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August 08th 2011 print

John Izzard

Who are the 500 polluters?

It seems incredible that our parliamentarians are going to vote on a tax on which they haven’t been clearly or officially told as to who the targeted carbon-tax-payers will be.


Around 500 of the biggest polluters in Australia will be required to pay for their future pollution under a carbon pricing mechanism.
                                    Securing a Clean Energy Future (Chapter 3)


The big question NOT being asked around the nation about Julia Gillard’s Carbon Tax, by either the media or politicians, is, “who are Australia’s 500 biggest polluters and what businesses are they in”. The most common belief is that they are coal miners and electricity producers. The focus on these two industries is government-driven. Presumably this is because the compensation to millions of Australian on low income has centred round the inevitable soaring cost of electricity, and the compensation, for those power price-rises. 

Apart from coal-miners and electricity generators, who are the other “dirty polluters” that are also on the 500 list, and what impact will carbon-taxing them have on everyday household living-costs, or major investments in say a new home or a new car. Or, your next air-travel adventure? Or, for that matter, will the tax affect the phone bill, the council rates, the water bill or public transport? They’re not going to tax McDonalds—are they? 

On the 1st of August  I called Greg Hunt’s office (shadow for Climate) to get a copy of “the list”, but discovered from a senior staff-member that there wasn’t one; but she said she would investigate. Late Friday, I received confirmation that there was no list available and it looked like the government wasn’t going to release one.  I did get from her though, two very interesting documents. 

One was a Parliamentary Library “information document” and the other was a government document entitled “500 Biggest Polluting Companies” and issued as a “Clean Energy Future” fact sheet. The fact sheet didn’t name any company but simply listed the following numbers of “dirty polluting” businesses, state by state:

135 operate solely in NSW and the ACT,
110 operate solely in Queensland,
85 operate solely in Victoria,
75 operate solely in Western Australia,
25 operate solely in South Australia,
20 operate solely in Tasmania,
10 or less operate in the Northern Territory,
45 operate across multiple states. 

The fact sheet went on to say that, “of the 500 businesses”: 

around 60 are primarily involved in electricity generation;
around 100 are primarily involved in coal or other mining;
around 40 are natural gas retailers;
around 60 are primarily involved in industrial processes (cement, chemicals, metal);
around 50 operate in a range of other fuel intensive sectors;
and the remaining 190 operate in the waste disposal sector.

You will notice that of the above, only electricity would appear to be a business that was likely to impact on the general public’s yearly household budget. Food companies and a host of other businesses, likely to be issued with a carbon-tax notice, are clearly not listed. 

Why? 

The second document I received from Greg Hunt’s office, the Parliamentary Library’s outline of the government’s proposed “Carbon Pricing Mechanism” (prepared for all parliamentarian’s information), posed following the question: 

So which facilities are included in that list of 500? The government hasreleased a fact sheet detailing types of facilities that will covered and their distribution by State, but no information on which private and public bodieswill actually be responsible for paying the tax. 

Well, the Parliamentary Library drew up its own list, based on information drawn from the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 and published under the NGER Reporting Scheme. It makes interesting reading. The Parliamentary Library’s 500 list includes the companies that exceed the government’s limit of 25,000 tonnes of Co2e, per annum and are listed in order of the amount of Co2e emissions that they emit or produce. 

The list includes Woolworths and

Wesfarmers (Coles); CSR; NZ Milk; Murray Goulburn Co-operative; Lion Nathan National Foods; Food Investments; Simplot Australia; Foster’s Group; Goodman Fiedler; Coca-Cola Amatil; Grain Corp; Heinz Watties; Bega Cheese; Nestle Australia; Cadbury Australia; McCain Foods; Mars Australia; Arnotts Biscuits; Parmalat Australia; Aldi Stores; Competitive Foods Australia and of course — McDonalds. 

Short of roasting a wombat on a spit, it would seem that it will be impossible to buy any food from any sizable company that is not hit with the carbon-tax. A tax that will be passed on to shoppers. And the tax will be passed on from non-taxed companies who have had to pay higher energy prices, increased road haulage and water charges etc. from the bigger companies that are taxed, and in turn, supply them with product. 

Apart from electricity, the 500 list includes:

Power and Water Corp; Sydney Water Corp; Waste and Recycling Corporation; Melbourne Water Corporation; Water Corporation; South Australian Water Corporation; Hunter Water and Sun Water. Then there is the garbage disposal and council rates. Brisbane City Council is listed as well as Australia Post and Telstra. 

If you are planning to get educated, get sick or move into a retirement village consider that University of Melbourne; Monash University and the University of Queensland are on the list, as are Metropolitan Health Services; Ramsay Health Care and Uniting Church Aust Property Trust (aged facilities.) 

Fancy a bit of upmarket shopping? David Jones and Myer are on the list. As for a trip somewhere, count in Qantas; Virgin; Tiger and the large airports. Building a home? Include cement, bricks, steel and just about anything produced in Australia. Reading the newspaper or blowing your nose or using the toilet, include paper products. 

It would be interesting if someone in government (or opposition) could explain exactly how the ‘pass-on’ effect of the Carbon Tax is going to affect prices and cost of living expenses. Is it really that hard to produce a detailed list of the 500 companies, what they will pay in dollars, and how, and to whom this will be passed on, as added cost.  

Could someone, somewhere confirm or deny that what is on the Parliamentary Library list, is correct? 

The publication of the Clean Energy Future ‘fact sheet’ is pure spin. Listing the companies that are going to be taxed by activity (60 are primarily involved in electricity generation, etc.), without listing food manufacturers; retailers; service providers; the building industry and airlines and all the other companies affected by the Carbon Tax is just indulging in deceit and deception. 

Or, if there are high “polluters” that are using more than 25,000 tonnes of Co2e and are not on the government’s list—why not? 

It seems incredible that our parliamentarians are going to vote on a tax on which they haven’t been clearly or officially told as to who the targeted carbon-tax-payers will be. And they haven’t been clearly or officially told, how this tax will filter down to affect an added cost burden upon the entire population. 

In a letter to the Shadow Minister for Climate, Greg Hunt, this week, Minister Combet confirmed that the list would remain secret. 

I can’t imagine why — can you?