Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Minchin, representing the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. Is the minister aware of comments by the minister for industry, reported today, that it is worth looking at implementing a national carbon emissions trading scheme? Hasn’t Mr Macfarlane indicated that such a scheme would function as an interim before any global scheme is implemented? Does the minister have an open mind on the implementation of a national carbon trading scheme, like his cabinet colleague, or does the minister maintain, as he said yesterday, that it is a fallacy that any national scheme will not significantly damage our international competitiveness?
The government position remains as I indicated to the Senate yesterday, that we do not agree with the Labor Party that Australia should unilaterally introduce a domestic emissions trading scheme in the absence of movement in the international community, involving the major emitters, to bring in carbon emissions trading. Any such scheme introduced unilaterally, as proposed by the Labor Party, will do enormous damage to the Australian economy and to the workers that the Labor Party professes to represent. So it remains the position of the government, as enunciated over several years, contrary to that adopted by the Labor Party, that, while there are a whole range of things that we are and should be doing about global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, the introduction unilaterally of a domestic emissions trading scheme is not one of them.
I would draw to the Senate’s attention evidence of the damage that such a scheme, as proposed by the Labor Party, could do to this country. I refer to a letter, dated 15 December 2006, from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries to the Labor states’ trading task force secretariat which notes:
The task force discussion paper estimates that, with proposed emissions trading—
that is, domestic emissions trading—
over the period 2010-30, wholesale electricity prices across the national electricity market in each year are expected to be on average 17 to 22 per cent higher than they otherwise would be.
To quote the FCAI, the car industry group in Australia:
This is a significant increase and, if not matched by similar arrangements in other key automotive producing markets, would have a material impact on the competitiveness of Australian automotive manufacturers employing lots of Australians.
It goes on to say:
The FCAI believes that it is essential that any proposal for development of an emissions trading framework in Australia must be considered as part of a broader global approach to climate change policy. Unilateral measures by Australia in isolation will inevitably have little or no impact while potentially imposing significant costs on the Australian economy.
There is the FCAI, the employers of thousands of Australians in manufacturing, and Senator Carr is going around saying he wants to stand up for workers in Australian manufacturing. They are saying that your proposal would do enormous damage to that industry and do nothing for the environment but put at risk thousands of Australians’ jobs. That is our position; it is very clear: we are in favour of jobs and you are not.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I take it from the minister’s answer that he is critical of Mr Macfarlane’s statements, because Mr Macfarlane says that he has an open mind on just such a scheme. Does the minister agree with Mr Macfarlane, who has said that there is no prospect of a global carbon emissions trading scheme being in place before 2012? Isn’t that why Mr Macfarlane is now advocating the need for an interim scheme at a national or regional level, which the minister apparently disagrees with? When does the minister think that a global trading scheme is likely to be in place? And does he maintain that Australia should do nothing until then?
The Labor Party likes to pretend that nothing has been done. We have been working for 10 years to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Our actions over the last 10 years have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 87 million tonnes. We have spent $2 billion on a whole range of programs to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. We set up the world’s first greenhouse gas office to do just that. So our record on this is a proud one, a good one, and we have done it without damaging the Australian economy, which is what your policies would do.