The Greens have today moved to block Tony Abbott’s move to inflate petrol prices with a fuel excise. After protracted, and sometimes bitter, internal wrangling the Greens have decided to withdraw their support and side with Labor (and key cross-bench senators) to oppose the Government’s reform.

Christine Milne. Photo: www.smh.com.au

Christine Milne. Photo: www.smh.com.au

Initially the Greens hinted at support for the fuel excise believing that any increase in fuel would act as a price mechanism to dissuade people from driving and reduce carbon emissions.

Be this as it may, the Government has earmarked the revenue raised from the fuel excise for massive road expansion and improvements.

The Greens seized upon this apparent contradiction – believing the construction of more and better roads will act to increase the number of cars and, therefore, add to carbon emissions.

Had the money from the excise been promised to improving public transport the Government would be enjoying full cross-bench backing. “This fuel excise increase is not a tax on pollution,” said Greens Leader Christine Mine, “it’s a tax on families who have no access to public transport.”

Ms. Milne went on to say her party had zero confidence in the Prime Minister and wouldn’t now believe him if he did promise to tackle the harmful effects of fossil fuel pollution.

Predicted impacts of the fuel excise differ according to modellers. Some put the price impact at 40 cents a week while others go as high as 55 cent.

What settled it for the Greens was the Government’s decision to exempt big mining companies from the fuel excise for diesel used off-road. “Why should Gina Rinehart get cheap fuel when ordinary commuters suffer?” Ms. Milne asked rhetorically.

Where the government is seeing the fuel excise as a way to raise much needed revenue the Greens are seeing it as a way to combat pollution, and both are sticking to their agendas.

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