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Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Page: 4426


Senator WILLIAMS (2:42 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr. I refer to the fact that the government’s so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will heavily impact Australian industry. Can the minister advise the Senate how the proposed so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will work?


Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —The new senator perhaps is not familiar with the normal arrangements for who on the front bench does what. I am disappointed that you asked the wrong senator to explain the carbon reduction scheme that the government has proposed. I will try to enlighten you. I do suggest that, if the new senator—

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator CARR —I understand the new senator is known as ‘Wacka’, and I think that is the sort of question—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Carr, senators must be referred to by their correct title in this place.

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! This is not helping the progress of question time.


Senator CARR —What I would suggest Senator Williams does under these circumstances is check the government website, because he will have no trouble looking up the green paper, which outlines in detail the scheme that Senator Wong announced some months ago. This is a government that acknowledges that this country must face up to the challenges of climate change. This is a government that understands that it will actually cost us a lot more not to act now, as we seem to be being urged to do by senators opposite. This is a government that is proposing a new scheme which will allow industry to adapt and transform itself and produce a result in such a way as to attract new investment to allow industry to cope with the challenges of climate change.

Senator Wong has proposed a scheme on behalf of the government. We are consulting widely with industry. We are ensuring that the carbon reduction scheme, which will be implemented from 2010, will ensure that there is an opportunity—

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Carr, resume your seat. The Senate must come to order!


Senator CARR —The government will set a cap on the total amount of carbon pollution allowed in the economy, which will be covered by particular sectors, and then issue permits up to an annual cap. The industries that generate carbon pollution will need to acquire a permit for every tonne of greenhouse gas that they emit. The quantity of carbon pollution from each firm will be monitored and verified. Liable firms will surrender a permit for every tonne of carbon pollution each year. Firms will compete in a market to purchase the permits they need and, of course, this will be the means by which a carbon price is created. Certain categories of firms might receive some free permits as a transitional assistance measure.

The government has made its commitments clear, as I have indicated to Senator Williams, in a green paper, and I urge him to actually read it. Every cent of the money that is raised as a result of this scheme will be used to help Australians adjust to the scheme and invest in new clean-energy options. Fuel taxes will be cut on a cent-for-cent basis to offset the initial price impact. For pensioners, carers and seniors, allowance benefits will be increased above an automatic indexation. Low-income households will be assisted through a tax and payment scheme. Assistance will be provided to middle-income households for family assistance, which will be reviewed on an annual basis. Additional support will be provided through energy efficient measures and consumer information.

A Climate Change Action Fund will be established to assist business transition to a cleaner economy. It will be available to assist industries to provide additional investment to ensure that new technologies are brought on stream much more quickly than they otherwise would be. (Time expired)


Senator WILLIAMS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I specifically asked the minister how it will relate to industry as well. Could he please answer that in his final minute?


Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —Senator Williams, again I refer you to the website. You will find that most illuminating. The Climate Change Action Fund will be established to assist business transition to a cleaner economy. It will be available to assist industry in terms of new investment in new technologies and new processes to ensure that we actually see new jobs created in Australia and that we will be able to provide new business opportunities for firms in Australia. Limited direct assistance will be provided to the existing coal-fired electricity generators, delivered in part through a new electricity sector adjustment scheme. These measures together—in terms of the assistance to households, particularly low-income households, and the assistance to industry—will ensure that this country is in a much stronger position than it would otherwise be to deal with the challenges of climate change.