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Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Page: 4428

Senator FISHER (2:55 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr. Of the 1,000 or so business entities to be subject to the so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, approximately what number are in the manufacturing sector?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —Mr President, I really do think that is a question that should be directed squarely to Senator Wong.

Senator Minchin —I raise a point of order, Mr President. With great respect, I know Senator Carr is desperately trying to avoid any question to do with the emissions trading scheme, but this question was specifically about the impact of a Rudd Labor government policy on the sector of the Australian economy for which he has ministerial responsibility—the manufacturing sector. If he cannot answer that question he should be stripped of that portfolio.

Senator Faulkner —Mr President, on the point of order: it may be the case that Senator Fisher, who has asked the question, has mistakenly misdirected the question to Senator Carr because, given the responsibility for this under the administrative orders—the legislative arrangements—this relates to legislation that is front and centre a responsibility for Senator Wong, who, as even Senator Minchin should know, is the Minister for Climate Change and Water in the Australian government. This is a mistake that the opposition has made, and because of our commitment to transparency we are more than happy for the question to be directed properly to the appropriate minister who has both ministerial and legislative responsibility for the area raised in Senator Fisher’s misdirected question.

Senator Abetz —Mr President, on the point of order: this is not a question about the general scheme of the emissions trading scheme or the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. This is a specific question as to how many businesses are in the manufacturing sector, which falls squarely within Senator Carr’s portfolio. He is the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. He indeed touts himself as the ‘minister for manufacturing and making things’, yet when we ask a question of him as to how that might impact on his specific portfolio he seeks to squib it. Mr President, I would invite you to ask Senator Carr, if he has any information to provide to the Senate, to provide it. If he does not, he ought to take the question on notice and come back to the Senate with an answer. But to try to give a hospital pass to his ministerial colleague is not acceptable under our system of ministerial responsibility.

Senator Wong —Mr President, on the point of order: the question asked by Senator Fisher went directly to the scope of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the reporting framework, as I recall, in terms of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act. I would like to make the point that the latter act in fact was amended by the Senate yesterday and is legislation absolutely within my portfolio. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, notwithstanding that it is a whole-of-economy, whole-of-government form, was squarely within my portfolio, which is why I was the minister who released the green paper. Senator Abetz and others can try and get up and make mischief here, but really what has occurred is that Senator Fisher has misdirected the question. That is the second occasion on which this happened. I note that Senator Carr—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Wong is entitled to be heard in silence. I remind her that she is taking a point of order.

Senator Wong —I make the point that Senator Carr showed courtesy to the Senate in answering the previous question, which frankly should have been directed to me. This is a matter absolutely within my portfolio. If Senator Fisher wishes to direct the question properly at the appropriate time, it will be answered.

The PRESIDENT —On the points of order, as I have previously explained here today, it is not possible for me to direct a minister to answer a question or how to answer a question. I can ask the minister to be relevant to the question. In this case, Senator Carr, I draw your attention to the question. You can answer those parts of the questions that fall within your portfolio and that you are able to. I do not ask you to answer any more than that.

Senator CARR —Thank you, Mr President. Insofar as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme relates to manufacturing, I am absolutely confident that the green paper as outlined by Senator Wong provides the framework for Australian manufacturing to not just deal with the questions in regard to greenhouse gases but improve its position in international terms. I am equally confident that Senator Wong, who has coverage of this issue and has made that perfectly clear to the Senate, will be able to ensure the effective operation of this scheme. Insofar as the matters that have been raised by the questioner relate to Senator Wong’s portfolio, I am happy to take them on notice.

Senator FISHER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. My question was ‘approximately what number of entities affected by the so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme were in the manufacturing sector’, which is the minister’s portfolio. Minister, will 100, 50, 300 or 500 be affected? Do you have any idea? If so, please give us the answer; if not, please admit that you have no idea how this scheme will impact on businesses in your portfolio.

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —For the second time today, the opposition has directed a question to the wrong minister. They have made a fundamental error.

Senator Ellison —I rise on a point of order, Mr President. In relation to the responsibilities of this minister, I remind him of his administrative orders. The administrative orders state that manufacturing is the first area of responsibility of this minister.

Senator Chris Evans —Mr President on the point of order: Senator Ellison cannot remind the Senate or the minister of the orders. His point of order has to be in relation to the minister’s answer. The opposition can waste their question time because they have no proper questions, if that suits them. The tactics committee said, ‘We’ll ask them all of Senator Carr, even if they aren’t in his area of responsibility.’ You are bereft of tactics or ideas. Senator Ellison is not permitted to try and lecture us on the admin orders.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Evans, resume your seat. You are debating the issue.

Senator Ellison —The point that I was making is that in Senator Fisher’s question she was seeking the number of manufacturing companies that would be affected. Manufacturing is squarely in the administrative orders of this minister; in fact, it is the first item that is mentioned. It is squarely within his responsibility. The question relates to the number of companies that will be affected, and it is squarely within his responsibility to answer that question.

Senator Ferguson —I rise on a point of order, Mr President. I would like you to check the record. As I understand it, Senator Ellison was on his feet taking a point of order and was interrupted by Senator Evans, who took another point of time. I have always understood that standing orders say that when a person is taking a point of order another senator cannot interrupt that senator taking the point of order until he has finished.

The PRESIDENT —On your point of order, I watched closely. While Senator Evans was on his feet and should not have proceeded, I took it that Senator Ellison was sitting down to allow Senator Evans to proceed. Whether that is correct—

Senator Ellison —I thought you were giving him the call.

The PRESIDENT —No, I was trying to call Senator Evans to order. A point of order has been raised. As I have said previously today and at other times during question time, there is no point of order. I cannot direct the minister on how to answer the question. All I can ask the minister to do is to be relevant to the question.

Senator CARR —What I am concerned about in these circumstances is the negligence of Senator Minchin as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. We all know what has happened. Senator Abetz—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Resume your seat, Senator Carr.

Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, despite my enjoying this, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.