Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is addressed to Senator Abetz, the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. Is the minister aware that the Prime Minister’s discussion paper on carbon emissions trading states that it is unlikely that a global scheme will emerge in the near future? Doesn’t the paper also indicate that any international scheme might evolve from national or regional trading schemes? Isn’t that why the paper explicitly canvasses the possibility of Australia introducing a national carbon trading scheme and its potential to provide a more cost-effective framework for implementing climate change measures? Can the minister also explain why the task force is going through the motions of consulting on the establishment of a national trading scheme when the Minister for Finance and Administration only yesterday reiterated that the government will not be introducing such a scheme?
What the Prime Minister has said is that, as a matter of principle, Australia would be prepared to participate in a truly global emissions trading system. In support of this, the Prime Minister established the joint government-business task group in December 2006 to advise on the nature and design of a workable global emissions trading system in which Australia would be able to participate. The focus on a global system reflects the government’s recognition that Australia cannot solve climate change alone and that an environmentally-friendly, effective response must include all emitters.
Market mechanisms, including emissions trading, will be integral to any long-term solution on climate change. It is important that any future emissions trading system protects Australia’s natural advantages in the resources and energy sectors. The government will not introduce a national emissions trading scheme which damages Australia’s international competitiveness. In determining whether such damage might occur, we must necessarily pay regard to the responses of other nations to the issue of emissions trading.
At the same time, the government continues to support the development of low-emission technologies, including renewables and clean coal, that are needed to bring about low-cost emission reductions over the long run.
Everyone agrees that they will be needed to deal cost-effectively with climate change. All options need to be considered, including—I remind those opposite, especially in the far corner—nuclear energy. The task group released an issues paper on 7 February, and it identifies key questions for consideration in advising the Prime Minister on a workable emissions trading system in which Australia would be able to participate. Submissions responding to the issues paper are open until 7 March, and the task group will report to the Prime Minister by 31 May this year.
I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Minister, will the government in fact support a national carbon emissions trading scheme rather than a regional one—not a global one? Given the comments over the last few days from the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and other ministers, just what is this government’s position on the issue? If it does now support such a scheme, a national scheme, will the minister tell the minister for finance of the change?
First of all, there is no change, so there is nothing that I need to say to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. One of the principles that we as a government will apply will be to ensure that, as a result of any proposed scheme, we do not export Australian jobs and Australian wealth to other countries with no benefit for the global environment. The Labor policy and the Greens policy quite clearly is that we should unilaterally take action and see the export of wealth and jobs to other countries which are not signing up to reducing greenhouse gases and dealing with the problems of carbon dioxide, CO, emissions. As always, we have the balanced approach of being concerned about the environment and jobs, unlike those opposite, who are now trying to paint themselves more green. (Time expired)