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Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Page: 1727


Mr BEVIS (3:16 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change. Why is an emissions trading scheme the most economically responsible way to combat climate change?


Mr COMBET (Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change) —I thank the member for Brisbane for his question. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation is in the Senate and facing obstructionism and delay yet again from the opposition. It is timely to remind the House how important it is that we pass this legislation, given the threat that climate change represents to our environment and our economy. The simple fact of the matter is that if we want to reduce carbon pollution at the lowest cost to the economy then we need an emissions trading scheme.

That is why Reserve Bank board member Mr Warwick McKibbin as recently as last week said, ‘You need to get a carbon price into the economy.’ It is also why Peter Shergold, who headed up the Howard government’s own emissions trading task group, said yesterday on ABC Radio National:

… the most effective way to drive change, we know, is when you’ve got a clear price signal. I think an emissions trading scheme is, in the long-term, better …

It is widely accepted by all reputable economic commentators that emissions trading is the best mechanism for reducing emissions. The coalition have turned their backs on an economically responsible approach to this issue. We know their direct action plan will not work; emissions will increase. It will cost more. It will have a greater fiscal impact than they have stated. It will make taxpayers pay, not the emitters of carbon pollution. All the costs will be on the budget, with no compensation to pensioners or households. It is also unfunded. You can understand, to return to Mr McKibbin’s interview, why he has said that he is not a big fan of the coalition’s direct action approach. The coalition have no credibility on this issue. Their policy is economically irresponsible. It is environmentally unworkable and, as we know, the sceptics in the coalition are running the show. We know that the Leader of the Opposition says that the climate science is ‘crap’. We know the opposition in the Senate thinks it is all a left-wing conspiracy.

Today, again, they are instituting delaying tactics. Senator Abetz is well known on this issue—for thinking that weeds pose a greater challenge than climate change. He now wants to refer this off to another committee of inquiry, which will, I think, take us to the 16th inquiry into how we should deal with climate change. It is all delay; it is all obstructionism. It is economic irresponsibility from that side. It is environmentally unworkable. With such an important reform, where we need the certainty for the business community about how a carbon price is to be achieved, and it is clearly in the national interest, it is time for the opposition to seriously rethink their position and to support this legislation in the Senate.

The legislation, it needs to be borne in mind, reflects the agreement that was reached between the government and the coalition just several months ago, and we know that many senators, members of the coalition, support the legislation and support the deal. The Leader of the Opposition has made the point in fairly recent times about the importance of the Liberal Party allowing people to follow their consciences and vote in favour of what they believe. Here is an opportunity: support the CPRS in the Senate. Let us make this important reform and do what is necessary environmentally and what is responsible economically.