Australia’s new carbon tax had a cold reception when it came into effect yesterday, with thousands of protestors reportedly out in force in Sydney.
Around 300 big polluters were slapped with a carbon price of $23 (£15) per tonne, a measure the Australian Government hopes will cut carbon pollution by at least 159 million tonnes a year.
A further swathe of firms are meant to be “shielded” from the brunt of the carbon price, with the most emissions-intensive missing out on 94.5% – meaning they’ll effectively pay less than $1.30 a tonne.
A consortium of firms Westpac, AGL, Unilever and GE are said to have spoken out in favour of the carbon tax.
But Australian Prime Minister Julie Gillard has had to answer fierce criticism that the move will hit the general population hard from Opposition party leader Tony Abbott.
Her government has also introduced tax cuts for homeowners to offset the costs businesses will pass on to them, trebling the tax-free threshold from $6000 to $18,200.
Speaking yesterday, Ms Gillard said: “Is the Sunday roast now costing $100? They’ll be able to judge that. Has the coal industry closed down? They’ll be able to judge that. Is my weekly shop now 20 per cent more expensive? They’ll be able to judge that.”
Dismissing such claims as “reckless and false”, she added: “What Australians will see from carbon pricing is that we will seize a clean energy future; millions of Australians will see tax cuts, many of them around A$300” (£195).