Oz climate scientists hiding after death threats

Some of Australia's top climate scientists have been placed under police protection after receiving death threats, as public figures including actress Cate Blanchett have come under attack over their support for a carbon tax.

Blanchett was at the centre of a bitter row between the country's ruling Labour party and the opposition Liberals following her appearance in a government-sponsored TV advert calling for the public to support the levy.

According to a report in the UK's Guardian newspaper, Canberra's Australia National University (ANU) has moved a number of scientists to secure accommodation after receiving a string of threatening emails and phone calls.

Among the scientists under protection is Prof Will Steffen, ANU's climate institute director and the author of a recent government Climate Commission report.

Responding to the threats ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young told Australia's ABC national radio: "These are issues where we should have a logical public debate and it's completely intolerable that people be subjected to this sort of abuse and to threats like this."

"I think it is totally outrageous and the vast majority of Australians would think it is totally unacceptable for anybody in society to be subjected to this sort of behaviour," added Young.

Other threats are believed to have been received by universities in New South Wales and Queensland. Australian Federal police say they are aware of the threats but had yet to receive a complaint.

A recent poll showed just 38 per cent of Australians in favour of setting a carbon price. Advocates accuse the country's powerful mining lobby - and in particular the country's richest person, multi-billionaire iron ore magnate Gina Rinehart - of orchestrating a campaign against the tax to protect their commercial interests.

Rinehart, who chairs mining company Hancock Prospecting, is worth an estimated AUD $10.3 billion (£6.7bn) .