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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 11036

Carbon Pricing

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (15:22): My question is to the Treasurer. I refer the Treasurer—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for North Sydney has the call. The Leader of the House. The member for North Sydney will ignore the interjections and the interjections will cease.

Mr HOCKEY: I refer the Treasurer to the IMF's assessment of the current economic conditions. It says, 'The global economy is in a dangerous new phase. Commodity prices could decline abruptly in their downgrading of Australia's growth forecast.' I ask the Treasurer: is now the right time for Australia to be the only country in the world imposing an economy wide carbon tax?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (15:23): Facts are very inconvenient for those opposite. The assertion that somehow there is not carbon pricing occurring elsewhere in the global economy, that we do not have emissions trading schemes in Europe, that we do not have the development of those schemes in China or the development of those schemes in the United States is just simply wrong and it is deliberately misleading to make that point. But I do want to make a couple of points about why we need to put fundamental reform in place for our economy.

When we look at where our economy is today, when we look at the fact that we did avoid recession—almost alone, amongst advanced economies—we should take a bit of time to analyse why that was the case. Yes, it was the very prompt response of the Australian people and the Australian government to deal with circumstances in the past four years but also what has been important, as the trade minister was saying before, has been fundamental long-term reforms, over the past 30 years, put in place by both sides of politics. There is no doubt that the Hawke-Keating government did put in place a whole raft of long-term reforms, which have stood this government in very good stead and stood this country in very good stead—and that side of the House when they were in government. But many of these reforms were opposed tooth and nail by those sitting over there today. They opposed the introduction of national—

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the Treasurer is making almost no attempt at all to answer a straightforward question. Is it now the right time to introduce an economy wide carbon tax?

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! We seem to be interrupting something up the back of the room. As long as you are quiet, I am happy. The Treasurer understands his responsibility to be directly relevant and he can be directly relevant to the whole question, not necessarily that part that is highlighted by the Manager for Opposition Business, but I remind the Treasurer of the requirement.

Mr SWAN: I was making the point that our economy is strong and that our economy is resilient, because past governments have put in place fundamental long-term reforms which have strengthened the resilience of the Australian economy. But many of those reforms, when they were introduced, were opposed tooth and nail. I was just citing one example of national superannuation. There were many others.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The Treasurer will ignore the interjections and the interjectors will cease.

Mr SWAN: I want to make the point that when those reforms were brought in, they were brought in in difficult economic circumstances. This government understands that if we are going to stay ahead of the curve what we have to do is continue to strengthen the resilience of our economy. And what we must do to strengthen the resilience of our economy in the 21st century is make sure that as an economy we have cleaner energy sources.

You cannot grow strongly in the 21st century unless you have cleaner energy sources and you have investment in renewable energy. That is why carbon pricing—although it is a difficult reform and is being opposed by those opposite, tooth and nail—must be introduced. If we want to continue to reinforce the resilience in our economy we have to keep up to the mark with the long-term reforms. That is why the government is committed to carbon pricing. That is why the government is committed to the MRRT, a fundamental tax reform. What it does is recognise that we need a revenue stream to give a tax cut to business, to many of those businesses that are not in the fast lane of the resources boom. We are putting in place fundamental reforms to make sure that we strengthen the resilience of our economy for the long term.

We are in our 20th year of continuous economic growth. If we want to continue that record going forward, we have to face up to the big questions, to the big reforms for the future. Do what is right for the future of the country. That is what we are doing on this side of the House when it comes to the economy, as we are doing right across the board, while those opposite are just putting their own selfish political interests ahead of the national interest, every time.