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Abbott, Gillard face angry public

Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have been confronted in public by critics as they continued their election-campaign-style pitch to the nation on action against climate change.

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The opposition leader started Wednesday morning with his family at the fish markets in the Greens-held seat of Melbourne, as the first poll taken after the release of the government’s climate package on Sunday showed almost two-thirds of people want a fresh election.

The Galaxy poll also showed that 68 per cent of voters believe the carbon tax will leave them worse off, while 80 per cent said the package would have no impact on the environment and two-thirds of voters said it would be economically bad.

But at a community forum later in the Labor seat of Isaacs, Mr Abbott was confronted by a Greens voter who argued the government’s plan would pump more money into renewable energy and cutting emissions than the coalition’s “direct action” policy.

Mr Abbott continued his theme of the carbon tax pushing up the cost of living and exporting jobs to Australia’s trade competitors. And he seized on the opinion poll to repeat his call for an early election to test Labor’s mandate on the carbon tax, which before the August 2010 election Ms Gillard had publicly ruled out.

“Every time prices go up, people will think carbon tax,” Mr Abbott said, forecasting public opinion over the next two years.

“Every time the government does something that they think is sneaky, they’ll think carbon tax.”

The prime minister was confronted in Brisbane by a female protester carrying a banner reading “Most incompetent government since Whitlam”, and a woman in a shop who accused her of breaking her word on the carbon tax.

When Ms Gillard tried to explain the package, the woman continued: “I’ve listened to you for months, I’ve watched you in parliament and you’re still lying.”

Ms Gillard earlier said she would not go to an early election as she had given a commitment to run full term to late 2013. “We’ve got to get this done,” the prime minister told ABC Radio, ahead of the visit to the seat of Moreton.

“In 2013, people will have lived under the system, direct experience, real experience … and then they will be able to decide.”

Ms Gillard’s comments came as Treasurer Wayne Swan and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sounded a warning to businesses which increased prices unfairly using the carbon tax as an excuse.

The commission will use its powers under the newly-introduced Australian Consumer Law to investigate claims of price gouging and prosecute any business, with the power to impose penalties of up to $1.1 million.

Mr Swan says the $23-a-tonne carbon price, due to operate from July 1, 2012, will only have a 0.7 per cent impact on the cost of living.

“The commission will keep a watchful eye out for any shonky attempts to jack up prices and falsely claim it is related to the carbon price,” he said in Melbourne.

Meanwhile a state-by-state breakdown of the biggest polluters – which will pay the full $23-a-tonne carbon price – shows 135 operate in NSW and the ACT, 110 in Queensland, 85 in Victoria, 75 in Western Australia, 25 in South Australia, 20 in Tasmania and five in the Northern Territory. A further 45 operate in multiple states.

 

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