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Australia's carbon tax debate ongoing

June 27, 2011 at 2:46 PM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, June 27 (UPI) -- Controversy over Australia's carbon tax plan has heated up after Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised extra compensation for the country's lowest income households to offset energy price rises resulting from the proposed scheme.

Gillard said Sunday that nine out of 10 Australian households would get assistance from the government to help with the costs of a carbon tax through tax cuts and increases in family payments and pensions.

She said the government's carbon pricing policy will be made public in a few weeks. It had been expected by the end of June.

"Yes, it's taking some time but pricing carbon is the right thing to do to tackle climate change," she told the Seven Network on Monday.

Under the government's proposals, Australia would introduce a price on carbon emissions from July 2012, with an emissions trading scheme that could begin from 2015. It would apply to the energy sector, transport, industrial emissions and waste.

Seen as a further blow to the proposed carbon tax, the seventh annual Lowy Institute for International Policy Poll of Australian public opinion released Monday shows "tackling climate change" dropped to 10th place, after topping the list just four years ago.

The poll shows the proportion of Australians willing to pay up to an additional $10 a month on electricity bills also slid from 32 percent to 19 percent.

The Minerals Council of Australia claims that under the proposed carbon pricing scheme, the country's minerals sector would pay $25 billion to $30 billion by 2020, with $18 billion just for the coal sector. The Australian Coal Association has said that up to 18 large coal mines could close over the next nine years, resulting in the loss of nearly 5,000 jobs.

Greens leader Bob Brown on Sunday said the most polluting enterprises would struggle for survival. While coal mines would not have to shut down immediately, he said, "the coal industry has to be replaced by renewables," the Canberra Times reports.

Australia's coal industry indirectly employs about 140,000 people and is slated to contribute $60 billion to the country's export revenue this year, The Australian newspaper reports.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, for his part, says the carbon tax would not only destroy the coal industry, but other sectors as well.

''It will destroy the steel industry, the cement industry, the aluminum industry, the motor industry it will be, over time, the death of heavy manufacturing in Australia,'' he said, the Times reports.

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