* Palmer United Party to hold balance of power in new Senate
* Palmer says senators will vote in support of govt plan to
scrap carbon tax
* Wants Australia in global ETS, renewal energy targets kept
* Maverick mining magnate turned politician appears with
former US VP Gore
(Adds government reactions, background on Palmer)
By Matt Siegel
SYDNEY, June 25 Key Australian lawmaker Clive
Palmer said on Wednesday he would support a government plan to
scrap a controversial carbon tax, while seeking to impose a
range of conditions, including Australian participation in a
global emissions trading scheme.
Palmer, who made the announcement at a joint news conference
with last-minute guest, environmentalist and former U.S. Vice
President Al Gore, is head of a political party that will hold
the balance of power in the incoming senate.
But the number of conditions on Palmer's support, and the
complexity of his proposed amendments to the repeal legislation,
have cast a shadow over the government's plan.
"True to our promises to the Australian people at the last
election, Palmer United Party senators will vote in the Senate
to abolish the carbon tax," said Palmer, a colourful and
controversial mining magnate.
Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott made the abolition
of the carbon tax a centrepiece of his election campaign last
year, but lacks the votes in the upper house of the current
Parliament to have it repealed.
The Palmer United Party (PUP) will hold the balance of power
when the new senate is sworn in on July 1, however, and its
support removes a roadblock to the repeal.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt was quick to cast the
announcement in a favourable light, calling it a vindication of
government policy. The government was open to discussing any
potential amendments with Palmer, he added.
"What we have seen today is vindication for the government,
because our plan to deliver families genuine savings by
abolishing a policy which is fundamentally failing is set to be
passed by the Senate," Hunt told reporters.
The opposition Labor Party, which enacted the taxes with the
help of the Greens Party at the height of Australia's mining
boom, has said it expected the taxes would be repealed.
Opponents of the carbon tax say it has swelled costs facing
industry and the public and done little to cut emissions, a
position disputed by its supporters, but long backed by Palmer.
The government plans to replace the carbon tax with a A$2.55
billion ($2.40 billion) Emissions Reduction Fund that will pay
big emitters to cut carbon levels, but Palmer blasted the plan
and his conditions may make it tough to pass.
Palmer has a long history of shocking behaviour, including
accusing news magnate Rupert Murdoch's wife of being a Chinese
spy, claiming that the CIA had plotted for decades to bring down
the Australian economy and he now plans to build a scale replica
of the ill-fated liner, the Titanic.
He announced a number of complex and thorny conditions in
exchange for his support of the repeal, which could cause a
showdown between the two houses of Parliament that might even
set the stage for an early election.
Chief among his demands was the creation of an emissions
trading scheme "designed to establish and encourage a fair
global scheme quickly", but that would only take effect once
implemented by Australia's global trading partners.
"The government and the parliament of the day have the
ability to set the financial parameters of the scheme, based on
the action of our leading trading partners such as China, the
United States, the European Union, Japan and Korea," he said.
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)