Australia enacts greenhouse gases tax

Conveyor belts carry coal from the open cut mine to the Loy Yang B power station in the Latrobe Valley, 150km east of Melbourne on Aug. 13, 2009.

Jeremy Hobson: President Obama arrives in Australia tomorrow for a two-day visit. And the big news down under is a law that was just approved to tax greenhouse gas emissions. That's something President Obama has supported in the past for the U.S.

Stuart Cohen reports from Sydney on what the new tax will mean for Australia.


Stuart Cohen: Charmaine Williams and Pascal Scherrer are, in many ways, a typical Australian family. Recent homebuyers, they have a 2-year-old son, with plans for another child on the way soon. And the new carbon tax makes sense to them.

Charmaine Williams: I think if you could call it something like a pollution tax, because that's what it is, it's basically taxing the big polluters.

Pascal Scherrer: Who is going to disagree? Everybody wants pollution reduced.

Only the country's 500 most polluting companies will be hit with the tax -- about $23 per metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions. But it's expected to raise the cost of a lot of things, from electricity to a loaf of bread. Much of the money collected will go to consumers to compensate for higher prices. The government says families like the Williams-Scherrers, will actually get more in compensation from the tax than they'll pay in higher prices, but the impact on businesses is less clear.

Jonathan Jutsen: For businesses, it really depends on the sector and how they play the game.

Jon Jutsen runs Energetics, a company that advises businesses on going green. He says the key point he's telling clients is not to think, 'How much is the carbon tax going to cost me, but what opportunities are there to profit from it?'

Jutsen: It's not just obvious things like people who make equipment that is lower carbon or provide services that'll lower carbon, but it's also traditional businesses just seeing they've got a real opportunity. So, for example, if you happen to be in the telecommunications industry, the low carbon future depends on fantastic communications.

For Charmaine Williams and Pascal Scherrer, the increased costs from the carbon tax seem manageable. For them, it's more important to set a good example, even when it comes to their son Caleb's bedtime stories.

Scherrer: I collect all my papers and put them in the recycling bin, then they can be used again. Do you do this?

In Sydney, I'm Stuart Cohen for Marketplace.

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