Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Sherry. Minister, knowing that you always prepare well for question time, I refer you to the Minister for Resources and Energy's comments yesterday that the carbon tax could cause some coalmines to close. Will the minister inform the Senate on what basis the minister's comments were made?
I do want to compliment you on your longevity in this place; and all the best to you, if indeed it is your last question. In terms of the coalmining sector, the real threat to the competitive position of the Australian economy does not come from the government's carbon price policy. It comes from you, Senator McGauran—through you, Mr President—or, I should say, from the opposition that you of course represent. The abandonment—
Mr President, I raise a point of order on the attitude of one of the people over there who masquerades as a minister. This week, in the final weeks of several senators from all sides, everyone has been absolutely gracious except that thug who represents the Left in Victoria, and I ask you to bring him to order.
In this week when we are reflecting on the contributions of senators who depart, I agree with Senator Macdonald. I am trying my very best in this final twilight of Senator McGauran's career in this place to get to an answer. I am just being so rudely interrupted.
It comes from the opposition's abandonment of the fundamental belief in markets and rational economics and the opposition leader, Mr Abbott's, embrace of totally irresponsible and politically opportune fearmongering. That is what we are seeing. In order to support jobs and compete in the next century, a century which will increasingly be—
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I rarely take points of order; in all the time I have been here I have taken only two or three points of order, Senator Sherry. I did compliment you and say that you were always well prepared for question time, so I bring you back to the question: on what basis did the Minister for Resources and Energy, Mr Ferguson, whom you represent here, make those comments? You have 29 seconds to answer that question.
The government and my colleague Minister Ferguson do recognise that the coal industry is a very important and vital part of our economy. We have always said that every cent raised from a carbon price will be used to assist households, support jobs and make the transition to a clean energy future. That is why we are consulting very closely with the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee on assistance measures for coalmining operations. My colleague Minister Ferguson has made that very clear. (Time expired)
That interjection by me was a bit outrageous. I will ask my supplementary question. Minister, it defies belief that such a good minister as yourself would not have spoken to Mr Ferguson about his comments. I ask with some confidence: was the Minister for Resources and Energy's admission that mines may close based on modelling? If so, what modelling?
There was a survey commissioned by the Australian Coal Association that assumes that no assistance will be provided to the coal industry. This is inaccurate. The government recognises that the coal industry is a vital part of our economy. It is a particularly vital part of our economy. The vast majority of Australia's coalmining industry is not emissions intensive and will face materially increased costs under a carbon price. As to the DLP, I cannot go to that issue, clearly.
Opposition senators interjecting—
I rise on a point of order on relevance, Mr President. The question was about modelling and whether the statement was based on modelling and if so what it was. The minister has not got anywhere near it, and you know that.
I make the point that if you ask a question then I am here to try to answer it. I cannot answer the first supplementary question that you originally posed. On the modelling issue, I do not know whether or not there has been any modelling done, so I will take it on notice.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question more in hope than in confidence that the minister is across some part of this brief. To which mines was the Minister for Resources and Energy referring when he talked about mines closing?
We have had a good relationship, and I would hate to disappoint him on this occasion. We are closely consulting with the coal industry—
An opposition senator: Which mines?
I was trying to answer, but I keep getting these interjections. We are consulting with the coal industry closely on measures for affected coalmining operations and remain committed to—
Government senators interjecting—
We do remain committed to assuring the competitiveness of our mining sector, including the coalmining sector. I do not have any advice to hand as to any particular mining operation. I hate to disappoint Senator McGauran, but I will have to take that on notice.