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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8368

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (16:02): It is a pleasure to rise on this matter of public importance raised by the member for Flinders, because it is a significant achievement for the opposition. In introducing this matter they have had to use the words 'matter of public importance' in the context of the climate change debate.

After listening to months and months of the 'no, no, no, no' campaign waged by the opposition—which is all we have heard from the member for Flinders, all we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition and all we have heard from those opposite—I can tell members of the House that this grudging acceptance that this is a matter of public importance is about as close as we are going to get to recognition from the opposition of the importance of this environmental threat to Australia and the whole.

I am more than happy to talk about the government's climate change policy, about how we are getting on with the job of legislating a carbon price for Australia and how we are getting on with the job of legislating to tackle climate change by putting a price tag on every tonne of pollution that is produced by around 500 large polluters. That carbon price will commence on 1 July 2012. I am very pleased to talk to the House about how every member of the Labor caucus since we announced the scheme on 10 July has been out there discussing the carbon price package; out there discussing the clean energy future plan that we have for Australia with communities and with businesses around the country, and about our plans to continue that discussion with the Australian people as we move to deliver this major economic and environmental reform.

Of course, I will wait, because I do not think that we have yet had all of the speakers from the opposition. I must be patient; we have not heard from all of them. I will wait to hear the lament that they seem to share because they are concerned about the way that the carbon price plan for Australia has been explained by raising this matter; their lament at the impediments that have been put in the way of the government—by the opposition—in adequately explaining the carbon price.

I hope that we will hear from some members of the opposition who are yet to speak about some of the misinformation that has made its way into the public debate. I fear we are going to be disappointed, because we have seen two further examples this afternoon—in the speech by the member for Flinders and in the speech by the member for Indi—of the repetition of misinformation; further repetition of false claims about the effect of the carbon price on Australian manufacturing and about the effect of the carbon price on Australian industry.

What we should be hearing from those in the opposition, if they were genuinely concerned about properly debating this question with the Australian people, is a complaint about the way the Leader of the Opposition has engaged in a four- or five-month-long bricklaying, petrol-pumping, fish-slicing fear campaign that has done so much to crowd out genuine debate on this issue. They might pause to reflect on the full spectrum of the misinformation that the opposition has been spreading about the carbon price plan, which has now included singing and dancing in the Senate, Shakespearean recitals, made up figures, made up facts, the wall of Weet-Bix, denial of climate change—apparently followed by a reluctant acceptance of climate change—some cameos with Pauline Hanson and also, really, just an exploration of the red-cordial-induced limits of silliness. I know there are a few speakers from the opposition yet to speak. Perhaps we will hear from them and I must wait. In contrast to what can only be described as the completely unprincipled and disgraceful campaign from the Leader of the Opposition, assisted by the member for Indi in particular, where the opposition has sought to misrepresent the government's position across the country and instil in Australians fears about their job security and cost-of-living pressures that are completely unjustified, the government will continue to explain the carbon price package, the clean energy future plan, to the Australian people, and I am looking forward to continuing to do this in the months to come. In the past few weeks I have visited communities in Victoria, in Queensland, in the ACT and in New South Wales, and I have spoken to businesses, to community leaders, to people at retirement villages and to people at bowls clubs about how Australia is going to be implementing this carbon price and about the financial benefits to our country of implementing this carbon price. I have met with people in communities who want to know the details of the assistance that is going to be coming their way under the clean energy future plan, about the assistance that is going to go to nine out of 10 households, about the tax cuts that are going to go to everyone in this country who is earning under $80,000 a year and about the extra benefits that are going to be flowing to everyone in receipt of a pension or a government benefit.

This is in contrast to the kind of fantasy land inhabited by the member for Indi, who this afternoon was again repeating—but in a particularly egregious fashion—elements of the opposition's scare campaign about the steel industry. She made a remarkable misattribution of the time at which Graham Kraehe spoke; I have had it checked while I have been waiting to speak, and in fact he spoke on 22 March this year, so it was some months before the carbon price package was announced. Graham Kraehe is, of course, the chair of BlueScope. I think it is more important to look at what the two steel companies of our country, OneSteel and BlueScope, said about the carbon price plan after it was announced. We have Geoff Plummer, the managing director and CEO of OneSteel, saying in his release to the Australian Stock Exchange—a formal document—on 10 July 2011:

We believe that on balance, the sectoral approach announced today by the Prime Minister for the steel industry, including the introduction of the—

Steel Transformation Plan—

is both appropriate and sensible. We are pleased that the Government has responded by adopting this approach.

I then go to the BlueScope response, contrary to what was suggested by the member for Indi. This is Paul O'Malley, managing director and CEO of BlueScope Steel, speaking on 11 July 2011, the day after we released the clean energy future plan:

This is a pragmatic solution to a complex problem.

BlueScope said:

… the Government’s proposed new Steel Transformation Plan (STP) recognised the Company’s long-standing call for a sectoral approach to a carbon tax in Australia.

Mr O'Malley said:

The STP will provide funds to minimise the impact of the carbon tax on the Australian steel industry for the first four years … And it signals the Government’s intention to limit the potential pass-through of Scope 3 coal emissions costs onto steelmakers … In summary, the STP materially reduces the overall cost of the carbon tax on BlueScope. … The Government has listened to our arguments and our deep concerns about the carbon tax

In the STP it has produced a package—

and so on. Those, of course, are not the words that the member for Indi wants to hear, and that is why she did not quote from actual commentary made by Australia's two steel companies after the announcement of our clean energy future plan.

We have the situation that the opposition's scare campaign is falling apart day by day. As more and more Australians learn the details of the government's clean energy future plan, there will be less and less concern. Because there is less and less concern as Australians learn of the details of the assistance going to nine in 10 Australian households, we are seeing more and more shrillness and nonsense spoken by those opposite and more and more misleading statements—anything rather than actually quoting from what the steel companies are telling Australians, anything rather than actually quoting from our plan and anything rather than explaining to the Australian people that there is in fact assistance coming to nine in 10 households.

By the end of next year—I know that is a long time off for the short-term people on the benches opposite to even contemplate—a few months after the introduction of the carbon price on 1 July 2012, which I know is a long time for those opposite to think about, Australians are going to be saying: 'What on earth were the opposition banging on about? What on earth was the Leader of the Opposition banging on about? What on earth was the member for Indi banging on about as she went around Australia trying to drum up fear by spreading misinformation and misrepresenting the effect of the carbon price?' As for the inaction policy of the coalition, it is not capable of meeting the target which the Liberal Party claim to share. (Time expired)