The announcement today of the carbon price package will provide certainty to Australian workers and their families and allow them to begin planning for the largest economic adjustment for a generation.
The package for a fixed carbon price of $23 a tonne, beginning in 12 months time’, lays the foundation for taking real action on climate change, says the ACTU.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said the package had addressed union concerns about household costs, protection of existing jobs, and investment in new job-creating technologies.
She said it was now time for the scare campaigns to end, and for Australian industry to begin preparing to reduce their emissions and build new industries for the long-term security of their profits and their employees.
“Today is a turning point in the carbon price debate,” Ms Kearney said.
“With the facts now on the table, it is clear that doomsday predictions about jobs and the impact on living costs are untrue.
“We intend to spend coming days examining the package in more detail, but today’s announcement ticks the right boxes by protecting jobs, supporting household incomes, and driving new investment in renewable energy.”
Ms Kearney said unions had taken a clear position at the start of climate change negotiations to stand up for their members, especially those in manufacturing and heavy industry.
“Our first priority was to ensure that Australian families – especially low income households – did not bear the brunt of the cost. Today’s package confirms once and for all this is not a tax on all Australians, but on the 500 largest polluters.
“Nevertheless, some of these costs will be passed on to consumers, at an average of $9.90 a week.
“The compensation package announced today ensures that many of our members and their families will not be penalised – indeed with help to reduce their own carbon consumption, they can come out ahead.
“For instance, a double income household with two kids, earning $100,000 a year, will come out in front under the measures announced today.
“It is only reasonable and fair that compensation should be directed at lower income earners, for whom energy costs are a sizeable proportion of their household expenses.
“Secondly, we wanted to ensure that workers in carbon-exposed industries were protected.
“Crucial to this was industry assistance and a regional focus – and this has been included in the package, meaning jobs need not be lost.
“The Jobs and Competitiveness Program for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries, particularly manufacturing, provides the buffer for these sectors to begin adjusting for a low carbon future, while giving them an incentive to begin reducing emissions now.
“Special measures for industries like steel, gassy coal mining, and electricity is welcome and gives us the pathway to improving the efficiency of these industries, not closing them down.
“But the onus is now on industry to plan for their futures based on the reality of dealing with climate change. Moving to a low carbon economy is a major structural change, and unions will be part of the process of managing change in a way that no-one is left behind.
“And the third priority was that the package must position Australian industry to take advantage of the opportunities from acting now on climate change.
“The flagship $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation in this package will give Australian manufacturing that opportunity, and tens of thousands of jobs could be created if industry steps up to the plate.”
Ms Kearney said a price on carbon pollution – initially through a tax and later through a market scheme –was the most effective and cost-efficient way of taking action on climate change.
Australia is the most carbon-exposed economy in the developed world, and it would be irresponsible to delay action, with long-lasting economic consequences.
“A price on carbon will force companies to reduce their pollution and transform our economy to be more energy efficient. It is the responsible thing to do, and we have made sure that the impact on workers is minimised.
“The rest of the world is already moving to cut their carbon emissions, and delay for Australia will only cost the economy and the environment more in the future.
“Unions have successfully argued that the carbon price package safeguards workers and industries, unlocks clean energy industries and jobs, and supports households and communities.
“Unions know Australian workers are up for the challenge. Let’s get on with the job.”
Ben Ruse 0407 030 808
Mark Phillips 0422 009 011