Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Matters of Public Importance

Carbon Pricing

4:55 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

I just point out what Senator Wong said I allegedly said in a speech in September 2007. Allegedly I said, 'This will be the most comprehensive ETS in the world, broader in coverage than any scheme currently operating anywhere; a world-leading scheme to cover 70 to 75 per cent of total emissions. By including large emitters alone, the scheme would cover 55 per cent of total emissions; however'—and she said that this was the best bit out of my alleged speech—'by including transport and other fuels the coverage of the scheme is significantly increased.' Minister Wong told the Senate only two hours ago that allegedly these are comments that I made in this chamber. I absolutely deny that I have ever said any such thing, so the minister should correct the record at the earliest opportunity.

Let me make the broader point: I actually happen to support effective action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The coalition happens to support effective action to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions but the government's carbon tax, the government's proposed emissions trading scheme, the government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in the last parliament, are not effective strategies to help reduce global greenhouse gas emiss­ions. The reason that they are not effective in helping to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions is that they move to reduce emissions in Australia in a way that will increase emissions in other parts of the world. This is where people across Australia are taken for fools. They are being asked to make a sacrifice. They are being asked to pay more for electricity, they are being asked to pay more for food—they are being asked to pay more for everything, even though this government knows that it will not lead to a reduction in global greenhouse gas emis­sions. The reason it will not is the failure in Copenhagen to reach agreement between relevant countries around the world around schemes to price emissions.

The government's economic modelling assumed that a whole series of countries would have emissions trading schemes in place in 2010. The government assumed that Canada, Japan, the US, the Russian Federa­tion, Bulgaria, Romania, Switzerland, the Ukraine, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Monaco —all of them—would have emissions trading schemes in place with similar policy settings as the emissions trading scheme then pro­posed here in Australia. Of course, none of them do. The government assumed that China would have an emissions trading scheme in place by 2015 and of course they will not.

I do refer the minister to some comments that I did make in my first speech, and I urge her to be more accurate and more precise in reading the comments that I have made in this chamber on this issue. This is what I said in my first speech in this place:

Climate change is a challenge we are facing as a global community. If we take a sensible and considered approach—

I emphasise 'considered approach'—

to meeting that challenge, Australia can play a pivotal role in facilitating the production of clean energy for the world.

…   …   …

we are blessed with immense reserves of clean energy in the form of gas and uranium. No other place in the developed world has such reserves. Moreover, the growing bulk of this energy is being exported directly or indirectly in the form of processed resources to China, the epicentre of the world’s growing energy challenge.

Our greatest possible contribution to addressing climate change is to export more energy. Each unit of clean energy exported from Australia reduces the consumption of less clean energy in China and elsewhere and, therefore, reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

That is actually something that would make a positive difference. It would help us to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions while also growing our economy in Australia. But it is actually something that would be harder under the government's scheme. If the government puts a price on carbon here in Australia when other comparable countries around the world do not, when our trading competitors do not, it will make it harder for us to attract invest­ment to increase our energy production here in Australia. It will make it harder for us to maximise our opportunity from producing LNG, exporting it to China, Japan and other places, displacing coal in those markets and reducing emissions in the process.

What the government proposed to do was counterproductive then and it is still counter­productive now. It will be very interesting to see, given that the Greens voted against the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme because they shared our judgment that it was in­adequate, whether and why the Greens take the view that this tax that is going to be announced on Sunday is going to be more adequate.

The government's modelling of all of this is also completely flawed. The government is not only inconsistent with all of this; the government is actually dishonest as well. In relation to the modelling of the impact of a price on carbon in Australia the Treasurer said that Treasury modelling showed that it would not have an impact on jobs. The Treasury modelling did not show anything of the sort. The Treasury modelling assumed it. The Treasury modelling included a technical assumption that over the long run a price on carbon in Australia would not have an impact on employment. If you include an assumption in a model you cannot then turn around and say the modelling shows that. If you tell a model that jobs are not going to decrease, that jobs are going to continue to increase, that unemployment is not going to be impacted then it is entirely dishonest to turn around and say the modelling shows this. The other thing the modelling shows is that the government expects lower real wages as a result of the carbon tax. Lower real wages together with the increases in the cost of living as a result of this toxic tax are a very toxic combination, which is why the Gillard government stands condemned for its broken promise not to introduce a carbon tax under a government that Prime Minister Gillard leads.


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