A large majority of companies are critical of key design features of the carbon tax although there is still support for action on climate change.
A survey by TheAustralian Financial Review of companies that will pay the tax from July 1 and detailed interviews found businesses divided in their response to the tax, with their strategies running the gamut from virulent opposition to embracing a low carbon future as the basis for company strategy.
The $23 fixed starting price is the biggest bone of contention, with even companies positive about climate action, such as Toyota, pointing to the big gap between Australia’s carbon price and the market price under the European trading system.
“Our preference is to begin with a lower price to be consistent with global carbon pricing and allow us to remain cost competitive,” Toyota said in a statement.
A spokesman for Caltex suggested companies receive free permits until competing countries matched the Australian scheme, while Adelaide Brighton Cement suggested a starting price of $5 to $10 would be more reasonable. “I can’t see this scheme at $23 a tonne surviving for more than a year or two,” said a spokesman for Adelaide Brighton.
But corporate responses to the tax are as varied as business itself, with even companies in the same industry taking apparently opposite positions.
Queensland liquefied natural gas developer BG Group supports emissions trading, but said: “Australia’s carbon tax has the perverse impact of penalising LNG, an energy source that provides a solution to global warming because it is the cleanest of fossil fuels.”
Gas giant Santos described the government’s clean energy package as “an important step towards a lower carbon economy”.
“The introduction of a carbon price provides an increased opportunity for natural gas as Australia transitions to a low carbon economy.”
Perverse impacts are also apparent in food production, with one dairy manufacturer paying the tax on one of its sites powered by gas while other, smaller sites fuelled by dirty coal briquettes escaped the tax net.