Industry unhappy with Australia’s pollution tax

By Marc Lavine (AFP)
SYDNEY — Airlines, miners and industry launched a furious attack on Australia’s bold new tax on carbon emissions Monday, as Prime Minister Julia Gillard began selling the levy to sceptical voters.
Business leaders warned the tax on the nation’s 500 biggest polluters would not only cost taxpayers billions and force major industry to slash production and jobs, but would fail to reduce global carbon emissions.
The government defended the scheme, which will price carbon at Aus$23 ($24.74) per tonne from July 1 next year, saying it was the best way to help slow global warming and save natural treasures such as the Great Barrier Reef.
“At its core it really is quite simple, we at the moment put carbon pollution into our atmosphere for nothing, a big polluter can just keep chugging it up into the skies and not pay anything,” Gillard said.
“The core of this is those big polluters will pay a price, they’re smart business people, when a bill comes in for carbon pollution they’ll say, ‘How can I reduce that bill, how can I change my processes so I generate less carbon pollution?’.”
Gillard said the levy, which will be offset by a package of personal tax breaks including the lifting of the tax-free threshold for workers, would slash carbon pollution in Australia, one of the world’s biggest per capita emitters.
Under the plan, which is under heavy attack from the conservative opposition party, there will be a fixed price on carbon pollution until the Asia-Pacific’s largest emissions trading scheme to date is launched in 2015.
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