Carbon tax takes effect Sunday
AUSTRALIANS are bracing for the country's most significant economic reform since the goods and services tax, with the Federal Government's carbon pricing scheme taking effect from Sunday.
Under the scheme the nation's 293 biggest polluters will pay $23 for each tonne of pollution they produce, although the flow-on effects of the carbon tax will be felt throughout the economy to varying degrees.
Just how great those effects will be depends on who you believe.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, not for the first time, gave an "absolute, categorical commitment" to repeal the legislation if elected prime minister.
Mr Abbott, who has waged a successful campaign against the carbon tax since it was first announced in January last year, said he would repeal the carbon tax within a month of taking office.
"I assure the Australian people what the Parliament has done, the Parliament can undo, and undo the carbon tax the Parliament will should there be a change of government," Mr Abbott said in Melbourne.
He later issued a statement outlining a detailed plan for repealing the tax.
Mr Abbott was asked if Australians could expect prices to go down with the repeal of the carbon tax.
"I can guarantee some of the component of prices will comes off," he said.
He said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would have a "strong mandate to ensure prices reflect genuine costs".
Mr Abbott admitted aspects of repealing the carbon price - including funding promised tax cuts and increased pension payments - would be a significant "fiscal challenge".
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, whose job it has been to sell the carbon price to a circumspect and at times hostile public, was also in Victoria on Friday.
He was in Geelong to announce a $40 million bail out of the Alcoa's Point Henry aluminium smelter. The Victorian Government has contributed to the package.
Mr Combet said the smelter's problems were not a result of the carbon price, adding a combination of the high Australian dollar and the impact of the global financial crisis on the aluminium industry had created the financial pressures.
Mr Combet cast doubt on Mr Abbott's promise to repeal the carbon price, claiming it was unfeasible.
"Common sense tells Australian people that Mr Abbott's commitment will not be implemented," Mr Combet said.
In describing Mr Abbott as a "political opportunist without peer", Mr Combet said Australia had a duty to help combat climate change.
"The international community expects Australia to play its fair part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," he said, listing the countries which had already placed a price on carbon.
"Tony Abbott's ... blood oath defies common sense. It pretends that Australia can live in a little fog of its own."