Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Treasurer. Why is moving to a carbon constrained economy dependent on setting a price on carbon? How can we encourage investment and business certainty through the implementation of policies to address climate change?
I thank the member for Deakin for his very important question. Economists and the business community understand that having a carbon price is a very important part of our economic evolution. Over 30 countries around the world have moved to a carbon price and, unless we move, we are at serious risk of being left behind. We do have to move to the low-pollution economy of the future; it is absolutely essential to future prosperity. Of course, there are even those opposite who think a move to a carbon price is inevitable. The shadow Treasurer himself said on 20 May that we have to, it is ‘inevitable’. And we have had the shadow minister for climate change who has written a thesis saying it is absolutely imperative to have a price on carbon. And we have got the member for Wentworth, who has had this to say—and he only said this on 12 June 2010:
… we cannot cost effectively achieve a substantial cut in emissions without putting a price on carbon. We have to put a price on carbon.
So that is the view of three senior shadow ministers across the other side of the House. But we really heard the truth of it last night when the member for Wentworth was on the BBC and he said: ‘Look, it would have otherwise been different. I was only beaten by one vote.’ So there are a lot more opposite who do really believe in a carbon price.
It is one thing to oppose what the government is going to do on a carbon price. It is an entirely different thing to say that it would be repealed. Nothing could be more damaging to investment in this country. You could not send a more damaging message to international investors and particularly to investors in renewable energy than a promise to repeal. I think that demonstrates how desperate are all of those opposite. They are prepared to do anything to trash our economic reputation and to trash our standing in the international community. Nowhere is this more damaging than when it comes to the energy supply sector. We have seen five-year forecasts in that sector fall from $18 billion in 2009 to $8 billion in 2010. As the Prime Minister was saying before, if we do not get a carbon price in place we will not get the investment in the energy sector, and electricity prices will be higher than they otherwise would be. Responsibility for that will be directly at the feet of all those opposite.
This decision not just to oppose but to repeal strikes at the heart of business certainty, strikes at the heart of investment in jobs in our economy. If anything demonstrates how irresponsible they are and how they have no economic credentials or capacity to govern, it has been this decision. What we have opposite with the Leader of the Opposition is a political con man who is not game to take a political decision, a con man who wants to believe dealing with climate change is cost free.
Mr Speaker, on a point of order: given that I have been asked in the past to withdraw both ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Lady Macbeth’, I would ask the Treasurer to withdraw his slur against the Leader of the Opposition.
My question is to the Treasurer. I refer the Treasurer to his statement just six days before the last election:
… we will go back and seek to reconstruct a community consensus about how we deal with climate change … We’ll look at where we are going in 2012.
Treasurer, how can Australians trust you at your word when there is clearly no community consensus and, even on your reckoning, it is not 2012?
I am pleased the shadow Treasurer has asked me that question because it enables me to go back to our commitment to price carbon, which is longstanding and enduring—a lot more longstanding than the shadow Treasurer, who was only 12 months ago saying that he believed in a price on carbon. We have announced an emissions trading scheme. That puts a price on carbon. First of all we are going to have a fixed price and then we are going to have a floating price. What we have done is to take the courageous economic decision for the future of this country. Yes, there is political risk associated with that courageous decision, but we are putting the national interest ahead of our own political interest. Of course, what you have seen here from the scare campaign that has been run by the opposition leader, who is a political con man, who wants to pretend that dealing with climate change is cost free—
There is a stark contrast between the government and the opposition. Labor has got its sleeves rolled up and is taking the tough decisions for the future of the country to support jobs, and what we are getting from the opposition is just negativity and scare campaigns—reaching the dizzy heights of negativity. You can just see him at the next campaign, out there saying to the Australian people: ‘No, we can’t! We can’t deal with the challenge of climate change. We can’t deal with making our country more prosperous by investing in infrastructure. We can’t invest in the NBN. No, we can’t.’ Well, I will tell you what: the Australian people respect those who have the guts to take the tough decisions for prosperity. That is what this government is doing, and everybody knows that what is being said by the opposition is a big con job. Pretending you can deal with carbon emissions in a cost-free way is nothing other than a con job. Those opposite want to tax families and hand the money to polluters. What we want to do is charge polluters and give the money to households and industry.