Monday, 18 October 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance, Senator Birmingham. It is reported that Mr Morrison is preparing to fork out more than $20 billion to get the Nationals to support his net zero plan. How much taxpayer money is Mr Morrison willing to spend to buy a political fix?
I thank Senator Gallagher for her question, because, certainly, what our government is quite proudly doing at present is preparing the commitments and plans that the Prime Minister will take to the climate change conference in Glasgow. Those commitments and plans entail planning in relation not just to what the emissions reduction framework and commitments will look like but how we will protect the jobs of those communities across Australia facing change brought about by a changing international environment—how we will protect the jobs, how we will protect those communities, how we will ensure that they can have confidence that they will be supported through the transition that is going to occur as a result of a changed global investment environment and a changed environment in relation to many of our key export markets and the commitments they're making. These are changes that are happening.
It sounds to me, from the tone of the question by Senator Gallagher, that she's happy to leave those communities behind—to not care about the jobs and to think that if there is some investment in protecting those communities, in supporting them to take advantage of the opportunities to come, that that should just be ignored. Those of us on this side—the Liberals and the Nationals—will certainly not leave regional Australia behind. We will not leave regional communities behind. We will make sure that, just as we invest to pursue lower emissions and to work towards net zero, we equally invest to protect Australian communities and the regions that we have relied upon as a nation for so long for so many export communities, and to ensure that they have a bright future—that they can seize the opportunities ahead, be they new energy opportunities or be they other new opportunities that can be created.
For Senator Gallagher to come here and want to ask a question about wasting money, I saw her yesterday—she seemed to walk away from the $300 vaccine payments. Talk about a $6 billion waste of money—paying people to do something that Australians have, thankfully, already turned out to do in their millions.
It has been reported that one government MP has said:
There's going to be a giant National Party green rainbow across regional Australia with crocs full of pork at the bottom.
Is there any upper limit to how much taxpayer money Mr Morrison is willing to spend to buy a political deal?
I could equally ask: is there any point at which those opposite will acknowledge the importance of those regional jobs or those regional communities? We are going through these discussions asking all the right questions. On this side we ask all the right questions. We don't make a commitment and then try to work out how to do the plan in place. We are, in parallel, working through the questions of how we deliver the commitments in relation to climate change but do so in ways that support the regional communities and jobs of Australians. That's the responsible way to go about these policies—to do it in alignment, to do it together and to make sure that you can present plans that do provide the support and respect to Australians. It's unsurprising, given the question that Senator Gallagher is asking, that those opposite simply make the promise without consideration for the consequences. They make the promise without actually thinking about the plan. They jump out of the plane and then see whether they've packed the parachute. We're making sure that we have everything answered in advance.
The Minister for Finance has said it's critical for the Morrison-Joyce government to have 'a target and a plan'. Will the minister guarantee that any last-minute political deal with the Nationals will meet the standard he himself has set?
Indeed, as Senator Abetz, I think, just alluded to, I do agree with my own words. I'm happy to confirm that to the Senate. That is precisely, if the senator had been listening to I think the previous two answers I've given, what I have talked the Senate through. The fact is that we are working concurrently through the process in relation to targets and the process in relation to the plans to meet those targets, and not just the plans to meet the targets without consideration of the consequences of meeting the targets but the plans to meet the targets whilst considering the consequences of that for different communities across Australia, not just looking at it at a national level or a macro level but drilling it down to consider the impacts across different states and territories, across different regions and across different industry sectors, because that's how you do the job properly. That's how you take care of Australians. That's how you ensure that Australian regions, communities, states and families have the strongest possible future, which is what we wish to secure.
Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.