The federal government's economic adviser on climate change has urged the community not to judge the controversial carbon tax proposal until all details are on the table.
Professor Ross Garnaut also took a thinly veiled swipe at Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, saying he hoped “the noise” of the Australian political debate would not dominate decision making on the crucial issue.
The community would have to look at how the money would be spent as well as how it was collected before forming a judgment, he told reporters in Brisbane.
“The money doesn't just disappear when a price is put on carbon,” Professor Garnaut said.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, accompanied by other members of a multi-party climate change committee including Greens leader Bob Brown, last week announced plans to introduce a carbon tax mid next year.
Ms Gillard, who has come under fire from the opposition for breaking a pre-election commitment not to pursue a carbon tax, vowed to compensate households for the rise in costs.
The plan involves polluters paying a fixed carbon price, or tax, to emit carbon into the atmosphere over the first three to five years.
The government then plans to switch to an emissions trading scheme, in which a cap on carbon pollution is set and market forces determine how much companies have to pay to pollute.
Ms Gillard said every cent raised would help families with higher household bills, help businesses make the transition to a clean energy economy, and tackle climate change.
But it's still not clear how much the tax will be, which sectors of the economy will be liable to pay the tax, and what assistance will be provided to households and industry.
Mr Abbott has vowed to scrap the tax if he is elected, saying Ms Gillard's plan would push up power and fuel bills.
He has also targeted the Prime Minister over her comments during last year's election campaign that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led.
Professor Garnaut called for “sober discussion based on facts and analysis” when asked about Mr Abbott's position during a forum in at Brisbane's Sebel Citigate hotel yesterday afternoon.
“We're in an early stage of dealing again with a very hard policy issue in Australia,” he said.
“This is a really hard issue. It's complicated. It's easy to take slogans to it. But I think that if we in the independent centre of the Australian polity insist on facts, analysis, then what we might think of as the noise of Australian politics won't dominate outcomes.
“That might be too much of a hope but Australia has done it before – at our best, we're good enough.”
Professor Garnaut was in Brisbane to release his latest research document on climate change issues.
The fourth paper, focusing on rural land use, stresses the benefits farmers could gain from helping to capture and store carbon through biological processes, or biosequestration.
It argues that the land sector accounts for one-fifth of Australia's emissions and biosequestration “must be central to any ambitious global effort to meet targets for limiting temperature increase”.
“Movement toward comprehensive coverage of all land sectors under a carbon pricing mechanism would yield economic and environmental benefits,” the paper says.
The plan released last week by the federal government suggested the carbon price could cover emissions sources including the energy and transport sectors, but not agricultural emission sources.