It took just one meeting with Clive Palmer for Tony Abbott to be fairly confident the carbon tax was as good as dead.
The prime minister on Thursday met with the crossbench maverick and discussed the climate agenda Mr Palmer unveiled with former US vice president Al Gore the night before.
In a shock announcement – Labor called it a stunt – Mr Palmer agreed to back the repeal of Labor’s carbon tax and thus enable Mr Abbott to make good on his core election promise.
The government is shepherding its repeal bills through parliament’s lower house with a vote scheduled for Thursday evening.
“I am confident that the carbon tax will go when the legislation goes before the Senate in the next fortnight,” Mr Abbott told parliament after his meeting with Mr Palmer.
But there’s a long list of tough demands the Palmer United Party leader is making in return for his favour.
The latest is PUP’s call for a second round of household assistance linked to the carbon tax to proceed, against the government’s wishes, dealing a $700 million blow to the budget.
Mr Palmer also wants two climate agencies in the government’s crosshairs saved from the chopping block, and the renewable energy target left untouched until 2016.
The government has indicated it will take “strong action” to ensure energy companies pass on savings from repealing the carbon tax to consumers, meeting another of Mr Palmer’s requests.
Mr Abbott said he was “very happy to work with people” when it came to supporting government policy, while Mr Palmer described the prime minister as “very open” to his ideas.
“It was a constructive meeting, something you’d hope from a prime minister that had the responsibility for these serious issues in Australia,” he said.
Not everyone was as pleased.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett urged Mr Abbott not to compromise with Mr Palmer, describing the billionaire miner as a volatile individual.
“I fear for Australian government if he is going to be given a prime place on major policy issues,” he said.
There is still little clarity about Mr Palmer’s call for Australia to adopt an emissions trading scheme only if major trading partners like China, the US and Japan implement similar schemes.
Labor says it will not back a repeal of the carbon tax without a credible emissions trading scheme in its place, and is calling on Mr Palmer to put forward a “fair dinkum” scheme.
The Australian Greens are concerned if the carbon tax goes and Mr Palmer rejects the government’s alternative policy as promised, Australia will be left without a climate action plan.
Liberal Democrats senator-elect David Leyonhjelm supports the idea of legislating the emissions trading scheme to start when Australia’s competitors agreed to a global scheme.
“Even if you are a total climate change sceptic, if the rest of the world is doing something we would have to do the same for trade and competitive reasons,” .