Australia counts down to pollution, mining taxes

Australia said Friday the world expects it to do its part to reduce pollution linked to global warming as the nation counts down to controversial new taxes on carbon emissions and mining profits.

Hard-fought levies on corporate pollution and so-called "super profits" of iron ore and coal mining take effect Sunday after years of heated debate and campaigning which cost former prime minister Kevin Rudd his job.

The conservative opposition has warned that key resources industries, whose exports to fast-growing Asia helped Australia dodge recession during the financial crisis, face ruin under the new tax regime.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has vowed to repeal both the mining and pollution taxes if he wins office in elections due in 2013.

Some 350 entities, many of them power generators and coal miners, will be liable to pay the Aus$23/tonne (US$23.1/tonne) pollution tax in its first year, according to the government's Clean Energy Regulator.

The carbon levy is expected to bring in Aus$4.0 billion in the 2012-13 financial year, increasing the cost of living per household by about Aus$10 per week but funding a raft of compensation measures including tax cuts.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the tax was an essential step in transforming Australia's economy.

"We are the highest polluter per person of greenhouse gases among the advanced economies, we're in the top 20 greenhouse gas emitters internationally," he said Friday.

Combet added that Australia's major trading partners, including China and South Korea, were introducing mitigation measures such as emissions trading schemes and "other countries are taking action as well".

"The international community expects Australia to play its fair part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

Australia is the world's biggest exporter of the iron ore and coking coal used in steelmaking, and the second-biggest exporter of thermal coal used in power stations.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the passage of the tax in November as the result of 37 political inquiries and "years of bitter debate and division" which saw her replace Rudd in a party-room coup.

Also instrumental in Rudd's downfall was an ambitious plan to levy the "super profits" of Australia's booming mining sector at 40 percent, a watered-down version of which will also kick in on Sunday.

Intense lobbying by mining giants including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata against Rudd's tax saw him axed in favour of Gillard who scaled it back to just the iron ore and coal industries and lowered the rate to 30 percent.

It is expected to bring in net revenues of Aus$3.0 billion in 2012-13.

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