Wednesday, 12 August 2015
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for the Environment. Will the minister please update the House on the savings delivered to householders and businesses in my electorate of Petrie from the repeal of the carbon tax. Are there any threats to these savings?
Mr Speaker, I refer to page 555 of the Practice. It is very clearly stated in the Practice:
… it is not in order for Ministers to be questioned on opposition policies, for which they are not responsible.
I would ask you to rule the latter part of that question out of order.
Mr Ewen Jones interjecting—
The member for Herbert will cease interjecting, particularly on me. This came up yesterday. I am going to address this matter without interjection and we are not going to revisit it after each question. The member for Hotham raised a point of order similar to some points of order that were raised yesterday. There are two points for members opposite to consider. The question did not specifically ask about opposition policies, it asked about alternatives. As I said yesterday, Speaker Jenkins, in February 2008, indicated that he did not like that practice. He did indicate that, but when he indicated that, he did also acknowledge that that traditionally was the practice—to ask for alternatives or any threats to a particular policy. He indicated that. The reference in Practice is footnoted and it refers specifically to Speaker Jenkins. Indeed, if you go back and look at Hansard you will find numerous examples of questions that were in order that asked whether there were any alternatives or any threats. It has been the practice for a very long time, and some of us who have been here in different capacities know that. Indeed, in 2000 Speaker Andrew, when asked about this, said:
I do not think it inappropriate if a member identifies an area within a minister's official responsibility and asks a question relating to alternative views, as the key consideration is the government's response to these views.
That is the practice I am adopting.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on the point of order. In referring to that, can I ask that you refer specifically to standing order 98? Standing order 98(c) makes clear what a minister can be questioned about. You have not referred to the reason why Speaker Jenkins made that ruling. The reason the ruling was made is that a minister can only be questioned—
Mr Ewen Jones interjecting—
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Standing order 98(c) says:
A Minister can only be questioned on the following matters, for which he or she is responsible or officially connected—
That cannot involve opposition policy. They cannot be responsible for opposition policy—
No, resume your seat.
Ms Henderson interjecting—
The member for Corangamite will cease interjecting. If the question, as I said at the outset—I am not going to revisit this—had referred to an opposition policy you would have a point, but it referred to alternatives. This has been a longstanding practice, and the minister is responsible for the environment and he is entitled to speak about the government's policy and any alternatives as part of his responsibility as minister.
I particularly want to thank the member for Petrie, who is a great advocate for the Green Army. He is overseeing three projects in his electorate, and he is proud of the work of these young Australians. He is hands-on, he visits the sites, he is a wonderful environmentalist and he actually cares about what occurs on the ground. The other thing that the member for Petrie did was he voted to repeal the carbon tax, and he voted for lower electricity prices and he voted for lower gas prices. One thing which happened over recent weeks was that the ACCC confirmed that the $550 which we said would come with the repeal of the carbon tax on average did come to Australian families. We said we would repeal the carbon tax and deliver that benefit; we did repeal it and the ACCC has confirmed that that benefit has flowed through.
There is a question as to whether or not there are any threats to these reductions in electricity and gas and refrigerant prices—and there is a threat. I have to say this: in looking at this threat we had a moment of truth from the member for Hunter, and I shall keep going back to that over coming weeks, because he was asked whether the policy of those on that side was a tax. What did he say? He said you can call it a tax—he did not say it once or twice; he said it three times. He went on to say, when asked about the cost, that no-one knows. No-one knows, they say. However, on that occasion he may not have been entirely accurate, because we know. What did we see this week? 'ALP's $600 billion carbon bill.' There he is, a $600 billion carbon bill—
What is the cost to this threat to Australian household savings? What we see is a $600 billion cost, we see a $209 carbon price, we see $5,000 per family by 2030, and what else do we see? A 78 per cent increase in wholesale electricity prices. And it is their modelling of their target for the carbon tax. This is the work they did in government but about which they are ashamed. We are absolutely clear—we are reducing costs, we are reducing electricity prices and they are increasing costs and he is increasing electricity prices.