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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 8005

Carbon Pricing


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Ludwig. The minister, I am sure, will be familiar with the refinery operated by Queensland Alumina Limited, at Gladstone in our home state of Queensland, which yesterday confirmed substantial imminent job cuts and in its announcement attributed the reason for those job cuts in part to 'new taxes'. After 103 days of the job-destroying carbon tax, what is the government's message to those workers in Queensland who are now going to lose their jobs because the Prime Minister callously and deliberately deceived the Australian people, when she said, 'There will no carbon tax under the government I lead'?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:01): I thank Senator Brandis for, for once, having a continued interest in Queensland. Can I say that, as with other parts—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: No, no. We share a lot of common values, I am sure.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Wait a minute, Senator Ludwig. The exchange needs to cease and I just need to have your answer, Senator Ludwig.

Senator LUDWIG: The government is assisting aluminium smelters but, first of all, let me say that, in terms of employment loss in any industry, it is always a very sad day when you hear of that news. The government, for its part, with its Jobs and Competitiveness Program, is expected to provide over $3.5 billion of assistance to the aluminium industry over the next three years. Also, to put it in context, aluminium prices peaked at around $3,300 per tonne in 2008 but are under US$2,100, a fall of some 40 per cent over that period. This collapse in aluminium prices has resulted in numerous closures of older, less competitive aluminium smelters around the world.

The government's jobs and competitiveness package, as I said, is about supporting those smelters who are in that circumstance by providing that assistance, which is $3.5 billion, but our assistance arrangements mean that the initial average industry impact of the carbon pricing for aluminium refining is equivalent to less than half a per cent of appreciation in the value of the Australian dollar. Based on public production figures, the jobs and competitiveness package that this government will provide will deliver around $230 million of assistance to places like QAL in the first three years of operation of the carbon price and, importantly, assistance more broadly in Gladstone itself. Senator Brandis talked about the impact there. If you look at Rio Tinto— (Time expired)





Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that the carbon tax is forcing up both household and business electricity prices, and is responsible for most of the sharp increases in electricity prices that have been suffered in recent months, isn't the Prime Minister now compounding her deception of the electorate by now claiming that Australians are not feeling the pain of her carbon tax based on a lie?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence we will proceed.



Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:04): Here we have it again from those opposite: descending into the scare campaign, the miserable scare campaign, that they want to run. Then they use question time to try to promote their mistruths about this issue. What we have in terms of industry compensation—and there is no impact on the government's industry assistance—is that the majority of assistance comes through free permits which will move the price.

What the opposition do not talk about is the household assistance that we are providing. They do not talk about the industry assistance which this government are providing. All we hear from those opposite is them wanting to run up the scare campaign, over and over again. It went through from 1 July. We have had more than 100 days of experience under it, and what we now find is that they are trying to reinvigorate the scare campaign which has died out. Why did it die out? It was because this government has acted to put a price on carbon, to reduce carbon pollution, to deliver assistance and compensation for households— (Time expired)


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:05): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Why is the minister oblivious to the fact that, as every Queenslander knows, electricity prices in our state have skyrocketed in recent months, largely as a result of the carbon tax? Why does the government remain in denial about the disastrous impact of its tax on jobs and household prices for no environmental impact?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:06): Lazy opposition: all they want to do is run that scare campaign again. The average electricity bill—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: You have not done your homework and you have been caught out again like a truant schoolchild. The average electricity bill went up by approximately 50 per cent over the last four years. We did not hear a blink from you about that, did we? Without the carbon price, the most important driver of rising electricity prices is invested in network infrastructure, so that networks now cost an average household $51 for every $100.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: That is why you are yelling out. You do not like the truth in this instance. What you want to do is continue your scare campaign, but it has run out of puff. Your scare campaign has completely run out of puff. That is why your leader is moving his language. He has moved his language from 'wiping out Whyalla' to now 'a python squeeze'. Why is he doing that? It is because he knows, like the community knows, that the scare campaign— (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! On both sides, I am waiting to give the call. When there is silence we will proceed.