination to repeal the tax.
“Unlike the government we’ve said what we’ll do — and we’ll do it,” he said.
“The next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax.
“We can repeal it, we will repeal it and we’ll do it quickly and easily.” (source)