Peter Graham
Peter Graham

Mixed reactions about carbon tax

EFFORTS to reduce carbon emissions have had little impact on the environment, but a big impact on families' hip pockets.

So said Professor Ross Garnaut in The Garnaut Review 2011: Australia in the Global Response to Climate Change, released this week.

“This is the fourth time Australia has moved toward economy-wide carbon pricing,” said Prof Garnaut, who has recommended the Federal Government introduce a carbon tax of $26 a tonne next year.

“Each time the retreat of action did not mean the end of climate change mitigation policies. An array of regulatory interventions took their place, with little effect on emissions, but large effects on the Australian standard of living.”

Prof Garnaut's review has received mixed reviews from local commentators who said if we already thought prices were high, we should prepare for worse.

“We don't yet know what the government will rule in or out (of the carbon tax),” Lismore economist Dr Lawson Savery said.

“But if they rule petrol in, for example, everything will go up.”

Gordon Fraser-Quick, of Nickel Energy, said: “Consumers are paying 22.12 per kilowatt now for energy, but by 2015 they will be paying 35.2 and by 2020 it'll be 48.7.”

Lismore City councillor, dairy farmer and climate sceptic Peter Graham called the $26 per tonne figure “ridiculous”.

“There is no justifications for this ridiculous figure. We can still do our little bit without it costing a fortune,” he said.

Prof Garnaut said Australia's success in innovation would dictate the costs involved in moving to a lower carbon economy.

“Once we put the carbon pricing incentives in place, millions of Australians will set to work finding cheaper ways of meeting their requirements and servicing markets,” he said.

Mr Fraser-Quick agreed: “Absolutely. I have no doubt that there are yet unfathomable opportunities for energy efficiency.”

While Garnaut proposed compensation be offered to householders and businesses – he suggested that 55% of revenue collected be returned to households through tax cuts and 35% to polluting businesses as compensation – Dr Savery expressed concern for self-funded retirees, a large number of whom live on the Northern Rivers, who would not get the tax cuts.

National Seniors Australia chief executive Michael O'Neill agreed.

“What Prof Garnaut and others fail to recognise is that self-funded retirees are on fixed incomes. The impact of a tax like that will be as severe as for other people on fixed incomes,” he said.

Prof Garnaut also suggests the government plans to halve the 2.5% increase in assistance to beneficiaries, including pensioners, seniors, carers and people with a disability.

“This is ill-informed and inadequate,” Mr O'Neill said.

“We don't believe government would treat older Australians in that way.”

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