Federal Politics

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Environment Minister Greg Hunt launches attack at $6.6b carbon tax payout

Australian companies paid out $6.6 billion in the first full year of the carbon tax, with the seven biggest electricity producers each slugged more than $250 million.

The first annual tally of carbon tax liabilities, released on Friday by the Clean Energy Regulator, was largely as forecast.

But the Abbott government seized on the sheer scale of the figures to increase pressure on Labor to ''get out of the way'' of its election promise to abolish the tax. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has vowed to block the government's carbon repeal bills in the Senate.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt claimed the ''hit on the economy'' from the tax was worse than Labor had predicted when the Gillard government introduced the pollution tax last year. He said the total cost to the economy was $7.6 billion once reduced fuel tax credits and charges on the refrigeration and aviation industries were considered.

Of the 348 companies forced to pay the tax, NSW-based Macquarie Generation had the biggest bill at nearly $470 million. Great Energy Alliance, the company behind Victoria's Loy Yang power plant paid $425 million.

Sixteen of the top 20 carbon tax contributors were power companies, with a combined bill of $4.1 billion, according to the six-monthly update by the Clean Energy Regulator. Manufacturing companies paid $1.1 billion.


Mr Hunt used the numbers to renew the attack on Labor, which has doggedly opposed the government's claimed election mandate to terminate the tax.

''All Australians can blame Bill Shorten [for] helping to push up electricity bills and the overall cost of living,'' he said. ''It's time for Labor to get out of the way and support the repeal of the carbon tax.''

Mr Hunt said the $7.6 billion taken from companies had only resulted in a 0.1 per cent fall in emissions. Proof, he said, that ''it doesn't even work''.

Shadow environment minister Mark Butler said the government had failed to understand the aim of the carbon tax. ''Its purpose is to charge polluters for their excess emissions,'' he said.

''During the period since the carbon price's introduction, the economy has continued to grow, contradicting Tony Abbott's claim that it will have a catastrophic effect on Australia's economy.''

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor warned against the government using large figures, which are being passed on in higher prices that are softened by household compensation, to claim damage was being done to Australia.

"It's not true to say there is no gain, the government's own data estimates the carbon laws will reduce pollution by almost 40 million tonnes by July 2014,'' he said.

''The bigger point is that the laws make big polluters take responsibility for their pollution, repeal will just return them to an entitlement to pollute for free - and access a taxpayer subsidy should they wish to take some action."

Clive Palmer's Queensland Nickel owes $6.172 million, according to the Clean Energy Regulator. The newly minted MP said on Wednesday he would abstain from voting on or debating carbon tax bills to avoid any perception of impropriety.

The most recent budget papers predicted the tax to take $6.26 billion during the current financial year and $6.39 billion the next.