Huge opposition to Australia's proposed carbon tax

Will destroy industrial cities

THE state's two key industrial cities will be "wiped off the map" by a carbon tax, a major union warns. The tax would strip thousands of jobs from Whyalla and Port Pirie, the Australian Workers Union state secretary Wayne Hanson said.

The internal revolt from Labor's industrial heartland threatens not just the reform but the Government's survival.

Mr Hanson yesterday stepped up his union's opposition to the tax, claiming the future of both cities would be in serious doubt because both had economies based on the high-emission production of steel, iron ore and zinc. "Goodbye. They will be off the map," he said.

His opposition to the tax appears to be a calculated manoeuvre by the AWU and follows last week's surprise about-face by the union's national secretary, Paul Howes, who declared the AWU's support would be conditional on absolutely no jobs being put at risk in the steel sector.

The Gillard Government's support base now appears to be fracturing, threatening the future of the Prime Minister's signature reform for this term.

With Whyalla's main employer, OneSteel, and fellow steelmaker BlueScope in Canberra today for talks with the Federal Government over the proposed tax, the fact that such an important union has broken ranks and is openly campaigning against the Government is highly significant.

The AWU, the oldest and most influential union in the ALP, is demanding either an outright exemption for the steel industry or a 100 per cent compensation package.

An estimated 3000 to 4000 jobs are dependent on OneSteel's Whyalla operations alone. The company produces some 1.3 million tonnes of steel per year from its operation there, accounting for around 20 per cent of the national industry.

Adding to Ms Gillard's woes, food manufacturers are now also seeking special treatment. "We don't oppose a price on carbon, but industry is opposed to a tax that will increase the cost of food and grocery manufacturing in Australia, which is already under intense pressure," the Australian Food and Grocery Council's Kate Carnell said in a statement yesterday. "Whatever decision is made, the Government must ensure that Australian-manufactured food and groceries will not be made less competitive."

The Government now faces a wall of opponents as groups across the political spectrum from employers and industry bodies, to unions and the welfare sector, seek exemptions or more compensation.

The unpopular tax, which the Government is struggling to sell - not least because it has not designed it yet - is also a factor driving Labor's support into the basement. The latest Neilsen poll showed Labor at its lowest level in 15 years.

Mr Hanson said union members at Whyalla's OneSteel plant, and at Nyrstar's lead and zinc smelter at Port Pirie were rightly worried. "It's ridiculous to consider (a carbon tax) when you don't have other countries that are prepared to adopt a common approach," he said. "To allow your steel industry to disintegrate is just reckless. Should we be the trail-blazer?"

That argument appears to be straight out of Tony Abbott's anti-carbon tax playbook after he called for a people's revolt on the tax on the grounds it would destroy jobs and send investment off-shore.

However, the state Labor MP for Giles, Lyn Breuer, said the Federal Government understood what was at stake. "Why would the Federal Government send an industry broke, put in jeopardy the jobs of thousands of workers, particularly in my area in Whyalla? ... I'm confident that we'll be able to make some sort of arrangement that will satisfy everyone," she said before acknowledging: "without the steel making operations at OneSteel, the town (Whyalla) would not have a future."


No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments containing Chinese characters will not be published as I do not understand them