Tuesday, 26 June 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 reports that the Teys Australia meat group could shut one of its Queensland meatworks for several weeks so that it would not qualify for the government's 25,000-tonne threshold for paying the carbon tax. Does the minister concede that Australian businesses are having to take drastic actions to avoid paying the increased costs from the toxic carbon tax? Why should Australian businesses miss out on several weeks production and meatworkers miss out on several weeks of pay because of the government's inept design for a carbon tax?
I thank the senator for the question. I think he has previously asked me, or perhaps it was Senator Williams, about abattoirs. I am advised that Minister Combet has met with a number of industry participants as well as the Australian Meat Industry Council to discuss the meat processing sector and their opportunities under the government's policy package. I am also advised that officials from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency have visited a number of sites to explain the details of the government's policies, including Bindaree Beef in Inverell and the JBS Australia plant in Dinmore, Queensland.
I understand many meat processors have already investigated opportunities to become more energy efficient and reduce emissions from their sedimentation ponds. Opportunities would include capturing methane from these ponds to generate electricity, which would reduce the need to buy grid electricity and would create renewable energy certificates. Some meat processors will be able to take sufficient actions to fall below the thresholds for direct emissions, which will significantly reduce their exposure to a carbon price.
The senator might also be aware of the government's $200 million Clean Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program, which is intended to provide grant funding for investment in equipment and processes to reduce emissions and increase energy efficiency. The government continue to work with the meat processing industry to ensure it achieves the best outcomes throughout this industry, and we are considering some of the issues raised. Regrettably, I think that the senator is probably not interested in the other answer to the question: that he would be aware of what the Treasury modelling shows in terms of not only the increase in jobs but also— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to reports in the Sunday Telegraph that other meatworks may also be considering temporary shutdowns to avoid the tax. Is the government aware of any other meatworks considering this action, and if so will the government be prepared to again make changes to its carbon tax and provide relief to these meatworks as well?
As I said, the relief or the assistance the government is providing includes the $200 million Clean Technology, Food and Foundries Investment program to provide meat processors with grants to help with the cost of installing new equipment and technology to reduce emissions. I have also referenced the potential for capture of methane from sedimentation ponds and utilising that to generate electricity, which, of course, would itself generate a Renewable Energy Certificate—that is, another income stream. So there is a range of mechanisms, Senator, which are available and, as I understand, the department has been engaging with the sector on these issues.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister explain why the government is putting at risk tens of thousands of meatworkers' jobs whose livelihood depends on the future of the meat processing industry by introducing the world's biggest carbon tax?
I will not go through again, because I have gone through in great detail on many occasions, the response to the false proposition in relation to the carbon price. I would refer the senator again to the assistance for the industry that I have outlined in previous answers.