On the second day of the implementation of the controversial carbon tax, the Labor-led government of Australia scored three points against the Opposition after three major Aussie companies aired their support for the measure.
In paid advertisements that came out Monday, Westpac, AGL and General Electric signed a series of newspaper ads to indicate their support for the carbon tax amid the scare campaign made by the Coalition. The three are among over 300 Australian companies that agreed to back the levy despite their membership in the Business Council of Australia (BCA) which is against the carbon tax.
While the BCA actually supports a carbon price theoretically, it is against the levy imposed by Labor due to its unworkable policy and at $23 per tonne, being one of the highest costs of carbon, BCA Deputy President Graham Bradley said.
However, Westpac said it had held the same viewpoint for over a decade. In the advert, the 300 firms said the carbon tax is an important piece of economic and environmental reform.
AGL described the carbon pricing scheme as the least costly way to invest in renewable energy. The firm spent $448 million to control its Loy Yang A power station in Victoria and its brown-coal mine. With that spending, AGL became entitled to $240-million compensation from the federal carbon assistance programme.
GE defended the carbon pricing as necessary for Australia to achieve long-term prosperity.
"This week, Australia stopped talking about carbon pricing and started doing something about it...Now it's about action rather than policy," The Australian quoted GE Australia Ecomagination Director Ben Waters.
He admitted consensus would be difficult to achieve on the carbon tax. Besides being a member of BCA, GE also belongs to the Clean Energy Council and Businesses for a Clean Economy, Mr Waters said.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) sided with the coalition in speaking against the carbon tax. The chamber said some companies such as AGL backed the carbon tax because it stood to benefit from investing in renewable energy, while others like Westpac are not affected by the measure.
"It is not a reflection of the mainstream business view. The ACCI represents the hundreds and thousands of small and middle-ranking businesses spread across the suburbs and regions of Australia who stand to lose under a carbon tax and consequent higher prices," The Australian quoted ACCI Economic Director Greg Evans.
The Opposition belittled the list of 300 carbon tax backers since aside from AGL which is the only apparent liable entity, the rest are smaller enterprises none of whom are liable to pay the $23 per tonne carbon price. The Coalition pointed to a small businessman that operates from a house in Neutral Bay, an Erskinville physiotherapist, the Byron Bay Film Festival, and an online marketing firm that sells vegan make-up brushes, a Sydney dentist, an acting school, a fish and chip store and a company in Murwillumbah that sells paper crafted from elephant dung as the backers of the carbon tax that belong to the Businesses for a Clean Economy which came out with the newspaper ads.
Nathan Fabian, spokesman of the group, said it allowed small or single-person entities to take part in the paid ad to hear their voice since many companies prefer to keep a low profile on the issue amid the political debate.
While many Aussie firms complain of the high price of the carbon tax, considered one of the costliest in the world, they could actually purchase half of their permits overseas which are considered much lower than Australia's price. The EU carbon price is at €8.5 or $A10.50 per tonne.
The Treasury said it expects Australian firms to source 28 per cent of their permits overseas but when the cap is lifted in 2015, the percentage would likely spike.
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