Australian carriers volunteer to pay carbon tax

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Qantas, Virgin Blue and other Australian airlines will voluntarily pay the carbon tax after lobbying to be included in the scheme.

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Qantas, Virgin Blue and other Australian airlines will voluntarily pay the carbon tax after lobbying to be included in the scheme.

In a last-minute change to the carbon tax legislation, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet revealed yesterday the Government had agreed to allow heavy users of fuel to opt in to the scheme.

Under the original plan, the aviation, shipping and rail industries were to be excluded and instead pay higher fuel excise.

But airlines and some rail operators told the Government that paying a carbon levy would give their operations more certainty.

A Qantas spokesman said yesterday it would allow the airline to buy carbon credits on the market, giving it the same flexibility as other companies.

“This would not be possible with a simple increase in fuel excise,” the spokesman said.

“Our voluntary carbon offset program has been running since 2007 and has offset more then one million tonnes of carbon. Under the carbon price we hope to be able to work with Australian abatement providers as part of the carbon farming initiative.”

Heavy users of fuel will not be able to opt into the carbon pricing scheme until July 2013.

Qantas has calculated the 12 months of paying 5.06¢ extra per litre of fuel will cost it about $115 million. A spokeswoman for Virgin Blue said the carbon pricing scheme would allow the company to source abatement measures at lowest cost.

Mr Combet said the impact on airline tickets would be about $2 per sector.

The 18 clean energy Bills will be put to a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and are expected to pass with the support of crossbench MPs and will go before the Senate next month. The Government’s changes to the Migration Act, designed to rescue the Malaysian people swap deal that was scuppered by the High Court, is less assured when it comes before the Lower House on Thursday.

WA National Tony Crook’s vote will be crucial. If he joins the coalition in voting the Bill down, it will be the first time since September 1929 that a Government has lost a vote in the House – the Opposition would portray it an effective vote of no confidence in the Government.

Mr Crook remains undecided on the legislation but is angry that the coalition and the Government cannot agree to put offshore processing of asylum seekers beyond legal doubt.

Although the WA National would have supported Mr Abbott forming minority Government had he mustered sufficient support from the other crossbench MPs, Mr Crook has proved he is no coalition flunky. He supported the Government’s flood levy and the national health deal.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.