Monday, 21 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. When asked whether net zero by 2050 is a position of the Morrison government, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said on Insiders on Sunday, 'It is the clear position that the PM has articulated.' Is net zero by 2050 a position of the Morrison-Joyce government? Yes or no?
I thank Senator Keneally for her question. Indeed, as the Prime Minister has made clear, it is important for Australia to drive towards net zero emissions, to play its role in the development of new technologies, to invest in technologies, not taxes—as those opposite would have—and to make sure that in doing so Australia, which has been such a crucial leader in relation to energy sources in the past, continues to be a crucial leader in the delivery of energy sources now and into the future.
That's why, whilst at the G7 and associated meetings, the Prime Minister was furthering the policy commitments made in terms of the pursuit of hydrogen hubs around the country, the pursuit of the stretch target to achieve the delivery of hydrogen at $2 per kilogram and the pursuit of strong international partnerships in that regard. The Prime Minister pursued agreements whilst overseas and signed them—with Germany and Singapore, for hydrogen cooperation with those key economies and key investors in Australia, as we've pursued with Japan, as well. It's this type of investment by coalition governments that has enabled Australia to reduce its emissions, not with the taxes proposed by those opposite—
I can't instruct the minister the terms in which he or she must answer the question as long as the minister is directly relevant to it, and I think the minister is clearly being directly relevant. There's a chance after question time to debate ministers' answers.
Australia beat its Kyoto-era targets by some 459 million tonnes. Australia's emissions are down over 20 per cent from the period 2005 to December 2020. That's compared with an OECD average of 6.6 per cent. This is what achieves a pathway to net zero: achieving real emissions reductions through real investment in real technologies.
Senator Payne also said net zero by 2050 is 'the broad position of the Australian government,' and 'a sensible position'. Is net zero by 2050 a position agreed by the Morrison-McCormack cabinet? If so, will it be revised by the Morrison-Joyce cabinet?
It is a sensible position and it is an important position for Australia to not only play our role but, most crucially, for Australia to ensure that we continue to drive the investment and attract the investment in the technologies that will get us towards net zero but do so whilst protecting the jobs, businesses and livelihoods of Australians. That will forever remain the coalition government's priority—the protection of jobs and businesses across Australia—ensuring those businesses can operate with the technology, with the support, with the investment—
Mr President, the point of order is direct relevance. I understand the position you have previously articulated. Senator Keneally's question, though, was a direct question about what the position of the cabinet was. The minister is giving us a long lecture about how you might approach a target, when the question is only whether or not the target is his government's position. I mean, we are having a discussion about direct relevance on a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate about what the government's position is.
I don't need you to remind the minister of the second part. I thought the minister engaged with that at the start. He has 16 seconds remaining but he is also entitled to address the quotation that was used in the question and remain directly relevant to the question.
I was asked whether the position, as articulated by the foreign minister—a sensible position—is the government's position. Of course it is the government's position. Of course it is, and the government is determined to make sure we continue to drive investment into— (Time expired)
In an op-ed in the Australian in February, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce wrote:
… the Nationals have always been opposed to a net-zero target. … If the Nationals supported net-zero emissions we would cease to be a party that could credibly represent farmers.
Will Mr Morrison rule out abandoning his preference for net-zero emissions by 2050 in any revised coalition agreement?
The Prime Minister has made clear the government's position. I am confident the government's position in relation to supporting investment in driving towards net zero and seeking to achieve that as quickly as is possible and practical was not applying taxes, like those opposite would, but instead investing in the technologies that are necessary to get those outcomes remains indeed the position.
I note the new Leader of The Nationals was asked about this very matter in his press conference just immediately prior to question time. Mr Joyce made clear that he would be consulting with his party room, having discussions with the Prime Minister.
Opposition senators interjecting—
But I assure the Senate and Senator Keneally as well, the government has made clear and the Prime Minister has made clear, Australia's position, in international discussions to the Australian people, that remains the position.