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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6907

Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement

Mr LYONS (Bass) (15:16): My question is to the Minister for Trade. Will the minister advise the House of the benefits of and future prospects for the closer economic relations agreement with New Zealand? What is the potential for a carbon market with New Zealand and are there any risks to the stability of any such market?

Dr EMERSON (RankinMinister for Trade) (15:17): Are there any risks! I thank the member for Bass for his question. I can advise the House that the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement was negotiated almost 30 years ago by the Fraser and Muldoon governments. Subsequent additions to the CER agreement have more fully integrated our two economies, moving us towards a single regional market. The fact is that the CER agreement is a gold-standard agreement. An investment agreement that was reached just earlier this year between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of New Zealand will further deepen our economic integration.

I was asked about putting a price on carbon and a carbon market. We do know that the government of New Zealand has put a price on carbon and is establishing a domestic carbon market. In Australia, the government is determined to put a price on carbon and establish a domestic carbon market. In the spirit of the CER agreement there is in fact great potential to establish an Australia-New Zealand carbon market, and what a good thing that would be.

To do its work in reducing carbon emissions at the least cost, any such market would need to be stable. I am asked about the risks to such a market. The truth is that the opposition leader would destroy that stability by abandoning an emissions trading scheme. He says: 'Yes, that is right. Believe me, I would abandon an emissions trading scheme.' Well, let us turn to his statements. In the middle of July 2009 the now opposition leader was urging the then opposition leader, the member for Wentworth—wait for it—to support the Labor government's emissions trading scheme. He wrote in an opinion piece:

Opposition tends to be a permanent debating society because even the most final decisions can sometimes be revisited in office.

So what he is saying is, 'Even though I write it down—it is the gospel truth and it is carefully scripted—don't believe what I say and don't believe what I write down in opposition, because anything can be changed in government.' He is not a Leader of the Opposition, he is a captain of a permanent debating society, and the case he always prosecutes is, 'No, no, no, no and no.'

When the opposition leader says that what he says in opposition will not necessarily carry over into government, we have had evidence of that. Remember the Medicare safety net? He would not change that; it was an iron-clad, rolled-gold, rock-solid promise. Well, he changed it all right. Now he is saying that he will not touch the mining tax. He will get rid of the mining tax. But the truth is that if he were to win government I would not be too happy if I were Andrew Forrest or the others because the mining tax will stay. And what has he really been saying about Work Choices? 'It is dead, buried and cremated.' We know that the opposition leader, even if it is written down gospel truth, would bring back Work Choices and create a new threat to the living standards of every working man and woman in this country.

Ms Gillard: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.