(Corrects first para, list based on emissions not political
CANBERRA, June 15 Australia will levy a
controversial carbon tax on about half the number of companies
originally expected, a government list released on Friday shows,
which may limit the economic and political impact of the tax
which starts on July 1.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pinned her government's
survival on implementing the carbon price while hoping for a
muted voter reaction to blunt a persistent opposition attack
warning of higher prices, job losses and factory closures.
Australia's Clean Energy Regulator has named 294 firms will
be liable for the A$23/tonne ($22.96/tonne) carbon tax, with
electricity generators, steel makers and mining companies among
the biggest emitters. The list was based on emissions output.
The list is well short of the government's initial estimate
that around 500 companies would be forced to pay to pollute
under its sweeping carbon price, designed to cut Australian
carbon emissions by five percent of 2000 levels by 2020.
"It is a finite number of entities within our economy that
will carry the carbon price liability," Climate Change Minister
Greg Combet told reporters.
The government has already started to roll out a programme
to rebate billions of dollars to householders to compensate for
a modest 0.7 percent inflationary impact of the scheme, with
electricity prices to be the most affected.
A poll by the respected Lowy Institute think tank found 63
percent of voters oppose the carbon price, while 57 percent
support opposition leader Tony Abbott's promise to abandon the
scheme if he wins power at the next election, due in late 2013.
Under the plan, the carbon price will be set at A$23/tonne
for three years, before moving to a full trading scheme with a
floating price from July, 2015.
To further cushion the economic impact, the government will
offer generous compensation to big polluting industries and
offer free permits to major export-exposed industries.
Australia, the world's biggest coal exporting nation, is one
of the world's biggest per-capita carbon emitters due to a heavy
reliance on coal for 85 percent of electricity generation,
although it accounts for only 1.5 percent of global emissions.
($1 = A$1.0016)
(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Ed Lane and Michael