Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to modelling by the Centre for International Economics, which shows that the carbon tax will have almost twice the impact on Australian economic growth and impose an extra $30 billion hit on the Australian economy, because the government's starting price of $23 per tonne is more than double that of the price in Europe. Does the minister accept that a carbon tax in Australia that is higher than the primary global carbon price will have a negative impact on Australia's growth, on Australian jobs and on Australian manufacturing and reduce opportunities for Australians?
I am pleased that the senator has asked me this question. It gives me the opportunity to respond to the modelling and also to the second part of the question, which deals with the carbon pricing. In relation to the level of the carbon price, which is the end of this question, the government has designed a period of a fixed price followed by a floating price. It is the case that the carbon price in Europe has been affected by current financial conditions in Europe. That is unsurprising, but I would again make this point: the government is providing a very substantial amount of assistance through the Jobs and Competitiveness package to Australian industry, and it is wrong simply to look at price without recognising also the very significant elements to support competitiveness that the government has in its package.
In relation to modelling, it is true that there is modelling out there that has been commissioned by various parties, various individuals and various industries. Unsurprisingly, that modelling is often used by people to promulgate their particular position. The government stands by the Treasury modelling—the modelling done by the people who served, so ably, Peter Costello and John Howard; the people who now serve this government—which shows that we can grow our economy, grow our incomes and grow jobs with a carbon price.
Mr President, on a point of order on relevance: does the minister believe it will have a negative impact on Australia's growth because the carbon price is so vastly higher than overseas, or doesn't she?
Clearly the senator might have his mind on other matters, because he interrupted me just as I was talking about economic growth. I was talking about the fact that the Treasury has clearly indicated that we can grow the economy with a carbon price. But, of course, what they do not say on the other side is the fact that their policy will cost more. It was cost taxpayers more and it will cost the economy more. That will have the effect on growth.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to the fact that, since the government announced the carbon tax in February last year, employment growth has fallen to one of the slowest on record in a 12-month period outside a recession—it seems like a government-imposed recession. Will the government consider reducing its $23 a tonne carbon tax to at least reduce the impact on Australian jobs of what is currently the biggest carbon tax in the world?
If the senator cared about jobs, surely he would have supported the stimulus package, which was about making sure some 200,000 Australians and their families were not on the unemployment queues but stayed in work. His interest in jobs for working families is simply defined by his political opportunism, because we know that Senator Joyce, amongst others, has lined up to criticise the government's response to the global financial crisis, a response which has seen our economy grow and unemployment at the levels it is. Would the senator prefer the unemployment levels we have in Europe, which are double what we see in Australia? Would he prefer the unemployment levels across the G7 or would he like to have a look at where our unemployment rate is? We on this side care about jobs and we care about job creation, and we have designed our clean energy package with jobs today and jobs tomorrow very clearly in mind.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. It has the endorsement of Dr Bob Brown, who said that it is the best carbon tax in the world. I remind the minister of a statement she made when she was climate change minister, when she said that Australia should do no more and no less than the rest of the world. Is this still the government policy? Won't Australia be making close to 2½ times the effort of Europe when we have a carbon price that is $23 a tonne while Europe's—in all its glory—is only $9 a tonne?
Mr President, on a point of order: that was clearly a request for a statement of government policy, which is out of order, as his earlier question was a request for an opinion, which is out of order. I ask you to look at both those questions.
Apparently not, Mr President. It says:
73 (1) The following rules shall apply to questions:
… … …
questions shall not ask:
(h) for an expression of opinion;
(i) for a statement of the government's policy …
That is black and white, so you cannot rule that out of order in the way that you did.
I am asked about the level of the carbon price. This fact should be remembered in this chamber: the party who is seeking to impose the highest carbon price is not the Australian Labor Party; it is not even the Greens. It is the coalition who want to double the effective carbon price, double the cost on the Australian economy, tax Australians $1,300 a year to pay for a taxpayer funded, bureaucratically imposed inefficient scheme. Under the opposition's policies, Australia would need a carbon price at least twice as high as under our Clean Energy Future plan. If Senator Joyce cares about the cost of transforming the economy, perhaps he should have a look at what Mr Hunter has put up. What Mr Hunter has put up would cost the people who sent Senator Joyce here far more.