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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 12934

Carbon Pricing


Mr HUNT (Flinders) (14:32): My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. I refer the minister to his statement, twice repeated, on the 7.30 program on Tuesday, 8 November that 160 million tonnes of emissions would be reduced in Australia as a result of the carbon tax. I also refer him to the government's own modelling that shows almost 100 million tonnes of those emissions reductions would actually be sourced from overseas. Which statement is true?


Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (14:32): On the issue of modelling, it is simply wrong to suggest, as the coalition has been suggesting, that the government's Clean Energy Future plan somehow relies upon an economy wide cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme in the United States. We have heard this being implemented by 2016 and we have heard it repeated here in question time.

Let me make something clear about the Treasury modelling. The Treasury modelling makes two key assumptions about international action: firstly, that countries meet the low-end pollution reduction targets for 2020 that they committed to under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The second important assumption is that countries have access to international abatement—countries including Australia having access to international carbon markets. Those are the two important assumptions that underpin the Treasury modelling. They are both completely reasonable assumptions. Nothing—

Mr Hunt: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order, on relevance. The question was whether or not the minister stands by his statement that 160 million tonnes would be sourced in Australia.

The SPEAKER: Order! The only point of order that can be raised is on direct relevance. I remind the minister to relate his material in a directly relevant manner to the question. I thought that he was coming around to being that precisely, and I hope I am right.

Mr COMBET: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It is important, of course, to establish the basis for the Treasury modelling that the coalition have been consistently representing. On the issue of the United States, nothing President Obama said during his visit to Australia calls those issues into question whatsoever. In fact, the contrary is the case. It needs to be made clear that President Obama in fact confirmed the commitment of the United States to meet its emissions reductions targets.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Sturt and the minister will resume their seats!

Mr Schultz: Just answer the question!

The SPEAKER: What about just sitting there quietly? That would assist the chair. I will explain: it is very difficult when everybody on my left is talking and yelling for me to be able to indicate, as I am about to indicate to the minister, that he should directly relate his material to the question. But it would be assisted by a bit of quiet on my left. The minister has the call. He shall be heard in silence.

Mr COMBET: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The opposition are well aware of the things that I am adverting to in relation to the Treasury modelling. In fact, they have had detailed briefings at Senate estimates and yet they still persist with these claims. In testimony to the Senate, senior Treasury officials from the modelling team stated a number of things. These I quote. Treasury assumes:

… that countries that have made pledges at either Cancun or Copenhagen conventions through the UNFCCC process implement policies to achieve those pledges.

That is the assumption. Furthermore:

What we are assuming is that there are mechanisms in countries … that result in an implicit or explicit carbon price—

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will resume his seat.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! He is not the only person. If anybody is defying the question, members of the opposition and coalition benches—who, I have indicated, make it near impossible to take action, with their continued interjections—also could be considered to be in defiance. Again I say to the minister that he should relate his material to the question, and it would help if he could be heard in silence so that people could make judgment. At the end of the day, if the response is heard, people can make judgment about the answer by having heard it.

Mr COMBET: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is relevant, as will be apparent if I am allowed to get to the end of the answer. The Treasury officials also went on to say, in relation to the assumptions:

It does not mean it specifically has to be an emissions trading scheme within all countries … we are assuming that there is a continuation of the international offset market which exists now …

This is entirely relevant to the issue in question, because I went on to say in The 7.30 Report that it involves access to international carbon markets.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar will resume her seat.

Mr COMBET: That is what the record of the interview will show clearly, and the assumptions that the Treasury make in relation to the modelling are entirely apparent. They involve access to carbon markets and Australian businesses, when we go to a flexible emissions trading scheme from 1 July 2015, will be able to access those markets in order to meet the emissions reductions target.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar will withdraw.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: I withdraw the word 'grub'.

The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar will withdraw unreservedly.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: I withdraw, unreservedly, the word 'grub'.

The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar will leave the chamber for one hour under 94(a).

The member for Mackellar then left the chamber.

Mr Hunt: I seek leave to table the very transcript to which the minister was referring.

Leave not granted.