Senate debates

Monday, 2 May 2016

Questions without Notice

Carbon Pricing

2:50 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I begin, I acknowledge some fine young Australians in the gallery this afternoon—students from the Melbourne university Liberal Club. Welcome!

My question is to the minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Senator Birmingham. Can the minister advise the Senate how the government is tackling climate change without a big new electricity tax?

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

In addition to acknowledging the 'fighters for freedom' up in the gallery today, I also acknowledge and thank Senator Smith for his question on what I understand is his fourth anniversary as a senator. I congratulate Senator Smith on his significant contribution over those four years.

In terms of significant contributions, the Australian government is making a significant contribution to address, meet, deliver and exceed our targets and commitments to the world in relation to climate change. And we are doing this, of course, without a carbon tax being required.

As was announced at the signing of the Paris climate agreement in New York last week, Australia is on track to meet and beat our 2020 targets for emissions reduction by some 78 million tonnes of emissions. We are doing that through three key pillars: the Renewable Energy Target, the Emissions Reduction Fund and the safeguard mechanism. But we are doing that, of course, without the need for a carbon tax in place.

Our policies are working; they are succeeding, and they are doing so without those impacts that drove electricity prices and gas prices up. By some estimates, in New South Wales gas prices are eight per cent lower today than they would have been with the carbon tax, electricity prices are 10 per cent lower and, of course, the Australian Treasury estimates that households have saved around $550 as a result of the removal of the carbon tax. Yet Australia is meeting and beating its emissions reduction targets and is playing an effective part in developing policies to further reduce emissions, in Australia's case with commitments to reduction of between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This represents a halving of emissions per person—the second-highest contribution of that nature among all developed countries. This is a significant contribution and commitment by Australia that is, of course, backed up by our real action over the years in delivering on our commitments. (Time expired)

2:52 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any alternative plans to introduce an electricity tax?

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes. It would seem that last week the Labor Party demonstrated that they heard nothing from the Australian people at the last election and learnt nothing in terms of the policies they had undertaken in the past. The Labor Party are up to the same old tricks and same old approaches. Their carbon tax policy, of course, comes on top of a $100 billion tax agenda that they already have. The Labor Party are promising $100 billion of extra taxes and then a carbon tax on top of that. Mr Shorten's carbon tax will, as it did before, put jobs at risk, damage Australia's competitiveness and increase costs for Australian businesses and, of course, Australian families.

In something quite reminiscent for Australian voters, it was Mr Shorten who last week said, 'Let's be clear—there will be no carbon tax under Labor,' but then, of course, released a policy showing that in fact there will be. (Time expired)

Government Senators:

Government senators interjecting

2:54 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate how a big new tax on electricity would affect jobs and growth, particularly in the manufacturing sector?

Honourable Senators:

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! On my left. On both sides.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator Cameron, that includes you.

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

The Labor Party love to talk about their concern for the manufacturing industry but, with policies like this, we know they are just crocodile tears from those opposite. In fact, those opposite are pursuing policies that would have a disastrous impact on manufacturing, on mining and on the energy sector. The coal, oil and gas industry directly employs around 65,000 Australians, and the aluminium sector employs around 17,600. There would be significant impacts there. The construction sector, which the Labor Party are already trying to cripple under union corruption, provides around one million jobs across the board. We would ultimately see fewer opportunities in all of these sectors because of greater costs that would be in place, and less competitiveness for Australia, which would harm our economic transition as a nation when we can least afford it.