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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9616

Carbon Pricing

Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Will the minister update the House on the progress of the government's clean energy future plan? Why is it important to take action on climate change now and what are the impediments to this?

Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (14:56): I thank the member for Petrie for her question. Two months ago the government released a plan for a clean energy future for Australia, and of course there has been considerable discussion of the plan since its release. It will ensure that Australia takes action to tackle climate change in the most economically efficient and environmentally effective manner. We developed this policy because the science on climate change is clear: climate change is occurring; human activity is contributing; and if it is left unchecked the Australian economy and our environment would be severely affected. No government acting responsibly can ignore that advice. A government must act, and this government has acted.

A carbon price is the cheapest and most effective way to cut pollution and drive investment in clean energy. It will create innovation. It will drive productivity improvements in our economy. It will reduce the emissions intensity of our economy. It will improve our long-term competitiveness. The carbon price will allow us to fulfil our obligation to future generations and to meet our responsibility to do a fair share to tackle climate change within and in partnership with the international community—and we must never lose sight of that responsibility as parliamentarians.

We released draft legislation last month and we have received over 300 submissions in response. We will be introducing the legislation to this House tomorrow. We have been debating these issues for decades. There have in fact been no fewer than 35 parliamentary inquiries into climate change since 1994. So we have been debating this now for 17 years in our parliament. The time for inaction has passed. It is time for the parliament to take the practical steps to cut pollution and drive the investment that we need in clean energy and energy efficiency. It is extremely important for the business community, because business needs the certainty over climate change policy. Business needs the certainty of the carbon price mechanism and what the carbon price will be so that it can invest in long-lived assets, in particular in sectors like the energy generation sector.

Notwithstanding all of the inquiries, all of the evidence, the science and the imperatives to act economically, the Leader of the Opposition opposes action on climate change. He attacks the scientists. He attacks the economists. He runs a baseless fear campaign in the community. He talks the economy down. He undermines consumer sentiment. He creates insecurity amongst working people about their jobs. He goes around terrifying pensioners. He makes false claims designed to frighten small business people, falsely claiming cost increases that will never materialise. The Leader of the Opposition should stop his baseless fear campaign and support an important reform.

Mr Ewen Jones interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Herbert again!

Mr COMBET: Let's not forget that John Howard, the former Prime Minister, supported a carbon price through emissions trading and took that policy to the last federal election that he contested, in 2007. Of course, in the last parliament, the government reached agreement with the then Leader of the Opposition, the member for Wentworth, about this policy issue. It has fundamentally been the destructive and opportunistic behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition that has impeded this parliament dealing with this issue—and deal with it we will. (Time expired)