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BHP leads the push for carbon tax

By: Gabriel Gutnik
13 October, 2010

Feature of the week: At an Australian British Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney last month, BHP Billiton Chief Executive Marius Kloppers spoke about the need of a carbon pricing to be put in place in order for Australia to remain competitive on the world stage.

Failure to do so, he added, would give large companies a real reason to take their business elsewhere – "to more competitive locations where a carbon price doesn't hinder their margins."

As the world's largest mining company, the speech – which included the notion that Australia will need to move away from coal as a source of energy – put forward ideas on how taxes should be spent, and the future of alternative fuels.

Kloppers' speech added to mounting pressures for a revision of Julia Gillard's hardline pre-election approach to the issue.

It began with a clear statement, through precisely chosen words – "I don't rule out the possibility of legislating a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme - I rule out a carbon tax," a pre-election Gillard announced.

But this month, a push from the NSW State Government with the preparation of the Carbon Emissions Abatement scheme, and the strong words from Kloppers – has reopened the line for talks regarding the introduction of a carbon tax.

Gillard has stated now that without a definitive costing on carbon – business certainty would be shaky, reassessing her initial views and adding "I genuinely believe complex public policy questions are never assisted by simple rule-in, rule-out games."

The Australian Trucking Association has always been vocal about their view that in order for there to be a successful reduction in emissions, there needs to be a clear, simple policy which applies nationally.

However how this will affect the trucking industry remains unclear, as the scheme supported by the ATA under the Rudd government was defeated earlier this year, leaving the topic open to re-discussion. 

Whether any new schemes proposed will retain the same exemptions will be a topic watched by the eyes of many, as globally similar carbon tax introductions have caused major costing increases to trucking industries.

Gillard added that the newly formed inter-party climate change committee that reported directly to Cabinet – chaired by herself, and containing several expert advisers – would review all aspects of how to approach the issue, and that she wanted the assistance of all involved, regardless of party sides.

"We are saying very clearly to the Coalition that we would ask them to work in good faith with this committee."

However, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has ruled out the addition of any Coalition MPs joining the committee, holding his stance against any form of tax or trading scheme.

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Graeme Barnes | Thursday, October 14, 2010, 1:38 PM
I cannot believe Marius Kloppers' statement in regards to imposing a carbon tax. "Failure to do so, he added, would give large companies a real reason to take their business elsewhere – "to more competitive locations where a carbon price doesn't hinder their margins." The only way that a carbon tax will not hinder company profits is if there is no carbon tax. Therefore they will, as Mr. Kloppers states, move to where there is no carbon tax! The certainty that business is looking for is that a carbon tax is either ruled in or ruled out. Not necessarily that there is a carbon tax, but that there is a certainty about the issue. One thing is certain, if we have a carbon tax and our competitors do not then we will be less competitive. This means that more companies will move to countries that do not have a carbon tax.