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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 2758

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (2:24 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the statement by the Minister for Resources and Energy yesterday that a price on carbon is required to drive a transition in electricity generation from coal fired to gas fired power. Keith Orchison, who the minister praised last night at his book launch, has stated that a carbon price of $30 per tonne would be the minimum required to drive such a transition. Does the Prime Minister agree that a carbon price of $30 a tonne or more will be needed to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation—yes or no?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Groom for his question. He is a man that I find I am in a lot of agreement with. I was in a lot of agreement with him when before the election he so fulsomely talked about how electricity prices were going to rise because of underinvestment. He talked about that before the election. He was very honest then, and he is a shadow minister who has obviously not signed up to the Leader of the Opposition’s fear and scare campaign, trying to create the impression that if you price carbon then that is the sole issue. Somehow, the Leader of the Opposition is trying to create a fear campaign, pretending to the world that he is in a position to keep electricity prices down, when of course the member asking the question was very clear—

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER —And the member for Sturt’s status in this House is clear. He has been warned.

Ms GILLARD —I was going to the honesty of the member for Groom on electricity price questions, and I refer the House to his words before the election, where he talked about the enormous investment needed in electricity generation. He talked about the impact that would have on power prices. He is on exactly the same page on these questions as Premier Colin Barnett, who has talked about the need for power increases to feed investment. So if we are going to have this debate—

Mr Ian Macfarlane —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the question was not on electricity prices. It was on a carbon price. I ask the Prime Minister to answer the question.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will relate her response to the question.

Ms GILLARD —I was asked about carbon pricing and electricity prices, and I am of course going to the question of what is driving electricity prices and drawing the House’s attention yet again to the wise words of the member for Groom. What I would say to the member for Groom as well is that he is someone who in the past has understood the need to price carbon in this country if we are to tackle climate change. Indeed, he devoted many hours of his life to endeavouring, across the political divide, to find a constructive solution, a bipartisan solution, to the question of pricing carbon. I regret that people like the member for Groom, who have that kind of goodwill, are no longer allowed to reach out across the political divide because the Leader of the Opposition has defined his role in politics as three-word slogans and wrecking things—always putting the political interest in front of the national interest. I can say to the member for Groom in respect of the question that he has asked: we as a government will continue to work on the issues of pricing carbon. He may well at some point find himself in a position to work constructively with us, because I know that is what he would prefer to do.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the Prime Minister to Mr Orchison’s statement that a $30 a tonne carbon price would by itself force up household electricity prices by at least 25 per cent over and above the doubling of electricity prices that the Prime Minister agreed yesterday will occur in the absence of a carbon price. I ask the Prime Minister: what confidence can Australian people have in a government that had lost its way in June and that has found its way, when her broken promise from the election campaign will hit families and households where it hurts—in their pockets?

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A supplementary question under the standing orders does not imply the need for supplementary rhetoric. What it requires is a direct question based upon the answer given to the original question.

Mr Pyne —On the point of order, Mr Speaker. The supplementary question goes to electricity prices, which, of course, the Prime Minister talked about in her answer to the question about carbon prices.

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt will resume his seat. When he has made a point of order he should not continue to make remarks when he walks back, even if he is making those remarks to his colleagues, because I am not sure who he makes those remarks to. The point raised by the Leader of the House is important in that I did indicate some guidelines for supplementary questions. I have to say that in regard to the first part of the supplementary question of the member for Groom, he upheld those guidelines very well.

Mr Ian Macfarlane interjecting

The SPEAKER —I will get on record that he claims not to have written the second part. By the by, could I just say that my attitude has been to allow things like the second part of the question, but that does allow the answer to be a bit wider than the questioners perhaps would like. If I am trying to be anything, it is to be consistent. As I say, the point made by the Leader of the House about looking at the guidelines for supplementary questions is well made, but I indicate that in this case the supplementary question is in order.

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —In answer to the supplementary question, I say the following: lesson No. 1, if you are given a question by the Manager of Opposition Business, do not read all of it; lesson No. 2, on the question of carbon pricing, there will be thousands, indeed, I suspect, hundreds of thousands of Australians, who will have something to say in this debate. And that is a good thing. That is why we have a democracy, that is why we have a debate and that is how we work through to consensus that people get to express a view. As those hundreds of thousands of Australians are having something to say, I understand that on each and every day the opposition will run in here trying to use these quotes for a fear campaign. What I would say to Australians is: do not fall for the fear campaign. As a nation, we can work through and find a solution here. One of the things that fortify me is that if you are prepared to work with people you can find a good solution.

Sometimes in this parliament in the past we have seen people prepared to work together. I draw the member for Groom back to his statements, for example, about the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. He worked hard on it and at the end of those negotiations he said about it things like: ‘I think we’ve got an exceptional package. I’m very happy with the deal. It’s a deal which will protect jobs and industries in Australia.’ He went on to say: ‘What we’ve done is protect not only the power industry but in fact the energy security supply in Victoria so the lights will stay on for industry and households.’ I have to say that if we, in a spirit of consensus, work through on the question of carbon pricing and at the end of it people are using words like ‘exceptional deal’, ‘protect jobs and industries in Australia’ and ‘keep the lights on’, I will be pretty well pleased. There we have it. You can, if you are prepared to work through, get to good solutions.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order. I simply ask: how can an emissions trading scheme that the Prime Minister urged be dumped be relevant to a question about carbon pricing?

The SPEAKER —The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. That is not a point of order. He will not come to the dispatch box to add argument. I accept that he can raise a point of order if he believes that the answer is not relevant to the question, but he cannot come and add argument.

Mr Stephen Smith —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order, which is that the Manager of Opposition Business came to the dispatch box, allegedly on a point of order, but did not make a point of order. He is on four warnings in two days.

Ms GILLARD —In conclusion, I say to the member for Groom: I know he is a person of goodwill and if he can ever work his way around the negativity, bitterness and tantrum-throwing of the Leader of the Opposition, let us know and we will have a discussion about carbon pricing.