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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1289


Senator WEBBER (3:11 PM) —Unlike those opposite, those of us on this side, on the Labor side, have always been very clear with the Australian public. We have always been very clear about the need to address the challenges of climate change, and the establishment of an emissions-trading scheme is part of that. We have never sought to shy away from that debate. We have been very clear with the Australian public. It is our priority; it is their priority. That is one of the many reasons that the Rudd Labor government was elected. As the minister has said repeatedly, the establishment of an emissions-trading scheme is one of the most far-reaching reforms in Australia’s economic history. We acknowledge that; Minister Wong has acknowledged that; the Prime Minister has acknowledged that. We have always said that that is the case. That is why one of the first things that we have done—bearing in mind that the Rudd Labor government has only been in existence since 24 November 2007—and one of the first actions we have taken is to outline our proposals to establish that emissions-trading scheme. In seeking to establish that emissions-trading scheme, the government is extremely mindful of the range of impacts that any emissions-trading scheme will have on all of the community. But it is a priority for our community that this be addressed, that climate change be addressed and that an emissions-trading scheme be established as part of addressing that challenge.

We are, therefore, focusing on designing measures that will assist households, particularly low-income households. That should be a priority, and it is a priority. We are focusing on designing measures that will assist them to adjust to the impact of carbon prices. Everyone in Australia understands that if we fail to act on climate change—which for too long those opposite did—the costs will be much greater than if we start to take responsible action now. Part of that responsible action is consultation with our community and consultation with all of the players. That is why we have a process by which we will unveil any proposed emissions-trading scheme. The central principles of this government’s approach to establishing an emissions-trading scheme are: the scheme will be a ‘cap and trade’ scheme that has maximum practical coverage of greenhouse gas emissions and industry sectors; the scheme caps will be designed to place Australia on a low-emissions path in a way that best manages the economic costs of transition and provides incentives to develop and invest in low-emission technologies; the scheme will address the competitive challenges facing emissions intensive trade exposed industries in Australia; and the scheme will also address the impact on strongly affected industries.

The government will also develop measures to assist households—as I say, particularly the low-income households that those of us on this side are quite rightly concerned about. We will develop measures to assist them in adjusting to any potential impact of carbon prices.

In acknowledging those priorities and in acknowledging the importance of this issue not just to this government, not just to the Australian community but to the world, the Rudd Labor government has announced a timetable for introducing the emissions-trading scheme. We have announced a timetable that allows for consultation and development. There will be an emissions-trading scheme and it will start in 2010. In the lead-up, between now and 2010, the government will release a green paper on emissions-trading design in early July. That will outline various potential approaches to establishing what is a very significant economic reform within the Australian economy. So we will release a green paper—we have already announced that. In December 2008 the government will publicly release exposure draft legislation, because what is most important when you are establishing this significant economic reform is that you need to look at the development of measures that will assist industry to adjust, and that will assist low-income earners, and that there is consultation with the community and the development of certainty. (Time expired)