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Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Page: 1113

Carbon Pricing

Mr HUNT (Flinders) (14:18): Mr Speaker, my question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to her statement that the impact of the carbon tax on aluminium will be equivalent to a 1c rise in the dollar. Does she stand by that statement?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:18): Yes, I do. I made that statement in order to give a sense of the context for the aluminium industry because of the complete misrepresentations we have seen coming from the other side. First and foremost the misrepresentations we have seen during the course of this week have been from those on the other side coming in here and trying to pretend that modelling that shows the long-term economic effects in our economy as well as—

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: when you assumed the speakership you indicated that, if the opposition asked short direct questions, you would ensure that the Prime Minister and her ministers would be directly relevant. We simply asked her if she stood by the statement she made yesterday, nothing else.

The SPEAKER: I said that I would insist that answers be directly relevant and it is easier for me to insist that answers are directly relevant when questions are short and sharp. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: I was explaining why I made that statement. It was to give lie to the misrepresentations we are seeing from the opposition about impacts on the aluminium industry. What they are refusing to acknowledge is all of the economic forces that are on aluminium and on manufacturing. No amount of coming into this place and fearmongering changes those facts. Look at the statements put out at management level from Alcoa where they say the strong Australian dollar is causing difficulties for them, where they point to factors like low global prices. Talk to the workers, who have a very sophisticated understanding of what is happening in their business. When you have done those things—actually absorbed the information and talked to the workers—you realise how insulting this campaign is to the working people in the aluminium industry and how insulting this campaign is to workers in manufacturing generally.

They understand that our economy is in a position of structural change and that it is structural change driven by strength and coming off a basis of strength. Let us remember that. When our nation has faced structural change in the past, often it has been off a basis of weakness when we have had economic downturns that have caused high unemployment and other weaknesses in the economy. We come to this period of structural change in a position of strength, but that does not mean there are not industries that are feeling that structural change in a painful way. Aluminium is one of them and we are determined to keep working with the industry and Alcoa during this period.

The SPEAKER: If the Prime Minister could just pause for a moment. The Prime Minister is being directly relevant because she is explaining why she in fact made the statement that the questioner asked whether she made.

Ms GILLARD: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. In conclusion I would say to the member who asked the question: the one thing he knows to be true is that the changes being wrought by our carbon pricing system will come at the least change to the economy, and the changes that he is seeking through their inefficient system will come at a higher cost per tonne of carbon—and, certainly, that will have greater economic impacts and effects. He should be honest about that, as should the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr HUNT (Flinders) (14:22): Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the Prime Minister to Alcoa's 9 January 2012 earnings presentation that reveals the change in company earnings is $11 million for every 1c change in the Australian dollar. Given Alcoa's evidence to the Senate of a $40 million carbon tax bill for the Victorian operations alone, is the company misleading the market or is the Prime Minister misleading the House?

Mr Albanese: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member sought to introduce completely new material into his question; it was not a supplementary question.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will resume his seat. I allow the supplementary question and call the Prime Minister.

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:23): The last thing I ever do is accept figures from the opposition, because they are normally misrepresented. So I will have a look at today's figures from the opposition and analyse them. But can I say to the member who asked the question: one thing that should not be misrepresented in this place is what Alcoa has said about the changes at Point Henry.

Opposition members interjecting

Ms GILLARD: Of course, the opposition are screaming away because they never want the facts; they want to insult the intelligence of working people by denying them the facts. Well, the facts are these: Alan Cransberg, the Managing Director of Alcoa, said:

A combination of factors, including metal prices, input costs and exchange rates, have resulted in the Point Henry smelter becoming unprofitable—

and that his goal is to continue operating, that this is an unsettling period but that he believes that the smelter can be competitive. That is the news from Alcoa, and no amount of fearmongering—

Mr Hunt: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The question was in relation to an $11 million figure given in the company's statement in terms of a 1c rise versus a—

The SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. The Prime Minister will be directly relevant to the supplementary question.

Ms GILLARD: On the facts about Alcoa, as opposed to the things that the opposition have been misrepresenting over the last few days, let's conclude with these words of the Managing Director of Alcoa, where he said:

It [is] important to note that the review—

that is, the review of the Port Henry smelter—

has not been prompted by a future price on carbon.

Stop coming in here and insulting the workers in that place. (Time expired)

Mr Hunt: Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table Alcoa's 9 January earnings presentation.

Leave not granted.

Mr Hunt interjecting

The SPEAKER: Leave has not been granted. The honourable member will resume his seat and will not engage in chit-chat across the table.