BHP’s 100% Carbon Tax Rebate, While You Pay Higher Electricity

2 May

Last Friday, the Independent MP Tony Windsor challenged BHP’s Marius Kloppers to “put up or shut up” on the carbon (dioxide) tax.  Barnaby Joyce immediately shot back that it is Windsor who should declare his hand on the issue, since he is one of the very few who can decide its fate in Parliament.

It’s worth taking a few moments to brush up on the history of the Gillard-BHP-carbon tax connection.

Just after the Gillard/Greens/Independent minority government was sworn in last year, Kloppers stepped out as the first Big Business leader in Australia to publicly advocate for a carbon tax.  But more recently, he’s been making noises that “appear” to argue in the opposite direction:

After the federal election, Mr Kloppers became the first chief executive of a major company to support a price on carbon.

He urged Australia to act before any international agreement in order to protect the nation’s long-term economic interests.

In China this week, he said Australia should not penalise its trade-exposed industries by imposing a carbon tax ahead of international competitors.

What is Kloppers really up to?

Simple.  He’s using the media to “negotiate” another sweet-heart deal for BHP.  Exactly a la the secret backroom deal-making over the terms of Gillard’s revised Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT).

What kind of sweet-heart deal?

These public comments from last September suggest Kloppers’ game plan:

A(nother) key consideration would be to give industries exposed to the tax a rebate, Mr Kloppers said, because without a global price, these companies would become uncompetitive and might consider shifting polluting assets to countries without a carbon tax.

At the time, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, of the much smaller miner Fortescue Metals, was on to Kloppers’ strategy like a flash:

Mr Forrest said that Mr Kloppers’ carbon tax plan was designed to help BHP.

“He says you get a complete rebate if you are an exporter. BHP is a total exporter so he is embedding a tax that will be paid for by everyone else, a la the minerals resource rent tax.”

In future, whenever you hear Gillard and Combet et al parrotting on with smooth, soothing reassurances about how jobs will not be lost under their carbon (dioxide) tax because it will offer “protection for ‘trade-exposed’ industries”, just remember what ‘trade-exposed’ really means.

It’s double-speak.

If you’re BHP Billiton, it means a 100% rebate.  No pain.  Lots of gain (once the mega-$ accountants have performed their magic).

If you’re a small-to-medium size industry or exporter – without the lobbying muscle of a BHP – it means you’re about to get bent over.  Lots of pain.  No gain.

Kloppers’ carbon tax “exporter rebate” plan would place the onus on Australian consumers to pay dramatically higher electricity prices, while BHP would get a full rebate on any carbon tax that they might “have” to pay.  Meaning, BHP profits remain at a maximum.  Along with Kloppers’ own remuneration package, of course.

All the rest is pure smoke and mirrors.  Kloppers’ giving the appearance of possibly “wavering” or switching sides is pure gamesmanship.  Designed to maximise pressure on a weak minority government, to cave in to the greedy aspirations of Big (International) Business.

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