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Greens' Leader Brown Says Gillard Committed to Carbon Price in Australia

Australia’s Greens Party leader Bob Brown said he believes Prime Minister Julia Gillard is committed to putting a price on carbon to help prevent climate change.

“The prime minister is very sensibly listening to what the people had to say and what business is saying” on carbon policy, Brown said on Channel Ten’s “Meet the Press” program today.

The Greens support compensation for trade-exposed industries, Brown said, while opposing the idea of a full rebate for companies facing higher costs as a result of a carbon price being introduced.

Gillard was forced into a power-sharing agreement with the Greens and three independents after her Labor Party lost its majority in last month’s election. She has agreed to establish a climate change committee to move toward introducing a penalty for carbon emissions in the world’s largest coal-exporting nation.

“The point of a carbon price is to have polluters pay for creating dangerous climate change, and therefore a huge threat, second to none, for Australia’s future economy,” Brown said.

BHP Billiton Ltd., a partner in the world’s biggest exporter of coking coal, has said that without a global system for reducing carbon emissions, Australian industries would require rebates to stop them relocating to countries where a carbon price wouldn’t crimp their margins.

Greenhouse Emissions

“Our preferred solution is the introduction of an international climate framework, which includes binding commitments by all developed and major developing economies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” BHP’s Chief Executive Officer Marius Kloppers said at an industry lunch in Sydney last week.

Kloppers said Australia needed to move away from coal as its main source of power to avoid being at a competitive disadvantage once a global price on carbon was established.

“We are seeing now Mr. Kloppers and other people who are very senior in business who want the assuredness of future investment being based on a carbon price,” Brown said in today’s broadcast. “This government is handling that maturely.”

Brown said the Greens supported a tax on the profits of mining companies that Gillard proposed after ousting her predecessor Kevin Rudd in a party coup in June. Gillard watered down Rudd’s plan for a 40 percent resources tax after mining companies ran a national advertising campaign against it that won voter support.

Reduced Levy

She exempted most commodities from the tax, raised the threshold for when it kicks in, and reduced the levy to 30 percent on coal and iron ore earnings. The leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, is against the tax.

Brown said his preference for Rudd’s 40 percent levy on the “super profits” of mining companies was unlikely to gain traction in the current political environment.

“It simply won’t happen because Tony Abbott wants there to be no taxes whatsoever,” he said. “That said, we’ll take the government’s alternative.”

The Greens will support the government “because at least it does raise a sensible tax for this nation’s future,” Brown said. “We’ll talk to the government to see if there’s improvements to be gotten out of that, but I would expect that that basic rate is the one that will apply.”

Gillard called on the opposition not to look to topple the new Parliament in a speech in Bathurst, New South Wales, yesterday, ABC News reported today on its website. She also called on lawmakers on all sides in the national interest to restrain from acting in a partisan way.

“This is not a time for inaction, filibustering or obstructing progress,” ABC News cited Gillard as saying. “The parliament has not yet even met, but Mr. Abbott has already spoken of how he wants to bring the government down.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Shani Raja in Sydney at sraja4@bloomberg.net

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