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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3520

Senator WEBBER (2:11 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. Can the minister outline for the Senate the benefits of preparing the economy for climate change? Is there anything standing in the way of Australians getting the economic benefits of preparing for climate change?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I thank Senator Webber for her question. Senator Webber, like all senators on this side, understands that climate change presents a great threat to the Australian economy. Scientists have warned that we as a nation are particularly vulnerable to climate change and, if we do not tackle climate change, it will put the Australian economy and jobs at risk. Tackling climate change is ultimately a question of economic responsibility. But the economics of climate change are not just about the threat if we do not act; there is also great additional benefit to the Australian economy if we do act. Today we have a new report from the CSIRO and the Dusseldorp Skills Forum, which concludes there are great economic opportunities for this nation in the move from a high-emissions economy of the past to a low-emissions economy of the future. This again highlights why an emissions trading scheme is the economically responsible way to tackle climate change. This is all about making that transition at the lowest possible cost to Australian business and Australian families, and it is all about creating new opportunities for growth, innovation and the jobs of the future.

Senator Webber asked me whether there was anything standing in the way of Australians getting the economic benefits of preparing for climate change. Unfortunately, the answer now and in the future is yes. In the six months since the last election, we have had a number of backflips from the opposition on the emissions trading scheme. In government, those opposite committed to an ETS being introduced in 2011. Now, what are they actually saying? Are they saying 2012 or are they saying later? It appears that the opposition spokesperson on this issue and Senator Johnston have completely different positions on this. In government, Mr Turnbull committed to having petrol included in the Howard government’s emissions trading scheme. Now those opposite are intent on running a fear campaign but are refusing to demonstrate what their position is. Again, in government, and in opposition earlier this year, they suggested that they would support an emissions trading scheme before the rest of the world moves, but now they are hedging that as well. What do we have today from the Leader of the Opposition? The Leader of the Opposition says today he wants to ensure 100 per cent compensation for households on the ETS. This is an opposition leader who is already starting to spend the benefits, the revenue, from a scheme he does not even know if he supports. He does not even know if he supports it and he is already spending the money. This is one of the few things on which the shadow Treasurer and the Leader of the Opposition have a unity ticket—one of the very few things. They both want to spend the money from an ETS, an emissions trading scheme, before they have committed to supporting one.

So what we know on this issue is that those opposite have absolutely no credibility when it comes to climate change. What we know is that great climate change sceptics such as Senator Minchin, who are the men pulling the strings behind Dr Nelson, are winding back the clock and reviving the old Kyoto sceptics. On this issue, the opposition has absolutely no credibility whatsoever—no economic credibility on the greatest economic challenge that this generation will face.