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In Australia, hatred of carbon tax drives voters to opposition

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 6:51 p.m.
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MELBOURNE, VICTORIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Australian Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott addresses the press on September 6, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. With just one day left in the campaign the Liberal-National Party coalition had one of their first stumbles, by releasing a policy to implement an opt-out internet filter, but then abandoning it within hours. The conservative Liberal-National Party coalition looks set to form government in tomorrow's Federal Election. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd speaks to students during a visit to St Edward's College in Gosford on New South Wales' Central Coast, September 6, 2013, as a new poll shows he is heading for an election wipe-out. Labor leader Rudd is trailing conservative Coalition leader Tony Abbott in the polls for the upcoming general election to be held on on September 7, 2013. AFP PHOTO/William WESTWILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

SYDNEY — The ruling Labor Party's expected collapse in Australia's vote on Saturday is largely the consequence of its qualified success in the last election three years ago. To form the coalition, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard agreed to place a carbon tax on major polluters.

Voters have never stopped hating the tax and its effect on their electric bills. Longtime Labor Party supporters — even people who have helped cut pollution by installing solar panels at home — have flocked to the opposition.

“Whoever gets rid of it will get my vote,” said Mark Keene, a 54-year-old maintenance worker from Sydney who, for the first time in his life, won't be voting for Labor.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has declared the election a “referendum on the carbon tax” — a sure sign of confidence that most voters remain staunchly against it, with many believing that companies forced to pay the tax are simply passing the cost onto consumers.

Its unpopularity has already produced the downfall of Gillard, who lost her job to Kevin Rudd in a June vote of party lawmakers desperate to avoid a crushing election loss that could send them into the political wilderness for a decade. But Labor candidates for Parliament trail badly in opinion polls.

The tax on big polluters such as power plants and factories has been in place since July 2012. It started at $21 per metric ton of carbon dioxide produced and has risen more than a dollar per metric ton.

The government estimated the tax would cost the average person less than $9 per week, but it ended up costing more than twice that much.

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