Senate debates

Thursday, 10 July 2014


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2]; In Committee

10:36 am

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | Hansard source

I thank Senator Macdonald and other senators for the questions they have raised as part of this debate. I will do my best to give a comprehensive answer to all of them. Firstly, yes, I can confirm that Australia is responsible for less than 1.4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Macdonald asked me how that compares with the emissions from other jurisdictions. The advice I have is that the United States is responsible for 19 per cent of global emissions, China is responsible for 23 per cent of global emissions and the European Union is responsible for 13 per cent of global emissions.

I can also confirm for Senator Macdonald that, according to the previous government's own modelling of the impact of their carbon tax, after all of the imposts and all of the sacrifices imposed on the Australian community with their carbon tax, emissions in Australia were continuing to go up and up and up. In fact, Labor's own modelling of their carbon tax showed that their expectation was that emissions in Australia would go from 561 million tonnes of CO2 in 2010 to 621 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020. These are not my words. That is the information that was provided by the previous Labor-Green government. They will say, 'But it would have been so much higher if it had not been for our carbon tax.' What we say is, to the extent that it is not as high as it might have been, that is only because we have shifted economic activity, along with all of the emissions that come with it, from Australia to other parts of the world.

This is something the Labor Party has never understood. The problem is that, if you take manufacturing activity that is comparatively—internationally—environmentally efficient here in Australia and you move it to other parts of the world where the emissions for the same amount of output are going to be higher, then what you are actually ending up with is higher global greenhouse gas emissions. The Labor-Green carbon tax actually makes global greenhouse gas emissions worse, not better. Even with Labor's carbon tax, emissions were still expected to go up. To the extent that they are not going up by as much as they otherwise might have, they are just shifting emissions to other parts of the world where, on many occasions, for the same level of economic output those emissions are going to be higher than they would have been in Australia.

Senator Macdonald asked me about job losses. Obviously, if you impose additional costs on doing business here in Australia that are not faced by our competitors in other parts of the world, then you make it harder for businesses in Australia to compete with businesses in other parts of the world, to the extent that they take market share away from us. Obviously, that means that not only economic activity and emissions go overseas but also jobs go overseas. Just to put a bit of context around all of that, a report that was released by none other than the Productivity Commission said:

… no country currently imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse gas emissions or has in place an economy-wide ETS.

Australia's carbon tax of $24.15 per tonne, which went up again on 1 July to about $25 per tonne, covers around 60 per cent of total emissions. By comparison, the European Union emissions trading scheme covers just 45 per cent of total emissions at around $7 to $8 dollars a tonne. The United States does not have a nation-wide emissions trading scheme. Senators on the other side can repeat ad nauseam what they have tried to make people believe for many years now. The United States does not have an emissions trading scheme. President Barack Obama does not have any intention whatsoever to legislate for an emissions trading scheme. What President Obama is doing is not unlike what we are doing here in Australia in the absence of an appropriately comprehensive global agreement to price emissions, and that is to pursue direct action initiatives. In the United States, the state of California has an ETS which currently covers just 35 per cent of total emissions. I hope that that gives Senator Macdonald a bit of flavour.

I will quickly go through a series of other questions. Senator Singh asked: 'Why are you not accepting the science?' We do accept the science. We just do not accept Labor's carbon tax. She asked why we are ignoring the will of the Australian people. This is extraordinary chutzpah. There is actually a very old-fashioned way to test the will of the Australian people on a regular basis, and that is called an election. Of course, there was an election in 2013, which you lost. There will be an election in 2016 where you can make your case for the introduction of the carbon tax if you think it is such a good idea.

I was asked how we are going to achieve the five per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. As we have said many times, that is through our Direct Action policy. The question was asked: what will happen to ARENA? I remind the chamber that the reduction in funding in this package of bills is actually the implementation of a Labor government budget measure that was supported by the Greens. Matters related to the board of ARENA are matters related to legislation that comes before the chamber much further down the track. Incidentally, the carbon tax does nothing to help Hydro in Tasmania. It is the renewable energy target that is of interest to them. Two people have resigned from the Climate Change Authority. Have I received representations from Industry Group and the Business Council? Personally, no, I have not. But what I am very conscious of is that the Australian people passed a very clear and comprehensive judgement against Labor's carbon tax and it is time that the Senate got on with it and got rid of it.


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