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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 7685

Senator IAN MACDONALD (2:37 PM) —My question is also to Senator Wong as Minister for Climate Change and Water. I hope I have more success than Senator Brown had in getting an answer. Are the government considering putting in place a third level of free permits for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries under your Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and will this, as reported, be set at 30 per cent?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —As I answered in response to Senator Brown, the government’s decisions on design aspects of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will be made clear in the announcement on 15 December in the white paper. We have, as I have previously said in this place, undergone extensive consultation with the Australian community, both business and non-government organisations and members of the community, in relation to the design propositions which were put out in the green paper in July. Those propositions were put out for consultation for the precise purpose of ensuring we could have detailed consultation on what is a very substantial and significant economic reform—an economic reform I note those opposite have yet to indicate a position on.

In relation to aspects of what may or may not be in the white paper, those details will become clear when the government announces the design decisions and makes public those decisions through the publication of the white paper on the date that I have outlined. We are committed to ensuring that we progress this reform in an economically responsible way. That is what we have said consistently and that what we are doing.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The green paper spoke of permits being assessed based on emissions per dollar of revenue. The minister would be aware that the Australian Bureau of Statistics in their submission to the green paper said:

… value added is considered a superior measure to revenue for an emissions intensity measure (albeit more difficult to measure) and should be used.

Will the government actually be following this advice from the Australian Bureau of Statistics?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —Senator Macdonald is a few months late with that question. That question really deals with what is known as the metric for assessing whether a company is emissions intensive trade exposed. I previously indicated publicly, and in my consultation at ministerial as well as departmental level with business, that the government was open to consideration of what was the most appropriate measure. Let us recall what the policy reason is for permits being given to emissions-intensive trade-exposed companies. It is to deal with the recognition that some of these firms trade on world markets and have an inability to pass on the price and therefore that has to be recognised in terms of the cost impact on those companies. The green paper proposes a way of dealing with that. (Time expired)

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. How can the minister legitimately claim to be consulting over CPRS when the minister refuses to answer quite legitimate questions about possible changes to the CPRS? Here is an easier one for you perhaps. With the free permits being spoken of and the suggested targets which you are refusing to tell Senator Brown about, can you just explain to the Senate exactly what impact Australia’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will actually have on the changing climate of the world?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —Yet again what we see from the other side is the climate change sceptics who ensured you did nothing for 12 years. This scheme is about reducing Australia’s contribution to global warming. It is about reducing the carbon pollution and other emissions that this country produces, and that question demonstrates yet again—

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Wong, your comments should be addressed to the chair. Those on my left should cease interjecting. It will help the passage of question time.

Senator WONG —As I said, through you, Mr President, what that question demonstrates is that those opposite have no will, no desire, no interest in acting on climate change. If they cannot see that fundamental to responding to climate change is ensuring that Australia reduces its own greenhouse gas emissions, its own contribution to carbon pollution, if they cannot see that that is required in the interest of our children and our grandchildren, in the interests of economic responsibility, then those opposite stand condemned. They have demonstrated yet again that they are not up to the hard challenges of the future. (Time expired)