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Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Page: 54

Ms JULIE BISHOP (2:12 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to recent remarks from the United Nations’ top climate change official where he said there was no need for Australia to legislate an emissions trading scheme ahead of the Copenhagen talks. I quote:

What people care about in the international negotiations is the commitment that a government makes to take on a certain target … that’s what’s important to the international community.

Prime Minister, why is the government insisting that the parliament pass its flawed emissions trading scheme now while dismissing any alternatives or improvements?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for her question. The first part of the answer lies with the need for the business community to have business certainty. I would draw the honourable member’s attention to comments from the BCA, the Australian Industry Group, and Shell Australia and a range of other businesses calling for certainty on the CPRS so that they can plan their investments. The chairman of Shell Australia has said:

… we believe a far greater risk is that Australia misses the opportunity to put a policy framework in place to deal with this issue. This would create a climate of continuing uncertainty for industry and potentially delay the massive investments … required …

I would also refer to comments by the Australian Industry Group, who have said:

Business also needs to be making some very big decisions if we’re going to be able to make the transition to the CPRS, and to do so they need certainty. Uncertainty is death for business.

Furthermore, I refer to a comment from the Business Council of Australia:

To drag on the debate whilst we have got this global financial crisis is just one more complexity that business has got to factor into its planning cycle, and for some businesses it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back

And furthermore, I would draw the honourable member’s attention to comments just the other day by the executive director of the UNFCCC secretariat, who stated, ‘I think it helps Australia’s credibility to say that this is the target Australia is willing to commit to and this is how we are going to achieve it. And that will be good for the country’s credibility.’

I would also say to the honourable member that the Leader of the Opposition had earlier said the following:

…”our first-hand experience in implementing … an emissions trading system” would be of considerable assistance in our international discussions and negotiations aimed at achieving an effective global climate change agreement.

I would also note that the previous position of the opposition was that they should move to the implementation of such a regime irrespective of what international action was being contemplated.

Again, I would refer to an earlier statement by the Leader of the Opposition, where he said:

… the Howard Government’s policy last year, was that we would establish an emissions trading system not later than 2012. It was not conditional on international action. … John Howard decided and the Cabinet decided last year that we would move on an emissions trading scheme come what may.

Therefore, in response to the honourable member’s questions, there are two sets of considerations here. One is business certainty, and I have referred to three principal spokesmen of business. The business community is looking for certainty on what is an important set of reforms for the economy for the future. Secondly, I draw the honourable member’s attention both to the previous government’s and the current Leader of the Opposition’s statements on the need to act as underpinning Australia’s international credibility, and furthermore to the recent statement by Mr Yvo de Boer, the executive director of the UNFCCC secretariat.