Monday, 19 June 2017
Questions without Notice
As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, my question is to Senator Birmingham representing the Minister for Environment and Energy. Is the Minister aware—yes or no—of comments of the current economic policy adviser to Prime Minister Turnbull, Dr Alex Robson, who said in his paper entitled Australia's carbon tax: an economic evaluation that 'a central tenet of good economic policy making is that a full cost-benefit analysis should be undertaken, weighing up the gains and losses across a wide range of policy alternatives so that political decision-makers can be better informed of the economic effects of various options'? If yes, when a key adviser to the government says this about the cost-benefit analysis of a carbon tax, what makes the Finkel proposals—essentially a carbon tax—different at a time when cost of living is skyrocketing?
I thank Senator Roberts for his question. No, I am not aware of the quote you referenced, but I will take you at your word that it is an accurate quote in that regard. I would equally assure you that in terms of the work that the Turnbull government will undertake in its response to the Finkel review, every impact will be thoroughly considered and analysed as we develop appropriate policy responses to the Finkel review. This, indeed, is exactly the work we are undertaking. The Turnbull government has received the Finkel review and we are now considering the report and its recommendations. We will undertake appropriate and thorough analysis of any policy responses or potential policy responses to that, and that will ultimately inform the direction and pathway that the government takes into the future.
Does the Chief Scientist, Dr Finkel, provide a crucial cost-benefit analysis of his economic claims and proposals—yes or no? If yes, in which part of the 220-page ruse does such a cost-benefit analysis appear to justify the enormous price increases that will follow from Dr Finkel's recommendations?
As I suspect Senator Roberts is aware, the Finkel review undertakes modelling of certain scenarios, looking at business-as-usual scenarios and looking at scenarios where a clean energy target will be put in place. Like any modelling, that of course is informed and influenced by the assumptions that underpin that modelling. But that is there, detailed in the Finkel review. The government will consider that modelling, which, on the assumptions presented, demonstrates that a clean energy target scenario could produce over a period of time lower price impacts than the business-as-usual scenario. The government will consider that modelling, but that will not be the only input, of course, to the government's decision-making that will ensure that we give full and thorough consideration to the findings, the recommendations and the implications of going down the Finkel review path or modifications thereof.
While noting that electricity CPI has increased more than 100 per cent since December 2007 to 2016, the CPI has increased 23 per cent. There have been media claims that this sham report, if implemented, will save consumers $90 off their potential electricity prices per year compared with continuing the current disastrous policy. On which page in this report is the $90 figure mentioned? And, if it is not in the report, who made this figure up and what are their economic policy credentials?
I am not a walking index to the pages and contents of the Finkel report, so I will happily take on notice the aspect of the question that seeks a particular page reference. But the senator did mention the impact of electricity price rises over the period of 2007 to 2016. Of course, there have been many factors there in terms of the retail charges, the wholesale charges and the distribution charges that, at different junctures, have had an impact. The Finkel report does demonstrate that, at present, in terms of some of the price pressures, the generation charges, and particularly the contribution of the peaking of gas prices, is a real factor that the Turnbull government is taking very seriously and working to address.
Equally, if you look at the trajectory of price rises, you can see that, in that time horizon, there was one period where prices, in fact, did dip somewhat. That was the period after the coalition government came to power, took out a carbon tax and put in place other measures to meet our emissions reduction targets—measures that are proving to be successful and reduced the impact of price rises. (Time expired)