Jobs the key factor in mixed reaction to carbon tax

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Jobs the key factor in mixed reaction to carbon tax

There has been a mixed reaction to the Federal Government’s new carbon tax, with unions generally welcoming it but other groups uncertain about its effects.

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There has been a mixed reaction to the Federal Government’s new carbon tax, with unions generally welcoming it but other groups uncertain about its effects.

A government fact sheet on the tax, claims that jobs will be supported by extensive assistance to businesses affected by a carbon price.

It says the government will allocate around 40% of carbon price revenue to help businesses and support jobs.

A Jobs and Competitiveness Program will provide $9.2 billion of assistance over the first three years of the carbon pricing mechanism to safeguard jobs in industries that face international competition and produce a lot of pollution.

Manufacturing industry will be assisted by tailored programs worth $500 million for steel manufacturers, food processors and metal foundries and forgers.

An $800 million grants program will help manufacturers invest in low pollution technologies.

A Coal Sector Jobs Package will provide $1.3 billion in assistance to support coal mining jobs.

It says a number of studies in Australia and around the world have demonstrated that with existing technologies pollution can be reduced without slowing economic growth. Re-tooling our economy for a clean energy future will deliver new technologies, new jobs and new opportunities.

Unnecessary risk: NSWBC
 
New South Wales’ largest business group, NSW Business Chamber, said the attempt by the Australian Government to unilaterally solve a global challenge adds new and unnecessary risk into the operation of most Australian businesses.

‘Australia has one of the most successful economies in the world. Whilst productivity has softened in recent years, by and large Australian businesses operate within a legislative, social and economic framework that is the envy of the world’, said Stephen Cartwright, CEO of the Chamber.

‘The tax changes that winning formula for growth. This package will take the Australian economy into uncharted waters.’

‘It is highly possible that all we are achieving through this complex package is shipping our jobs and emissions off-shore — thereby achieving no net improvement in global emissions.’

‘The complexity of the package, the patchwork nature of compensation, and the oiling of the squeaky wheels, creates a package that is complex and costly, with no guarantee of success.’

‘Business is sceptical — and we have every right to be, as a scheme of this size and complexity has never been tried anywhere in the world.’

Increased costs: Abbott
 
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Australia’s over two million small businesses will face increased costs, with no direct support.

‘Regional Australia will be hit hardest by the carbon tax,’ he said.
 
‘Most of the jobs in our mining, manufacturing and electricity generation sectors are based outside our capital cities. Under the carbon tax the gap between city and country will just get bigger.’

‘When [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard talks about a “clean energy future” what she really means is higher electricity bills and fewer jobs with no environmental benefit.’

The steel industry had expressed fears that the carbon tax would deal it a heavy blow and make it uncompetitive.

However, OneSteel’s managing director and CEO, Geoff Plummer said the industry believed that on balance, the sectoral approach announced by the Prime Minister for the steel industry is ‘both appropriate and sensible’.

Betting Australian jobs: aluminium industry
 
The executive director of the Australian Aluminium Council, Miles Prosser, was considerably less impressed.

‘This imposes a carbon cost on Australian aluminium producers of at least $60 per tonne of aluminium compared to only $8 per tonne in China,’ he said.

‘Australia’s carbon cost will rise every year of the scheme and over the next decade to more than $200 per tonne of aluminium while in China it is not expected to get any higher than $60.’

‘The Government is betting Australian jobs on the wild gamble that other countries will follow our policy. But we are asking the Government to maintain and grow those jobs while we pressure other countries to match Australia’s effort.’

‘This is putting jobs in Gladstone, Geelong, Hunter Valley, Portland, Tasmania and Western Australia on the line when no other country is exposing their industry to the same risks. We are keen to discuss details with the Government to get the right outcome for jobs in the aluminium industry, particularly in regional Australia.’

Union concerns addressed: ACTU
 
ACTU president Ged Kearney said the package had addressed union concerns about household costs, protection of existing jobs, and investment in new job-creating technologies.

Kearney said unions had taken a clear position at the start of climate change negotiations to stand up for their members, especially those in manufacturing and heavy industry.

‘We wanted to ensure that workers in carbon-exposed industries were protected,’ she said.

‘Crucial to this was industry assistance and a regional focus — and this has been included in the package, meaning jobs need not be lost.’

‘The Jobs and Competitiveness Program for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries, particularly manufacturing, provides the buffer for these sectors to begin adjusting for a low carbon future, while giving them an incentive to begin reducing emissions now.’

Job investment welcomed: AMWU
 
AMWU national secretary Dave welcomed the $15 billion investment in jobs.

‘There is no future for manufacturing and no real job security for workers over the next decade if we don’t put a price on carbon and back it up with support for low emission technologies and energy efficiency solutions,’ he said.

‘The Government should be commended for investing in manufacturing and giving Australia the chance to win a fair share of the jobs that come with clean energy solutions.’

‘There is a $6 trillion global clean technology market that Australia can now access.’

This included the manufacture of solar panels, wind turbines, hybrid vehicles and all the building materials and lighting systems that will feature in the move to a more energy efficient, low-carbon economy.

Oliver said it was incumbent on the Federal Government to ensure they were made in Australia.

‘The manufacturing unions will be meeting with Government following the announcement today, to ensure measures are put in place so a “make it here” policy helps to ensure that we manufacture the solutions in Australia.’
 
‘Carbon catastrophe’: O’Farrell
 
NSW Premiery Barry O’Farrell said the new tax is a ‘carbon catastrophe’ for New South Wales.

‘It will hit every family in NSW in the pocket or purse through everyday price increases while the impact of the carbon tax on household electricity and gas prices will make recent increases look like petty cash.’

‘The carbon tax will hit areas which can least afford job losses like the Hunter and Illawarra.’

Boost for Hunter region
 
However, NSW AMWU state secretary Tim Ayres said the Hunter and Central Coast are well-placed to see growth in manufacturing jobs over the next decade due to the carbon tax package.

‘Putting a price on carbon and backing it up with support for commercialising low emissions technologies and energy efficiency solutions opens up real opportunities for manufacturing,’ he said.

‘The Hunter and Central Coast have a lot to offer: a strong and diverse industrial capability, a highly skilled workforce and a proven track record in innovative, world-class manufacturing.’

‘The Hunter is also the energy capital of Australia, with huge coal, solar, wind and geothermal reserves.’
 
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