Key union supporters of the federal government have expressed concern about the potential impact of a carbon price on jobs.

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Australian Manufacturing Workers Unions (AMWU) national secretary Dave Oliver says his members acknowledge climate change but are worried how Labor will ensure jobs aren’t lost as a result of the proposed carbon tax.

“In the carbon tax debate, one, we need assistance to protect existing jobs, but two, we need incentives and schemes to attract the investment for the new jobs,” Mr Oliver told ABC Radio on Friday.

“We are concerned about the price of carbon will have existing industries but we don’t see it as an either/or proposition.”

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Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes has declared his union would withdraw backing for a carbon price if it cost a single job.

“If one job is lost, our support is gone,” Mr Howes told News Ltd.

Mr Oliver argues his union is looking at the net result – where some jobs ware lost in the transitional period but others created.

“Our main focus is in the area of opportunities for new employment in the clean technology sector,” he said.

“I certainly know that if the government does not get the settings right to attract that investment we will be very concerned about where our industry will be heading.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he understood why some unions are talking about withdrawing their support.

“They’ve very understandably taken the view that you can’t compensate someone who has lost his or her job,” Mr Abbott said.