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New Australian Carbon Tax Meets with Protests

Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, 1 Jul, 2012.
Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia, 1 Jul, 2012.
SYDNEY — Several thousand people in Sydney have protested a carbon tax that came into force Sunday. The government says it is a key economic and environmental reform, while critics insist it will inflict great damage on the economy.

Opposition to the carbon tax has been relentless. The measure will require about 500 of Australia's biggest polluters to pay $23 for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit.

Protesters in Sydney say it will destroy the Australian economy. They insist is that man’s influence on the climate is minimal and that warmer temperatures are part of a natural cycle.

These demonstrators say the carbon tax is unjustifiable.

“It is wrong. It is ridiculous. Well, the rest of the world are all laughing at us as well, and look at the China, the one that does most of the pollution. What are they doing? Laughing at us and buying all our stuff.”

“The science, the empirical science, completely contradicts any need for any action against human carbon dioxide.”

“What you'll see is an uprising from the people, a peaceful uprising. They are not going to put up with it.”

Australia’s conservative opposition says it will repeal the carbon tax if it wins the next election, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the levy is the most important economic and environmental reform the country has seen in more than a decade.

“We believe in putting a price on carbon, in tackling climate change, in protecting our environment, in strengthening our economy," said Gillard. "As a Labor Party, as a Labor Government we have not done all of this for no reason. We have done it because we believe it is pivotal to Australia's future.”

The aim of Australia’s new levy is to encourage heavy polluters to invest in cleaner technology in order to reduce their reliance on coal. The government says the carbon tax will usher in a new age of renewable energy in a country that is one of the developed world’s worst per-capita emitters of greenhouse gases, which environmentalists say are causing global temperatures to rise.

There will be multi-billion-dollar compensation plans to reduce the impact of the Australian tax on businesses and households.

A recent survey suggested the majority of Australian companies believe that carbon pricing is here to stay and will soon become part of a “new business reality”.