Thursday, 10 July 2014
Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2]; In Committee
Yesterday I raised with Senator Cormann as to why the Liberal Party would not be supporting these amendments, because they bring in a market based mechanism to deal with carbon pollution—something that Liberal Parties usually support. However, Senator Cormann made it clear that, obviously, the government is not supporting this market based mechanism despite the number of conservatives across the globe that are urging the government to do so—that is, people on their own side asking this government to recognise that it is denying its own policy of supporting market based mechanisms by not supporting this amendment for an emissions trading scheme.
Beyond asking Senator Cormann why the Liberal Party will not support a market based mechanism, I now ask: why will the Liberal Party not support the science? The science tells us clearly why we need an emissions trading scheme. The science goes back to before 1990 when we had the first IPCC report and we have had subsequent reports—I think there have been five since that time, all of which have the support of over 100 countries who make it clear that there have been observed changes in the climate system and that we need to respond as governments across the globe to those observed changes.
What are those observed changes? I am sure Senator Cormann knows, but he needs to be reminded because this is, I have to say, a day where this country is going to go backwards on climate policy. These are the reasons Labor acted strongly, because carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40 per cent since pre-industrial times—primarily, from fossil fuel emissions and, secondly, from net land-use change emissions. The oceans have absorbed around 30 per cent of that emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide causing ocean acidification.
Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change requires substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The best way for a country to address a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has been made very clear by economists and scientists: through an emissions trading scheme. We are debating this amendment, because it is so important for this country to play its part internationally in trying to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by putting a legal cap on carbon dioxide pollution. That is what an emissions trading scheme does and that is why it is so surprising that Senator Cormann provided comment yesterday as to why the Liberal Party, the coalition, will not support a market based mechanism. I am still baffled as to why the Liberal Party does not support market based mechanisms.
On top of that, though, the Liberal Party is ignoring the will of the Australian community. The number of people who came out this week, last week—since this debate was put on the table for this parliament—against having no legal limit on carbon pollution and against there being no price on carbon, has become stronger and stronger. This government cannot ignore those voices. The voices of some 20 civil society groups, ranging from youth, health, community, emergency services, trade unions and faith based groups have made themselves heard very loudly this week. I ask Senator Cormann: is he aware of this huge list of growing community groups who have made their dissent and their views known about this government's policy when it comes to climate change?
I could not say it more succinctly than they have said it, when they said in their statement: 'We support Australia having a price and a limit on carbon pollution. This is the fairest and most cost-effective way for Australia to address our economy's dependence on carbon pollution and reduce its impacts on our climate, our health, the environment, the economy and national security.' Therein lies the full breadth of what these repeal bills mean. Yes, they mean something for our environment, but they mean so much more than that. They mean something for our health, they mean something for our economy and they mean something for our national security.
This is a holistic policy issue. It is a holistic policy issue that commenced decades and decades ago when the science made it very clear—through the work of the IPCC and its associated hundreds and hundreds of peer reviewed scientists who have contributed to its reports—that the world needs to act swiftly on reducing carbon pollution, on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are continuing to have a huge effect in changing our climate, which has of course has had thrown-on effects to do with natural disasters and the like. That is why it is important beyond just our environment. That is why it is important for our health. That is why it is important for our national security, our economy and those issues that have been raised by those 20 civil society groups.
So I ask Senator Cormann if he is aware of those 20 strong community groups of various persuasions, including, as I said, emergency service workers and firefighters—some of whom were here yesterday out the front of Parliament House making it very clear that they want this parliament to act on climate change, to have a price on carbon pollution and to have a legal limit on carbon pollution. How can Senator Cormann ignore those 20 community groups? How can he ignore the 200 young people I joined earlier in the week? How can he ignore the science? And how can the Liberal Party ignore a market based mechanism to deal with a reduction in carbon pollution?
I understand it has been reported this morning that both the United States and China have signed eight partnership pacts on climate change, bringing the two powers—which both have extensive emissions trading schemes in place at different levels—closer together. So, as I said yesterday, it is a complete furphy for Prime Minister Abbott to claim that the world is not acting on emissions trading schemes. The world is acting strongly on them. This is made clear in the Parliamentary Library's work on the number of emissions trading schemes that have been in place in China, the US and elsewhere in the world—China, most notably, being the country proposing new schemes and with a network already of seven pilot schemes. They want to reduce their carbon emissions. They want to act on climate change.
After today, Australia will be the only country in the world moving backwards—going backwards. Yes, that will have an effect with respect to our international standing. How we are addressing this increase in greenhouse gas emissions will of course have an effect not only on our environment but also on our health and on our well-being as a nation. So I ask Senator Cormann again: why is the Liberal Party not supporting an emissions trading scheme? Why are you not supporting a market based mechanism to put a legal cap on carbon pollution? I cannot help but think that it is anything other than pure politics—and, of course, the ideological bent of some on your side. I think Senator Macdonald fits the mould of not accepting the science. In addition, I ask Senator Cormann about his knowledge and understanding of the statement provided by those 20 community groups and how he wishes to respond to their voices.
The CHAIRMAN: Senator Milne, you have the call.
I thought we were going from side to side.
The CHAIRMAN: I understand that point, but in these discussions it is often Senate practice that party leaders, ministers, the Leader of the Government in the Senate or spokespeople for the opposition take precedence.
That is not right.
The CHAIRMAN: Excuse me; don't tell me it is not right, Senator Cormann. This is in Senate Practice, and I will refer you to the appropriate clauses if you wish. I will certainly come to you, Senator Macdonald, but both you and Senator Milne jumped at the same time and I am following what I believe is Senate practice in giving the Leader of the Australian Greens party precedence in that call.
My understanding is that you always go from side to side—government, opposition, government, opposition, and so on. If you have a party representing an infinitesimally small part of the Australian public, claiming that because she or he is the leader of that, should not in my view interfere with the normal procedure of going government, opposition, and then third parties, if that is the case.
The CHAIRMAN: For senators interested, I refer them to pages 240 to 241 of Odgers' Australian Senate Practice.
I have a number of specific questions, because we are in the committee stage of this particular set of bills, and we now have a gag on it, thanks to the government, with the support of the Palmer United Party. I want to ask some very specific questions. I asked Senator Cormann last night how much of the five per cent emissions reduction target was expected to be delivered by the Emissions Reduction Fund. The government still has not responded to that. It is important that they do, because there are certain senators in here who have said they will not support the abolition of the existing emissions trading scheme unless there is something better in its place. Therefore, we need to have the government say exactly what they expect their Emissions Reduction Fund to do.
I also have some other specific questions for the minister and I will go to those now. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation were secured by the Greens through the negotiations with the former government to develop the Clean Energy Package. The allocation of funds for ARENA was in the legislation. The abolition legislation is to come here later, but the schedule to gut the funding from ARENA is part of these bills.
I understand that an agreement has been reached with the Palmer United Party to take millions out of the ARENA funding and support the government's schedule. I find it extraordinary that we do not have a single member of the Palmer United Party here, in the committee stage, when they have an amendment that I would like some answers to. I would like to know why or whether they are going to support an emissions trading scheme, as their leader has said. But I understand they have abandoned this debate on getting rid of the emissions trading scheme—and returning millions to the pockets of Mr Palmer—to go and launch a report on renewable energy. We love renewable energy, and I am very grateful for the fact—
The CHAIRMAN: Senator Macdonald on a point of order.
The reflection on a member of another house in this parliament, that he is voting for this thing to put millions in his pocket, is clearly disorderly and insulting. I ask that you ask the senator to withdraw.
The CHAIRMAN: Senator Milne, I think you ought not reflect on members of other houses in that way.
I withdraw that and note that Mr Palmer abstained from the vote in the House of Representatives because he has a conflict of interest. I have called many times for the Palmer United Party senators to abstain from the vote because of the clear conflict of interest. The nickel refinery in Queensland operated by Mr Palmer's company had a substantial carbon price bill to pay—many millions—which was settled only a few weeks ago, prior to his new senators coming here. I think there should have been a discussion here about the actual impact of the extent to which taxpayers' money is now going to be taken out of their pockets to support the government's scheme. And what we are now seeing is a reward to the big polluters—$18 billion is going to be left in the pockets of the big polluters and the community is going to have to pay through other means.
I want to return to the point of the schedule of funding for ARENA for the minister to explain something to me. Now we have a situation where ARENA is going to have only $89 million next year and $57 million the year after, in new funding—although, they will have the funding they set aside for their existing projects. Given this really substantial cut in the funding for ARENA and given the dates on which the current board members lose their positions—I understand the contracts for two board members run out on 30 June and the final two are on 15 July—I ask the minister, now that the Senate has made its position clear that it wants to keep the Australian Renewable Energy Agency: will the minister make sure there are board appointments so that the agency can continue with the level of funding that it will now have?
I would like to ask specifically about the level of funding. If it turns out that any of the projects that have already been approved do not proceed, will ARENA be able to keep the funding that is freed up as a result of projects not being able to proceed? I would like to have a clear answer on the board members. Are they going to be re-appointed or are other people going to be appointed? Secondly, on the issue of existing projects, will any funding savings from those be retained in the organisation? Thirdly, with this schedule of cuts, have you had any discussions with ARENA about taking this money from them? And what will it actually mean in terms of investing in the early research and development ARENA was set up to do?
I want to now move to the amendment that the Palmer United Party has, which is related to guaranteeing that—
The CHAIRMAN: That amendment has not as yet been moved. We are dealing with the first amendment.
I will wait until somebody turns up to move it and I will return to discussing the first amendment. I want to ask the minister some specific questions. A lot has been said about the supposed freeing up of industry from the ending of carbon pricing, and I want to ask the minister about its impact on Hydro Tasmania. Last week, Hydro announced that they would be scrapping 100 jobs in Tasmania—10 per cent of their workforce. They have gone on to say that their last annual report attributed $140 million of their profit entirely to the price on carbon and that it would have been even higher for the financial year that has just finished. Will the minister now confirm that that revenue stream to Hydro Tasmania will be gone? Can he further confirm, as Saul Eslake, one of their board members, has stated that 81c in every dollar of Hydro's profit goes to the state government? And will he confirm that this means the $112 million that went to the Tasmanian government for schools, hospitals, concession payments et cetera will now no longer exist? Will he confirm that abandoning the carbon price will lead to direct job losses in Tasmania? This is clearly what the impact will be from ending carbon pricing in Tasmania.
I want to come back to the emissions trading scheme itself and ask the minister: have you had any representations from the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry or any other peak business group asking you to retain an emissions trading scheme? Have you had any representations from business groups saying that they would support the retention of an emissions trading scheme if it went to flexible pricing immediately, and therefore the European price would bind at $7 to $9 or thereabouts? Having seen reports today that the government has ruled out emissions trading as something that it would even consider, I ask: has the government told that to these business groups or is it in conversation with them about allowing the purchase of CER credits, currently trading at 16 euro cents—25c, or thereabouts, Australian?
I think it would be extremely useful to get some answers in relation to those particular matters, because today is the day that Australia goes backwards—absolutely backwards. If we lose our price on carbon, we are going to be seen as a backward country in a global context. We are going to be seen as being on the wrong side of history, because every other major economy is now looking to the 2015 global treaty. With so many countries now involved in emissions trading and in various forms of carbon pricing, carbon taxing and other measures, Australia is going to be left on its own, and you are going to have answer to future generations. In fact, this summer, as extreme weather events set in around Australia, people are going to be seeing you in the context of having rewarded the big polluters and as having passed the cost to the community—cost in terms of lost infrastructure and cost in terms of absolute loss, not only of infrastructure but, of course, of people's lives. That is the absolute issue we have before us here in this parliament today. It is one of those moments in history that matter, where a country chooses the past or the future, where a country chooses the big end of town and the vested interests of the old order or the future—the new industries, the new economy, the innovation and the investment in education and new technology. This is why I am pleased that we are keeping the Renewable Energy Agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Authority, because we need good, sound assessment done with rigour on new projects and on climate science and policy. I ask as a final question on the Climate Change Authority and in this context: how many board members of the Climate Change Authority have resigned to date? What is the process for appointment of new board members?
I actually want to ask the minister some questions, but before I do I just want to explain to those who might be listening to the debate what the committee stage of a bill is—which is what we are dealing with now. This stage gives senators the opportunity to ask either the minister or whoever has moved the amendment questions on particular information in the bill or the amendment.
I mention in passing that we have had all these pious pleas from senators over the last couple of days about not having enough time for debate, and yet we had the first speaker for the opposition this morning spend 15 minutes on a rhetorical address—something that she and her colleagues have said many times over—to the Senate and not ask a serious question, except for: 'Why doesn't the Liberal Party support market schemes?' This has nothing to do with the bill before the chamber. There is the hypocrisy of senators claiming a shortage of time to ask questions when it is wasted on a 15-minute speech that we have all heard time and time again.
I have to say to Senator Milne that at least she did start off by asking some questions about the matter before the chair, but then she could not help herself and got into the rhetoric of the big end of town. I think Senator Singh also mentioned those conservative groups. No doubt they are both talking about Lord Deben—a retired United Kingdom politician, who is now 'His Lordship' and a member of the unelected upper house in the United Kingdom and who has very significant business interests in the biggest wind farming conglomerate in Europe. He is also a consultant for a sustainability consultancy company. One might ask Lord Deben when he comes to interfere in Australian politics just what his interest in wind farms and alternative energies is. I have said in the media that matters relating to Australian policy and Australian government are matters for Australian politicians, not for retired British politicians now serving in the unelected House of Lords. If he wants to take part in the debate, perhaps he could just indicate to us what his financial interest is in ensuring that sustainable renewable energy continues in Europe and in the United Kingdom.
As I said, I do want to ask some questions about the bill before the chamber. I will try to do that quickly, because I acknowledge that, although we have had these debates ad infinitum over many years, there is a limit on the time today and I do not want to take up the time of other senators who want to put forward genuine questions. But I might say to the Labor Party that, if all they are going to do is to get up and give 15-minute political addresses about what we have heard time and time again, that is not what the committee stage is about. If that is going to be abused I would urge other senators to take note of the hypocrisy of the Labor Party in not using the time to ask questions but simply giving boringly repetitive speeches that we have heard many times before.
Minister, you have been asked by Senator Milne about the job losses that might occur in Tasmania if something happens, but I would like to ask the minister a similar question. Minister, do you have any reliable statistics on the job losses in Australia that have happened as a result of the imposition by the Labor-Greens alliance of a carbon tax? I know we can look at Toyota and Holden; we can look at the coalmines of Central Queensland, up where I come from; we see reports of the numbers of jobs that have been lost; we see increasingly Australian manufacturing organisations moving overseas because of the high cost of energy and the carbon tax. So I ask the minister whether he does have any statistics about that. That is one question.
I also want to ask the minister: is it correct that Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's carbon emissions? The great friend of the Labor Party, Lord Deben, is indicating that the United Kingdom climate is part and parcel of the Australian climate. That is a self-evident statement, I would think. Of course, the globe's climate is one and the same thing. But he and the Labor Party and the Greens seem to think that, because Australia—which emits less than 1.4 per cent of the carbon emissions in the world—is getting rid of this carbon tax, that it is going to affect the climate of the United Kingdom and everywhere else in the world. I am sure the minister will be able to assist me as well on just what percentage of the world's carbon emissions come from Europe, from China and from North America. If that is readily available I would appreciate the minister's answer, because I just want to put it in perspective. Australia emits, I think—I seek confirmation—less than 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions of carbon. The Labor scheme was meant to reduce that 1.4 per cent by five per cent. According to Senator Milne and Lord Deben, all these cyclones would stop, all the floods would stop and all the coral bleaching would stop if Australia were to reduce its 1.4 per cent of emissions by five per cent. I simply ask the question, Minister: is it correct that Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent?
I also want to ask the minister to remind me, if he has this information, what the Labor government's forward trajectory of carbon emissions in Australia was under their scheme. I seem to recall that, rather than reducing carbon emissions, the Labor scheme actually quite substantially increased carbon output through to 2020. I seek the minister's advice on that.
Finally, I suspect the minister may have answered this question yesterday when I was not in the chamber—I think Senator Xenophon may have raised it—but perhaps the minister could explain briefly why the government did not accept the amendment of Senator Xenophon. Senators might recall that I actually voted against my government and in favour of Senator Xenophon's motion because, having seen it only very quickly in the previous division and having less than 60 seconds to make up my mind, it did seem to be quite a fair second reading amendment that sought to look at a couple of other aspects—besides the carbon tax, that is—of the increases in electricity.
The CHAIRMAN: Senator Macdonald, I draw your attention to the fact that that amendment was dealt with yesterday and is not part of the question before the committee.
Okay. I apologise for that. That was a second reading amendment, but I understand that Senator Xenophon did ask yesterday in the same way that I am asking today. The chairman at the time did not stop Senator Xenophon. I am just interested, not in dealing with the second reading amendment, but I will remove that from my questions for the minister, unless he should be desperate to answer it. I will leave my questions to those that I have raised.
I thank Senator Macdonald and other senators for the questions they have raised as part of this debate. I will do my best to give a comprehensive answer to all of them. Firstly, yes, I can confirm that Australia is responsible for less than 1.4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Macdonald asked me how that compares with the emissions from other jurisdictions. The advice I have is that the United States is responsible for 19 per cent of global emissions, China is responsible for 23 per cent of global emissions and the European Union is responsible for 13 per cent of global emissions.
I can also confirm for Senator Macdonald that, according to the previous government's own modelling of the impact of their carbon tax, after all of the imposts and all of the sacrifices imposed on the Australian community with their carbon tax, emissions in Australia were continuing to go up and up and up. In fact, Labor's own modelling of their carbon tax showed that their expectation was that emissions in Australia would go from 561 million tonnes of CO2 in 2010 to 621 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020. These are not my words. That is the information that was provided by the previous Labor-Green government. They will say, 'But it would have been so much higher if it had not been for our carbon tax.' What we say is, to the extent that it is not as high as it might have been, that is only because we have shifted economic activity, along with all of the emissions that come with it, from Australia to other parts of the world.
This is something the Labor Party has never understood. The problem is that, if you take manufacturing activity that is comparatively—internationally—environmentally efficient here in Australia and you move it to other parts of the world where the emissions for the same amount of output are going to be higher, then what you are actually ending up with is higher global greenhouse gas emissions. The Labor-Green carbon tax actually makes global greenhouse gas emissions worse, not better. Even with Labor's carbon tax, emissions were still expected to go up. To the extent that they are not going up by as much as they otherwise might have, they are just shifting emissions to other parts of the world where, on many occasions, for the same level of economic output those emissions are going to be higher than they would have been in Australia.
Senator Macdonald asked me about job losses. Obviously, if you impose additional costs on doing business here in Australia that are not faced by our competitors in other parts of the world, then you make it harder for businesses in Australia to compete with businesses in other parts of the world, to the extent that they take market share away from us. Obviously, that means that not only economic activity and emissions go overseas but also jobs go overseas. Just to put a bit of context around all of that, a report that was released by none other than the Productivity Commission said:
… no country currently imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse gas emissions or has in place an economy-wide ETS.
Australia's carbon tax of $24.15 per tonne, which went up again on 1 July to about $25 per tonne, covers around 60 per cent of total emissions. By comparison, the European Union emissions trading scheme covers just 45 per cent of total emissions at around $7 to $8 dollars a tonne. The United States does not have a nation-wide emissions trading scheme. Senators on the other side can repeat ad nauseam what they have tried to make people believe for many years now. The United States does not have an emissions trading scheme. President Barack Obama does not have any intention whatsoever to legislate for an emissions trading scheme. What President Obama is doing is not unlike what we are doing here in Australia in the absence of an appropriately comprehensive global agreement to price emissions, and that is to pursue direct action initiatives. In the United States, the state of California has an ETS which currently covers just 35 per cent of total emissions. I hope that that gives Senator Macdonald a bit of flavour.
I will quickly go through a series of other questions. Senator Singh asked: 'Why are you not accepting the science?' We do accept the science. We just do not accept Labor's carbon tax. She asked why we are ignoring the will of the Australian people. This is extraordinary chutzpah. There is actually a very old-fashioned way to test the will of the Australian people on a regular basis, and that is called an election. Of course, there was an election in 2013, which you lost. There will be an election in 2016 where you can make your case for the introduction of the carbon tax if you think it is such a good idea.
I was asked how we are going to achieve the five per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. As we have said many times, that is through our Direct Action policy. The question was asked: what will happen to ARENA? I remind the chamber that the reduction in funding in this package of bills is actually the implementation of a Labor government budget measure that was supported by the Greens. Matters related to the board of ARENA are matters related to legislation that comes before the chamber much further down the track. Incidentally, the carbon tax does nothing to help Hydro in Tasmania. It is the renewable energy target that is of interest to them. Two people have resigned from the Climate Change Authority. Have I received representations from Industry Group and the Business Council? Personally, no, I have not. But what I am very conscious of is that the Australian people passed a very clear and comprehensive judgement against Labor's carbon tax and it is time that the Senate got on with it and got rid of it.
There are two matters I would like to address—firstly, the amendment that is before the Senate at the moment. I can indicate that I will not be supporting the amendment for a number of reasons. Firstly, I support the principle of an efficient, well designed ETS. I do not believe that what has been proposed is such. It effectively keeps the existing model and framework which I found very problematic. I made no secret of the fact that I still believe the best form of an ETS is that modelled by Frontier Economics for Malcolm Turnbull and me when Malcolm Turnbull was opposition leader in 2009. I am concerned that this model keeps an estimated $9.2 billion in compensation to emissions intensive trade exposed industries. It keeps an estimated $5.5 billion in compensation to brown coal generators. It does not change prices for diesel aviation refrigerants. While the carbon price may drop initially, it will then increase until, under a floating carbon tax, it reaches an estimated $38 in 2020. That is based on modelling by Treasury and the Climate Change Authority. They modelled that it would rise to $25.40 in 2014-15 and $38 in 2020. It locks Australia into the European emissions trading scheme prices, which have been extremely volatile and subject to, I think, political considerations, which does not give investment certainty. It will continue to hit households and businesses through higher electricity and gas prices through that revenue churn and through a distortion of the merit order in terms of pricing and also in respect of the tax interaction effect—the multiplicative effect on taxes and on the economy. For those reasons, while I support that a well-designed emissions trading scheme is the best way forward, I support the comments made previously by Danny Price from Frontier Economics about his concerns about the structure of the scheme. I just want to make that clear.
I hope Senator Cormann is listening—I know he is engaged in conversation, but I am sure he can do two things at once—because I do want to put a question to Senator Cormann. It relates to discussions I have had with Minister Hunt over a number of weeks and again this morning about ensuring that the Direct Action approach of government would be more strenuous, more rigorous, more efficient, and more effective in terms of emissions abatement. I understand that Senator Cormann, after my discussions with Minister Hunt, will be making a statement so that it is on the record, and I would be grateful if he could be in a position to make that statement.
I thank Senator Xenophon for his comments and for his questions. On this side of the chamber we have very much appreciated the very constructive way in which we have been able to work with him through these policy issues both in opposition and now in government. I am pleased to be able to reassure Senator Xenophon that the government is firmly committed to reducing Australia's emissions to meet our target of five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. Since coming to office, we have, in a very methodical fashion, step by step, implemented the Emissions Reduction Fund which is, of course, the centrepiece of the direct action policy to reduce Australia's emissions.
On 24 April 2014, the government released the Emissions Reduction Fund white paper. This was, as Senator Xenophon is aware, the result of significant consultation with business, and it set out three elements of the Emissions Reduction Fund.
The first element is the crediting of emissions reductions using the tried and tested approach of the Carbon Farming Initiative. The government has introduced to parliament the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014 to expand the Carbon Farming Initiative approach beyond the land sector to the rest of the economy. This bill has already passed the House of Representatives and no doubt will be considered by the Senate sometime in the future.
The second element is the purchasing of emissions reductions by the government using a reverse auction approach. The 2014-15 budget set out $2.55 billion for the fund, with the full amount available to be committed from the commencement of the fund.
The third element of the government's policy is a safeguard mechanism, and the safeguard mechanism will be introduced to ensure that emissions reductions paid for by the Emissions Reduction Fund are not displaced by a rise in emissions elsewhere in the economy, which goes to the heart of the question, I believe, that Senator Xenophon was asking. The government has already made a number of significant policy decisions regarding the safeguard mechanism in the Emissions Reduction Fund white paper—in particular, that it will commence on 1 July 2015. The mechanism will cover facilities with direct emissions of 100,000 tonnes or more. For existing facilities, baselines will be based on absolute emissions based on existing data reported under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme over the period 2009-10 to 2013-14.
As set out in the white paper, the government continues to consult with business and other stakeholders on other aspects of the policy, including the treatment of new investment, large business expansions, the application of the mechanism to the electricity sector, and options to ensure effective compliance. The safeguard mechanism is a critical part of the Emissions Reduction Fund policy and, following consultations with business, the government will introduce legislation in 2015 to give effect to the safeguard mechanism for commencement on 1 July 2015. This commitment has been outlined in the Emissions Reduction Fund white paper, as well as the explanatory memorandum to the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014, and by my good friend and valued colleague the Minister for the Environment in his second reading speech introducing the bill. The government will list the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014 for debate in the Senate in the spring session this year.
I do acknowledge, as I did at the outset, Senator Xenophon's longstanding commitment to an effective climate change policy in Australia. I also acknowledge his appreciation of the imperative of an effective safeguard mechanism as part of the Emissions Reduction Fund policy. I look forward on behalf of the government to continuing to work with Senator Xenophon as we finalise the development of that safeguard mechanism.
I want to raise a couple of matters. But, first, Senator Macdonald, your contribution was very surprising in the sense that I think the day the Senate takes advice from you will be a very sad day for this democracy. And I do need to correct you: it is actually Lord Deben, not Lord Debenham as you repeatedly said; so could you get that right next time.
I did want to raise some of the issues that Senator Xenophon highlighted, and I understand Senator Xenophon's position in relation to this amendment. I would urge him to reconsider his position and vote with the opposition for this amendment for an emissions trading scheme. But I understand what he raised in relation to price. Of course an emissions trading scheme is a market based mechanism, but we have got emissions trading schemes in the world—some are fledging; some are more developed. The EU's emissions trading scheme is very developed. Its price has declined, based on a range of factors. As schemes become more developed and you look at the cap and you look at the development of any market that can show that volatility, price changes. Obviously we have seen a price stabilise in the EU, but I do think that, as further markets develop in the world, we are likely to see that international market change over time. It is certainly not something that is fixed like the carbon tax—it is a market based mechanism, so it is about business working out that price—so I urge him to reconsider his position, understanding the points that he raised.
Before I talk about the government's position and the Palmer United Party's position, I would like to talk about the Greens' position. The opposition is pleased that the Greens are supporting this amendment for an emissions trading scheme. However, I would draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Australian Greens party have voted against an emissions trading scheme three times so far. They are purportedly the party for clean energy, but they have voted against an emissions trading scheme at least three times. I am pleased that they are voting for this scheme now, but if we are to strive to address climate change, then it is Labor's position that has been consistent on moving from a fixed price to an emissions trading scheme. We put this amendment in March when the Senate had a different make-up and, on that basis, this amendment could have passed in this place. So it is disappointing that their vote in support of this amendment has come too late. Having said that, Labor obviously supports their support for it.
In relation to the government's position, and the Palmer United Party's position of supporting the government—that is, not supporting this amendment for an emissions trading scheme for this country—what exactly will the government and the Palmer United Party achieve if they do not achieve this amendment? What will they achieve for our children and for our children's children? Voting with us on these amendments is the only way of ensuring a cap on pollution; it is the only way of ensuring that we will reduce our carbon emissions. This is my last-ditch attempt to ask the Senate to see some sense and vote with the opposition for an emissions trading scheme. We know that the replacement is a tokenistic attempt to have a climate change policy; Direct Action falls very short of achieving anything meaningful in relation to acting on global warming.
The furphies put out by the Prime Minister on his recent overseas trips and the like have not been supported by other global leaders. He has tried to create a coalition of the unwilling and was pretty much left standing on his own. Senator Cormann talked about the fact that the US does not have a national trading scheme—other than all the states that are moving that way. President Obama said recently to students at the University of California: 'I'm going to talk about one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet faces, and that of course is the threat of a rapidly changing climate.' So President Obama does get it, and that is why, as I said earlier, the United States and China have signed a partnership pact. Of course, when the New Zealand Prime Minister heard of what Tony Abbott was trying to achieve with his coalition of the unwilling on climate change, he made it very clear that he did not want a bar of it—as did the UK, another conservative government that does not support this conservative government.
In abandoning Labor's commitment to an emissions trading scheme the Abbott government is taking Australia from being a world leader in addressing climate change to a nation standing out from the international community in refusing to acknowledge this pressing problem. The Abbott government, in isolating Australia from the international community on an emissions trading scheme, is denying the country the ability to play a meaningful role in addressing this challenge on both a national and global scale. In putting this amendment, I ask the government: if you vote down Labor's amendment, how can you guarantee that Direct Action will deliver our reductions of five per cent by 2020, and is there an emissions trading scheme that you will accept?
We have an emissions trading scheme in Australia now; it was negotiated by the last government. Senator Singh has a very selective memory. I was in the Senate when the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd abandoned what he called the greatest moral challenge of all time. Before Copenhagen and after Copenhagen, the gang of four in the Labor Party decided to abandon emissions trading in spite of the compromise the Greens had on the table at the time. They said they would prefer to go after the mining tax and abandon carbon pricing. They went into the 2010 election with no policy on carbon pricing and it was only as a result of negotiations after the election that the Greens secured a commitment that we would introduce a price on carbon and it would be legislated and take effect from 1 July 2012.
So let's not hear any more of this arrant nonsense and also let's put on the record that the scheme negotiated between the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the then Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull 'browned it down' so that it was next to useless. In fact, it was worse than nothing, in my view, because it would have locked in expanding free permits over time. It would have locked in mega compensation to coal fired power stations. It had no driver of renewable energy, no Clean Energy Finance Corporation, no Climate Change Authority and had a weak five per cent target with no capacity for the parliament to drive it higher. So it was a complete junk policy. We now have a very good policy which we should be proud of and the question before the chair is: will the Palmer United Party, which says it supports emissions trading, now support a scheme which has an 18 per cent target as a result of the 31 May deadline expiring? We now have an 18 per cent target in Australia. That is what makes it different now from earlier in the year.
Mr Palmer says he supports an emissions trading scheme. Good, so do I, so does the Labor Party, so let us vote to keep the one we have. The compromise here is to go to flexible pricing straightaway which would take the price from $25 down to $7 to $9, which is a more than reasonable compromise to put on the table. If Mr Palmer is serious about an emissions trading scheme then let us vote for this amendment together and secure the amendment to put it back to the government. I notice the minister still has not answered my question about whether he has had talks with the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group—who he has had talks with—in relation to securing an emissions trading scheme, because they are saying in the papers that that is what they want. Are they telling the government that?
There is another matter that I want Senator Cormann to answer. I understand the government has been having talks with the Palmer United Party about how to secure the price reduction obligation to be returned to consumers. It is now a circulated amendment, though not yet moved. Mr Palmer has said that he has had discussions with the government. Regarding these costs, directly or indirectly attributable, that are to be accounted for, I ask the minister two things. Firstly, if it is an indirect cost, how widely defined is that? There is no-one here from the Palmer United Party who can tell me, so maybe you can, Minister, since you have been in discussions with them. Secondly, they have just changed their foreshadowed amendment, obviously as a result of discussions with the government. So, Minister, can you tell us what conversations you have had with the Palmer United Party and what this new amendment is actually going to do?
Firstly, I remind Senator Milne that right now we are dealing with amendment (3) on sheet 7506 moved by Senator Singh, which seeks to modify the carbon tax as it currently stands and rebudget. I will deal with other foreshadowed amendments and other amendments that have been circulated at the time we are ready to go with them. The thing is we can continue to go around and around in circles, so I will just make two very quick points. Senator Milne talks about Australia having an 18 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020. No, we do not because this government, very transparently, went to the last election in a bipartisan fashion and committed to a five per cent emissions reduction target by 2020 based on 2000 levels. That is what we will deliver on. This debate has been going around and around in circles for so long. By the way, an emissions trading scheme is a government intervention. It is no more a market based mechanism than going into the market to ask people to competitively tender for the lowest cost opportunity to deliver emissions reductions. Whether it is a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme, these are government interventions that are highly regulatory and impose significant burdens on the economy. We have been very clear that we do not support it. We can continue to go around and around in circles. I suggest that the Senate now vote on the amendment moved by Senator Singh so that we can move on to the other amendments on the Notice Paper, bearing in mind the remaining time available to the Senate to deal with these matters.
The CHAIRMAN: The question is that the opposition amendment be agreed to.
On a point of order, Mr Acting Chair. We have just voted on that amendment. We are now moving to the next amendment on the sheet. This is a stalling tactic to allow the Palmer United Party to get themselves in order.
Thank you, Senator Milne. I do recognise we have voted on the amendment, but there is another amendment before the chair at the moment and Senator Ruston did have the call. She has posed a question to the minister and it is appropriate for the minister to answer it.
We have Senator Wong interjecting loudly. Senator Wong was part of the government which went to the election in 2010 promising there would be no carbon tax only to introduce one after. They went to an election in 2013 saying they had removed the carbon tax only to vote to keep it after. It is not the same thing to rebadge it or modify it. Those of us on this side of the chamber—and no doubt that is why we are now part of the government—
Where is your yellow tie?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! Minister, please resume your seat for a moment. It is very difficult for me to hear you with the bellowing coming from my left.
I know that the Labor Party are very embarrassed about their track record when it comes to imposing unnecessary and bad taxes on the Australian community such as the carbon tax.
As I was saying before, in 2010 then Prime Minister Gillard went to the election and said, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' What did she promise? She promised to have a climate change assembly. It was to be a citizens assembly with 150 citizens working to achieve consensus on how to deal with this area of public policy. But, of course, straight after the election the then government did a deal with the Greens. They entered into a coalition with the Greens. Everything that followed after that is history.
Earlier today Senator Singh asked me, 'Why are you not accepting the science?' As I said then, we are accepting the science. What we are not doing is accepting Labor's carbon tax, because it does nothing to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, arguably it actually pushes up global emissions because it pushes up the cost of electricity in Australia, it pushes up the cost of gas and it pushes up the cost of doing business. It helps our competitors in other parts of the world become more competitive. It is helping our competitors in other parts of the world take market share away from us. It is helping our competitors in other parts of the world to grow jobs at our expense. In the process, it is shifting emissions to other parts of the world where arguably for the same amount of economic output they are higher.
You will never believe what else I was asked earlier today. I was asked why we were acting against the will of the Australian people. This really goes to the crux of this whole issue. Something that the Labor Party clearly has not understood is that we have a very old-fashioned method here in Australia to test the will of the Australian people on a regular basis. It is called an election. We had an election in 2013 and the Labor Party lost, with their carbon tax, and the coalition won saying that we would get rid of the carbon tax. What we are doing here without any ifs or buts is getting rid of the carbon tax and we are not supporting replacing it with a carbon tax by another name because it is not in the national interest for us to do so.
We have people here saying that an emissions trading scheme is a market based mechanism. No, it is not. It is not something that comes out of the market at all. It is a government intervention. It is government imposing a compulsory price on the market. It is government putting in place massive regulation. It is government putting in place a massive bureaucracy. It is government putting in place policing across Australia in order to enforce compliance with government regulation. Government regulation is not a market based mechanism. It might be in Pyongyang. In Pyongyang they might think that when you put government regulation in place it is a market mechanism. When you go to Pyongyang you might think that more regulation is like a free market. But here in Australia more regulation and more taxes are not because of the free market.
Our system is actually a market based mechanism. Our Direct Action policy is part of a market based mechanism. Our Emissions Reduction Fund is a market based mechanism. With our Emissions Reduction Fund we are going out into the market and asking the market to competitively tender to help reduce emissions in Australia in a way that is economically responsible and environmentally effective. We are forcing businesses and other people out there to compete with each other. When you force people to compete with each other, that creates a market. So here we are. We, the government, through our Emissions Reduction Fund and our Direct Action policy, are putting forward a genuine market based mechanism.
But the Labor Party does not really understand how the emissions trading scheme here in Australia—the largest and most comprehensive national economy-wide emissions trading scheme or carbon tax anywhere in the world—interacts with the fact that there is no such scheme anywhere else in the world. There is such a thing as a global economy. Australia is only a small part of a global economy. We represent less than 1.4 per cent of global emissions. The US represents 19 per cent of global emissions. China represents 23 per cent of global emissions. Europe represents 13 per cent of global emissions. We are a small part of a global economy. When we are imposing costs on businesses, individuals, families and pensioners in Australia that are not faced by people and businesses in other parts of the world, we are asking people in Australia to make a sacrifice that is not asked of other people or businesses in other parts of the world. In asking them to make that sacrifice, at least it should make a difference. The problem is that neither the carbon tax nor Labor's proposal for a modified or rebadged carbon tax do anything to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
I see that Senator Bullock is here in the chamber. I know that he will say to me that all he is doing is faithfully promoting Labor Party policy. I have a certain fondness for Senator Bullock because I believe that he is a fundamentally decent and honest man. He went to the WA Senate by-election saying, 'Labor is scrapping the carbon tax.' The only problem was that on the very same day that he was making that statement in Western Australia—and I am sure that he was told to make that statement by his party—his Labor colleagues here in this chamber were voting to keep the carbon tax. Labor in this chamber were voting to keep the carbon tax on the very same day that Senator Bullock was sent out into the community by his party to say that Labor was scrapping it. These are the sorts of political games that we have seen from the Labor Party for way too long: in 2010, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead'; in 2013, 'We already have removed the carbon tax'; in 2014, 'Labor is scrapping the carbon tax'—all the way through, playing the game; all the way through, working to keep the tax that they are trying to make the people across Australia believe they have already got rid of.
And here we are still this week. On Monday, we had to have a debate all day on whether we could start the debate. Then later in the week they are saying, 'You're not giving us enough time.' We spent the whole day on Monday debating whether or not we could start the debate this week. What was that all about? The Australian people voted in September 2013 to get rid of this thing. They want the carbon tax gone, because the carbon tax is bad. The carbon tax is bad for the economy, it is bad for families, it is bad for jobs, it is bad for our international competitiveness and it is imposing sacrifices on our community without actually making a positive difference to the environment. There is absolutely no reason why we should have a carbon tax in Australia, either in the form in which it was legislated by the previous government or in the form that Labor now wants to rebadge it. That is at the heart, really, of why we are having this debate and that is of course why the coalition continues to persist with the approach we have taken.
It is always important for those of us here in this chamber, who represent our respective states, that we focus on the best interests of our states and on the best interests of our country. If we are serious about wanting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and globally, we should be having a conversation on how Australia could best contribute to that effort. And guess what: in the great state of Western Australia, which I have the privilege to represent in this chamber, we have a wonderful opportunity to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in an economically responsible and environmentally effective way. We can have a win-win-win situation: we can increase the level of economic activity, increase the number of jobs and help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. How do we do it? It is by producing more LNG in Australia, not less, and exporting that LNG to China, to Japan and to other places around the world where it can displace less environmentally friendly energy sources.
Of course, Labor's carbon tax, or Labor's emissions trading scheme proposal, in the absence of an appropriately comprehensive global agreement, makes it harder for us to increase the level of LNG production, when that is something we could do here in Australia to help the world. There should be more LNG out of Australia. What does that mean? If we produced more LNG in Australia, helping the world, we would have to accept higher-emissions-producing LNG here in Australia domestically, but the good thing is that it would actually help reduce emissions by more in other parts of the world. So the net effect is beneficial, whereas the net effect of Labor's carbon tax and emissions trading scheme is to push up global emissions. So not only are people in Australia being asked to make a sacrifice; they are being asked to make a sacrifice, under the Labor-Greens scheme, which actually makes things worse for the environment, whereas our approach will help reduce emissions in Australia in a way that achieves a genuine, proportionate net reduction in emissions in the world. That is why we commend to the Senate our policy approach as a superior approach—and it is of course the approach that received the only tick of approval that matters, and that is that tick of approval from the Australian people.
I was asked whether I was aware of comments by X, Y and Z—this business, that stakeholder and whatever. We are of course aware of all of the comments that have been made by a whole range of people, but guess what: our sense of purpose is very clear—we made a promise to get rid of the carbon tax because that is good for the economy, because that is good for families, because that is good for pensioners, because that is good for jobs, because that is good for attracting investment in Australia and because it also means that, through a more effective alternative policy, we can reduce emissions in Australia in a fiscally responsible way. But, no, the Labor Party do not get this, even though this has been argued ad nauseam. The only time they get this is in the shadow of an election. If this carbon tax were still hanging around by the time of the next election, I bet that the Labor Party would go to yet another election promising to get rid of it. Why do we know that? Because in 2010 they said we would not get it; in 2013 they said they had removed it, even though it stayed; and since then they have voted to keep it. In 2014 they said they were scrapping it. They have not. But here we are today and the Senate has the historic opportunity to act in the national interest. Today the Senate has the historic opportunity to help ensure that we can reduce emissions in Australia in a way that is economically responsible, fiscally responsible and environmentally effective.
Clearly all the Labor Party and the Greens want to do is to shift emissions to other parts of the world—out of sight, out of mind. They do not care that they are making it harder for aluminium producers in Australia to be able to compete with aluminium producers in China, even though aluminium producers in Australia are 50 per cent more environmentally efficient, even though emissions in Australia, for the same amount of aluminium production, are much, much lower. They are quite happy for aluminium producers in other parts of the world to take market share away from us, even though that pushes up the level of emissions in the world. That is the short-sighted approach by the Labor Party and the Greens—imposing a negative impact on our economy, imposing sacrifices on families, pensioners, small business and big business, making it harder to create jobs, making it harder to attract investment. As the Parliamentary Budget Office independently assessed in the lead-up to the last election, getting rid of the carbon tax will deliver an economic growth dividend, and that is the economic growth dividend that Australia needs right now, because, as a result of the mismanagement of the previous government, the Labor-Greens government, we have an economy growing below trend. We inherited rising unemployment. We need to turn that situation around. Getting rid of this bad Labor-Greens carbon tax is a very important part of our economic action strategy to build a stronger economy where everyone has the opportunity to get ahead.
It certainly takes a special blend of arrogance and incompetence to seek to both guillotine and filibuster in the same debate, and that is what this government is doing. It is fantastic. Not only did they use their numbers in the chamber this morning to put in place a guillotine; they now have a government senator asking questions of a minister who just went for 15 minutes on a Labor amendment, which has already been knocked off, in order to give the government time out there in the corridors to try and cut a deal to repeal the carbon price because they—and I use Mr Palmer's words—appear to have doublecrossed the Palmer United Party. As I said, it takes a special blend of arrogance and incompetence to both guillotine and filibuster, and that is what is occurring here.
While I am on my feet—and I will ask Senator Singh later, if she gets the call, to speak to this—the opposition opposes Schedules 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the following terms:
(4) Schedule 2, page 71 (line 1) to page 90 (line 27), to be opposed.
(5) Schedule 3, page 91 (lines 1 to 26), to be opposed.
(6) Schedule 4, page 92 (lines 1 to 29), to be opposed.
(7) Schedule 5, page 93 (line 1) to page 94 (line 4), to be opposed.
These amendments continue the position of the Australian Labor Party—that is, we want an emissions trading scheme.
I want to make sure we all understand what is occurring. The Senate had, obviously, a long debate yesterday—one of a number of debates—where the government sought without notice to come in and refuse to take up additional time that was offered up by the opposition to debate this legislation and to put in place a guillotine and a gag. In fact, I think I said by the end of this week we would see not five occasions on which the Senate was asked to support a guillotine and a gag on legislation, notwithstanding the offer by the opposition for more time. The government refused that. It got the numbers on a guillotine and a gag.
We then see a range of amendments being circulated in the chamber from Mr Palmer's party—and I understand they have a particular position. We had a sheet. We had one amendment, which was circulated. This morning we then had another revision to that amendment, which was circulated and, just before I got to my feet, there was a third revision to the Palmer United Party's amendment. We have Senator Cormann and Senator Ruston filibustering their own guillotined debate in order to enable further negotiation of the third version of the Palmer United's amendments on the carbon price. This is the calm, responsible and considered government that Mr Abbott promised. If you walk around the corridors, you can see all sorts of little huddles where these various amendments are being discussed.
I didn't say cuddles; I said huddles. I want to ask some questions about the revisions of the minister after I finish this contribution. If the government did not try to subvert the Senate process in order to give Mr Abbott a media conference when he wanted to after he flew in from the Pilbara, then they would not be in this predicament of both filibustering and guillotining their own debate in order to give themselves time to negotiate the third round of amendments, to enable them to get the numbers in this chamber to repeal the carbon price. If they did not try to subvert this chamber's proper process, they would not be in the embarrassing position they are in now where they are running around trying to cut a deal with 15 minutes or so left on the clock—15 minutes, which of course is of their own making. Those of us on this side of chamber—obviously, not the Palmer United Party but the Greens and the Labor Party—made it very clear we wanted a proper debate on this bill. As I said—
I will take the interjection, and thank you for providing me with something to respond to, Senator Williams, in the circumstances. I understand that parties of government on occasion have, when they are faced with a circumstance where they cannot get legislation through at the end of a session, sought to have agreed limitation of debate motions—they have; I acknowledge that. But it is quite a different thing to do it on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the first sitting week of the new Senate. The only logical reason the government has done this, as I said, is that it wanted to make sure Mr Abbott could have his press conference.
Why does Mr Abbott want a press conference today on this? You can see what has happened. As I said in the debate earlier today, this is a government that has turned on the people who elected it. It is a government that promised no cuts to education, no cuts to health and no changes to the pension, and it has broken all of those promises. This budget breaks all of those promises and many more: they have broken the promise around no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to SBS but, most importantly, no cuts to health and no cuts to education—a fundamental promise that Mr Abbott made not once, not twice but over and over and over again during the election campaign. Then they bring down a budget and completely turn their back on the commitments they made to the Australian people, because it is a budget which does cut health and education. It cuts our school system by around $30 billion. It cuts our health system by $50 billion and of course it imposes a GP tax and the tax on fuel—from the party that believes in lower taxes.
This is the context to why the government has gone to such lengths this week to curtail debate—to contain debate—though it did so unsuccessfully on a number of occasions. What they want is for Mr Abbott to be able to stand up at the Prime Minister's press conference today and say, 'I've repealed the carbon price, but let's not talk about the budget where we did you over.' That is what this is all about.
I want to return now to a couple of the points in the legislation and the amendments that Labor have moved. I note that on a number of occasions, Senator Abetz and Senator Cormann have waved around comments that Labor made prior to the election about the ending of the carbon tax. The Leader of the Government in the Senate seems not to understand Labor policy. We made very clear our position, which is that we think the fixed price policy needs to end. We do want to move to a market mechanism. We do want to move to a floating price. The amendments that I have just moved—the amendments that Senator Singh has circulated—and that we are debating are fundamentally about Labor's policy position, which is that we should move to emissions trading.
Let us recall the sorts of people who are on the side of emissions trading. They include John Howard, Mr Hewson, Mr Turnbull, Margaret Thatcher's cabinet minister and many other members of conservative parties around the world. The reason is that an emissions trading scheme is a market mechanism. I will take Senator Cormann's point in the earlier debate—when he was doing his interesting filibuster in a guillotine debate—where he said that an emissions trading scheme is not a market mechanism. That is the most ridiculous proposition. Who sets the price? The market. That is the point. You set a cap on pollution and—
That is a policy decision, just as government makes policy decisions in a whole range of circumstances. You set a cap on pollution because you make a policy decision that, firstly, 'We want to actually try to reduce the amount of pollution that this nation puts into the atmosphere,' and, secondly, 'We want to give an economic incentive for business to find cheaper, cleaner ways of doing business. That is what we want to do. We want to reward the clean energy innovators of today and tomorrow.' That is what we do. It is a market mechanism, unlike under Direct Action. So, instead of some public servant determining what is the most efficient way to reduce pollution, we have the market doing that, the market finding the most efficient way and the lowest cost way for emissions to be reduced.
That is why consistently economies from the time John Howard set up his task group on emissions trading in, I think, 2005-06 and onwards—and in fact prior to that, but from then on certainly in the context of the Australian debate—have said that they believe that emissions trading is the most efficient way to reduce Australia's emissions. So the minister's proposition that somehow this is not a market mechanism is a false one and really flies in the face of reputable economists here in Australia and around the world.
It seems remarkable that this comes from a party that believe in free markets. This of course is Minister Cormann's argument for the deregulation of university fees—also a market the government creates by a policy decision. His argument in favour of the deregulation of fees is that it allows the market to work. It seems remarkable that a party that allegedly believe in the power of the market would prefer a bureaucratically run scheme where public servants in fact find the cheapest way—supposedly—of reducing emissions.
We obviously have some amendments before the chair and there are other amendments that people seek to speak on. I do have some questions that I might jump ahead at this point and ask of the minister, given the time. In relation to the newly revised amendment by Senator Lazarus, which has been circulated but not yet moved, I would like to ask the minister a few questions. First, is the government—
The CHAIRMAN: Senator Wong, that question is not actually before the chair.
That is true, but given that the debate is about to be truncated, I think it would be useful for the Senate to know if it is the government's intention for this amendment to be accepted in the House of Representatives. I think it is reasonable for the Senate to know whether or not this is an amendment that the government—
I understand that it is technically not before the chair but I think it is in the public interest for the Palmer United senators to know if the government intends to accept this amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives—because, if it does not, and the minister is not prepared to say that in this chamber, then obviously the Palmer United Party might have been sold a pup.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Sorry, I had to just say that once—just once. I promise I will not do it again—though others might. I just had to get that out once. I had to get that particular gag off my chest. I would ask if that could be made clear. I also want to ask the minister if he believes that this amendment is consistent with the government's deregulation agenda.
Given that the impost of this carbon tax has been estimated at $15.4 billion, I am very keen to know how abolishing this tax—if that comes to pass here this morning—will benefit the transformation of the automotive industry and how that will help the unemployment figures, which are currently for youth unemployment at 45 per cent for the northern suburbs of South Australia, and whether this will enhance the job prospects of every unemployed person in South Australia.
If this were not so serious it would be laughable. We now have an amendment that is supposedly going to be voted on in this chamber in a matter of five minutes, and we have heard a version of it and we still have not heard, from those who moved it, what it actually means, what the differences are and what it actually is going to do. The way I read it at the moment, it is going to be the biggest introduction of red, green and yellow tape that you ever did see, because in relation to 'entity' it states:
entity means any of the following:
(a) an individual;
(b) a body corporate;
(c) an entity sole;
(d) a body politic;
(e) a partnership;
(f) any other unincorporated association or body of entitys;
(g) a trust;
(h) any party or entity which can or does buy or sell electricity or gas
The CHAIRMAN: Senator Edwards on a point of order.
We do not know how this is different from the others. There is a penalty included in the second revised version. I have not even had a chance to look at the revised third version.
We are now talking about something that is critical to the future of our country, to future generations and to the natural environment, and it has all been stitched up in back rooms between the government and the Palmer United Party, and the Senate is being treated with contempt here. How are we supposed to look at what this actually means in the few minutes that are available to us? That is why it is important that the minister does tell us whether the government has stitched this up. We need to know exactly what deals have been going on behind here. Is this the way the parliament is now going to be run—in back rooms between these parties, and then accusing each other of duplicitousness? And we do not even have the opportunity to see what this amendment actually does.
This is a day when Australia will know whether we are going backwards or forwards—whether we are going to embrace the future or whether we are going to be landed back in a fossil fuel past, when we know this is a disaster for the planet and for the country. I would like the government to answer these questions: is this going to be accepted by the government; will you tell us what the differences are? Will you tell us what this amendment does? On this day the whole country wants to know whether we are going forwards or backwards, whether we are going to go with the rest of the world and address global warming or whether we are just going to go back to the last century. We need to know exactly what you have stitched up.
I thank Senator Milne for her contribution. Embracing the future means getting rid of the carbon tax, because getting rid of the carbon tax helps build a stronger, more prosperous economy. It helps create jobs. It helps to reduce cost-of-living expenses. It helps families. It helps pensioners. It helps small businesses. It helps big businesses. It helps Australia attract investment. It is very good news for Australia if we finally get rid of the carbon tax.
Obviously, as we have said for a very long time, the government is committed to ensuring that the cost reductions that electricity generators, for example, are able to benefit from as a direct result of the repeal of the carbon tax are appropriately passed through to consumers and to small business. We have already made a series of provisions to make sure that that does happen. The Palmer United Party put forward some sensible amendments to ensure that that could be put even further beyond doubt.
As far as the government is concerned, the overarching objective of this government is to deliver on the clear commitment we made in the lead-up to the last election, which was to get rid of the carbon tax so that we can bring down the cost of living for families and for pensioners, so that we can bring down the cost of doing business in Australia, so that we can facilitate stronger job creation and so that we can provide opportunities for everyone to get ahead. Of course, this government is totally committed to doing everything we can to ensure that any reductions in the cost of generating electricity, generating energy, as a result of getting rid of the carbon tax are properly passed through to consumers and to small businesses. All of the regulators that set electricity prices have come out to say that that is what is happening. A number of the private energy generators have already made it very clear that they are committed to passing through the cost reductions that come as a direct result of the repeal of the carbon tax. The ACCC has powers and will have powers to ensure that they can take appropriate action to make sure that any cost reductions as a result of the repeal of the carbon tax are properly passed through.
Today is when the Senate, including the Labor Party, has the opportunity to finally rid the Australian people of this bad tax.
The CHAIRMAN: The time allocated for the remaining stages of these bills has now expired. I remind senators that under a guillotine I will put the question before the chair, and then the further amendments circulated at least two hours prior to this time. The question now is that in respect of the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No.2]—
Could I please get clarification from you? In relation to the amendment on sheet 7511, revision 2, which has been circulated but not yet been moved by the Leader of the Palmer United Party, Senator Lazarus, does this mean that amendment cannot be put?
The CHAIRMAN: Under the standing orders it cannot be put unless leave is sought and given by the Senate. The original amendment will be put, because that was circulated prior to two hours before this time. But the revised ones will not be put unless leave is sought by the Senate. In respect of the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No.2], the question is that schedules 2 to 5 stand as printed.
Could I seek clarification on exactly what we are voting on?
Senator Cormann interjecting—
The CHAIRMAN: Senator Cormann, I am sure Senator Singh is seeking clarification from me. In respect of the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No 2], the question is that schedule 2 to 5 stand as printed.
The CHAIRMAN: The question now before the chair is that amendments (1) to (20) on sheet 7511, circulated by the Palmer United Party, be agreed to.
Mr Chairman, what you have just read out on the sheet: is that the third version? What you have just read out is the second version, so I would just like some clarity about which version we are asked to vote on.
The CHAIRMAN: Senator Milne, as I explained earlier to the Senate, for amendments to be considered they have to have been circulated prior to two hours before the deadline of the guillotine. The amendments we are considering are on the original, unrevised version of sheet 7511. If the Senate were to consider a revised version it would need to be with leave of the Senate.
I inform the chamber that this is not my first speech. I advise I have nothing to move, as I have been advised that my amendments have been circulated in a form I do not approve. I seek leave to withdraw them.
The CHAIRMAN: So you are seeking leave to withdraw 7511. The revised ones were not going to be put by me anyway, unless you sought leave. I am going to put the question on the original 7511 unless you are seeking leave to withdraw that.
I am seeking leave, yes.
The CHAIRMAN: Is leave granted to withdraw amendments (1) to (20) on sheet 7511?
The CHAIRMAN: The question now is that amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 7506, circulated by the opposition, be agreed to.
I seek the indulgence of the Senate in relation to the Australian Greens' amendment on schedule 5 and ask that it be put as a separate amendment. When you announced schedules 2 to 5, I was focusing on the PUP amendment and assumed schedule 5 would be coming next. I would ask that that amendment be put.
The CHAIRMAN: So you would like the question to be put separately in respect of schedule 5?
The CHAIRMAN: Is leave granted to re-put the question in respect of schedule 5?
The CHAIRMAN: The question I now put is that schedule 5 stand as printed.
The question now before the chair is that table item 9 in clause 2 stand as printed.
Question agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN: The question is that the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2] as amended and seven related bills be agreed to.
The committee has considered the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2] and has disagreed to the bills. The question now is that the report of the committee be adopted. Senator Wong, did you seek to make a point of clarification?
I think I am now clear given the way the questions have been worded, but for those of us who, self-evidently, do not support the repeal, we would therefore vote yes to the report of the committee being adopted?
If you do not support the bills, that would be correct because the committee has not agreed to the bills. The question before the chair is that the report of the committee be adopted. The committee, as we have just heard, reported that the bills have not been agreed to. I want to clarify this absolutely and completely because it is slightly unusual. This is an important thing to clarify. The effect of the motion that I am about to put would be that all bills cease any further action.
Prior to that, I seek the concurrence of the Senate on a matter. I have written to the president of the press gallery, Mr David Speers—copied to all leaders and whips of the Senate—responding to a request that photographs be allowed to be taken of divisions. I have stipulated some provisions in this letter: that the photographs be broad shots of the chamber only; that individual senators or groups of senators not be the focus of any particular shot; and that the media rules are otherwise complied with at all times. Do I have the concurrence of the Senate? There being no objection, it is so.
The question is that the report of the committee, disagreeing to all of the bills, be adopted.