News / Asia

Australia Prepares for Carbon Tax

Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, July 8, 2011 (file photo).Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, July 8, 2011 (file photo).
x
Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, July 8, 2011 (file photo).
Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, July 8, 2011 (file photo).
Phil Mercer
SYDNEY - Australia is preparing to introduce a carbon tax July 1. The levy would force about 300 of the country's biggest polluters to pay roughly $23 for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. The aim is to encourage heavy polluters to invest in cleaner technology to reduce their tax liability and help the environment.

Australia is the world's largest coal exporter and one of the biggest per capita greenhouse gas emitters.  

"The question is how we can get dangerous pollution in Australia cut, at the same time as making sure that jobs continue to grow and the economy continues to grow," said Mark Dreyfus, the Australian government's parliament secretary for climate change.  "And, the advice we have from expert economists, expert scientists is that the best way to do that is by putting a price on carbon."

There has been a vociferous campaign against the new levy by industry groups and conservative politicians. They argue it will push up costs for businesses, erode Australia's economic competitiveness and cost thousands of jobs, while pushing up food and electricity bills for households.

Last month, the loss of hundreds of jobs at an aluminum smelter in the New South Wales Hunter Valley prompted an attack on the government by the opposition leader Tony Abbott, who has promised to kill the levy if he wins the next election.

"Given that the carbon tax is already a wrecking ball swinging through the aluminum industry, the coal industry, the steel industry and the aviation industry, will the prime minister apologize to the 344 workers whose livelihoods are now imperiled by her broken promise never to have a carbon tax?" Abbott asked.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the carbon tax is the most important environmental and economic reform Australia has seen in a decade. She argues it will be the start of a new age for the economy, as it moves away from a reliance on cheap, domestic supplies of coal to renewable sources of energy, including, wind, solar and geothermal. The tax would then evolve into a market-based emissions trading scheme within three years.

Gillard has accused the opposition leader Abbott of misleading voters about the true impact that the carbon tax will have.

"[The] deputy speaker - he has even been out trying to scare cats and dogs about the impact of carbon pricing out at the RSPCA telling poor old Fido and Fluffy a fairy tale about how a cobra and python is coming to get them," Gillard said.  "Well, I can assure the leader of the opposition on the First of July cats will still purr, dogs will still bark and the Australian economy will continue to get stronger."

Many analysts expect the carbon tax to have a "minimal" impact on the economy.  Australia's central bank predicts that overall prices for goods and services will rise by less than one percent, although electricity bills are likely to increase by 10 percent.

Many companies will receive tax concessions, cash grants and free carbon permits as part of multi-billion dollar compensation schemes designed to soften the impact on businesses.

Geoff Rousel, an analyst with Australia's Westpac bank, says many firms are prepared for life under the new tax.

"We are definitely seeing a very significant change in behavior. And, that change is that we've moved from people working out from, 'Am I ready to deal with the compliance obligations, the legal obligations that I'll have under the scheme?' and now firmly focusing on competition; so competitively positioning themselves against their peers. And, of course, that's how a market-based mechanism is meant to work," said Rousel.

Although many Australian businesses complain that the carbon price of $23 is too high, the environmental lobby insists it should be higher to encourage polluters to clean up their act more quickly. Many conservation groups say the carbon tax will be a significant step towards reducing Australia's emissions of carbon dioxide, which they blame for rising temperatures.

Australia's experience is being closely watched by its Asian neighbors.  India already has a similar scheme. South Korea has made sustainable, low carbon growth a national priority.  Other nations including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam are pursuing similar objectives.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid