Australia business plans anti-carbon ad campaign

CANBERRA, July 1 Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:57pm EDT

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CANBERRA, July 1 (Reuters) - A coalition of Australian business groups is planning to mount a national advertising blitz against a carbon price scheme being negotiated by the government with the campaign set to be launched within days of the policy being unveiled, newspapers said on Friday.

Similar to a campaign last year against a mining profits tax which led to a change of prime minister and seriously hurt the Labor government ahead of elections, the campaign would run in newspapers and on television.

Leaked documents obtained by The Australian newspaper showed the A$10 million blitz would start within seven days of the carbon tax announcement, expected as soon as next week, and would run until parliament considered legislation in September.

The paper said the coalition included the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Coal Association representing coal miners, the Australian Logistics Council, the Plastics and Chemicals Industry and the Minerals Council of Australia, representing resource companies.

Other members of the coalition, which called itself The Australian Trade and Industry Alliance, represented freight and transport companies, it said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's minority government wants to impose a tax on carbon emissions from mid-2012 before transitioning to a carbon-trading system, under which the nation's 1,000 biggest polluters will need to buy carbon permits on an open market.

The government has been negotiating with Greens and independent lawmakers to pass a revised scheme after a plan to cut carbon emissions foundered in 2009 in the face of Senate opposition from the Greens, who argued a targeted cut in emissions of 5 percent by 2020 from 2000 levels was too weak.

After months of secret negotiations, a deal is close and could be announced in the next two weeks, with Gillard saying she wanted the tax to emissions market transition to be as short as possible to avoid uncertainty for businesses. The transition is expected to happen in 2015.

The business coalition was seeking "considerable resources" in an echo of the anti mining tax campaign that led Gillard to oust former prime minister Kevin Rudd in a party coup and forced Labor to compromise with global miners, the Australian said.

Another newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, said separately that the objectives of the alliance were to "build public opposition to the carbon tax so that it is either substantially modified or fails to pass the parliament".

If agreed by parliament later this year, the emissions market would be only the second national scheme outside Europe, following the lead of neighbouring New Zealand. (Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Ed Davies)

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