Federal Politics

License article

Labor still struggling with the fallout

THE carbon tax probably peaked as an issue before the price started - indeed, its first three months have been an anti-climax. But Labor will continue to struggle with the political damage it has done since the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, started dancing with the Greens after the election.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, on the other hand, having had the best of times with the debate, faces harder work from now on. He still seeks to keep the tax as centre of his campaigning, a strategy that might need to change in coming months, especially if Labor continues its modest poll recovery. Abbott also has to explain how a Coalition government would scrap the tax.

And he is committed to the enormous step of a double dissolution if he can't get the tax repealed.

The climate issue, which helped Kevin Rudd surf into power in 2007, turned first against him, contributing to his downfall, and then against his successor.

In the Herald/Nielsen poll, support for an ''emissions trading scheme'' was consistently high in 2008-09. But then support fell in 2010. The ''carbon tax'' has never had majority backing.

Nielsen pollster John Stirton identifies two ''tipping points'': ''the apparent failure to reach agreement at the Copenhagen climate change conference'', and the ''emissions trading scheme morphing into carbon pricing - the carbon tax''.

Over the past few years climate change has turned from an emotional rallying cry to a practical policy challenge with all the accompanying difficulties. Once it started, things changed again as people focused on how they were affected personally.