Tasmania's cash-strapped health department has been told to absorb the cost of the federal carbon tax despite it inflating the $11 million power bill it paid last year by nearly 6 per cent.
Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said that the impact of the carbon tax on the state's public hospitals and other Health and Human Services activities would be minimal this financial year.
But the state opposition said that the government had grossly under-estimated the financial impact of the new federal tax.
The state's main private hospital group is grappling with a staggering 36 per cent increase in the cost of its power this financial year with the majority of the increase attributed to the carbon tax.
The government said that Tasmania remained a net beneficiary of the carbon tax with increased dividends from Hydro Tasmania expected of between $70 ?million and $80 million.
But opposition energy spokesman Matthew Groom said those dividends were only guaranteed for this financial year and were likely never to be repeated.
A spokesman for Premier and Treasurer Lara Giddings said that the state was not suffering the same impost on its already financially challenged public hospital system as Victoria.
A Melbourne newspaper report earlier this week said that Victoria's public hospitals had been hit with an extra $6.7 million in energy costs in six months because of the carbon tax.
A Victorian government analysis of hospitals bills revealed that carbon charges made up, on average, 15 per cent of hospital energy bills.
The spokesman for Ms Giddings said that the Tasmanian Economic Regulator had estimated that the introduction of the price on carbon would increase power prices by 5.81 per cent.
That equates to nearly $640,000 added to the $11 million power bill that Health and Human Services paid in 2011-12.
It's also on top of increased power charges generally this financial year, which will add nearly another 5 per cent to bills.
Ms O'Byrne said that the carbon tax had been treated like any other cost pressure that the public health sector dealt with by being built into the normal costs experienced by Tasmanian Health Organisations and the department.
Mr Groom said that Tasmanians were not being told the real effect of the carbon tax.
``The government is saying, `don't worry, it's inconsequential by way of the windfall gain of Hydro's extra revenue','' he said.
``But Hydro will not replicate that net profit next year.''
Calvary group Tasmanian chief executive Grant Musgrave said that his staff had been working on how to cope with expected increased power costs this financial year but had not expected the extra 36 per cent at its Launceston campuses alone.
``The hospital has had increased levels of activity but the net increase [in power costs] is still about 27 per cent, or $170,000,'' Mr Musgrave said.
``It's a lot higher than we anticipated but we have to try and absorb it, there is nothing we can do,'' he said.
``And we are not getting any compensation for it.''