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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid