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Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Page: 31


Senator BIRMINGHAM (2:13 PM) —My question is to Senator Evans, the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Can the minister inform the Senate by how much electricity prices will rise under the government’s massive new tax on everything, the emissions trading scheme?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thank Senator Birmingham for the question. I remind Senator Birmingham that it was actually a scheme that he was going to vote for only a matter of months ago. We the Rudd Labor government actually believe—

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Senator Evans, please resume your seat. Senator Evans is entitled to be heard in silence on both sides. The time for debating the issue is at the end of question time. Senator Evans.


Senator CHRIS EVANS —This government is serious about taking action on climate change and is not coming up with temporary little stunts like we saw today from Mr Abbott. What we are trying to do is put in place a market based mechanism that allows us to seriously tackle the issue of climate change by putting a price on carbon and assuring that we get a market mechanism that seeks to address the enormous pollution that we emit and the impact that is having on the environment. We have decided to again seek to get the parliament to pass this very important piece of legislation. We will again give the Liberal-National Party an opportunity to honour their election commitment to the Australian people and support the emissions trading scheme. It has been the Liberal-National Party’s policy at the last election and during this term of parliament—


Senator Abetz —Mr President, on a point of order: sessional orders require that the minister be directly relevant to the question that was asked. The question asked was, ‘By how much will electricity prices rise?’ The minister has now had 1¼ minutes out of his two minutes to start getting relevant to that matter, and I would invite you, Mr President, to draw his attention and be directly relevant to the question asked.


Senator Ludwig —Mr President, on the point of order: the minister has been answering the question. It is unfortunate that we now find another frivolous point of order being taken so early in the parliamentary year. The minister has been dealing with the question, dealing with the climate change issue that is embodied within the question and dealing with the substantive matter very well, might I say.


The PRESIDENT —Order! I draw the minister’s attention to the question. There are 47 seconds remaining to answer the question.


Senator CHRIS EVANS —Clearly, the impact of our ETS is a relevant consideration when the parliament passes the legislation. That is why we introduced it again. We want to pass the legislation. We have had two attempts in this parliament to introduce that legislation, and you have had the opportunity to debate that legislation. On some occasions you have supported it and on others you have not. The key point is that what this government did is guarantee that families would be no worse off and that we would provide compensation because we were keen on making the polluters pay. Our program was directed at making the polluters pay.


Senator Abetz —Mr President, on a point of order: once again, sessional orders require the answer to be directly relevant to the question asked. The minister now has eight seconds left in which to advise the Senate by how much electricity prices will rise under the emissions trading scheme. I would invite you, Mr President, to indicate to the minister that if he is unable to answer the question by being directly relevant he should resume his seat.


The PRESIDENT —I cannot instruct the minister how to answer the question, as you know. I do say that repeatedly in this chamber, as you are aware. I invite the minister, in the eight seconds remaining, to address the question that has been asked by Senator Birmingham. You have eight seconds remaining.


Senator CHRIS EVANS —All the costings for the government’s legislation are on the record and have been debated twice in this parliament. I can take him through them if he wants me to. (Time expired)


Senator BIRMINGHAM —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I note the minister did not give an answer as to how much electricity prices will rise by. Under the limited detail that has been provided, the government claims it will be 12 per cent. Minister, how do you reconcile that answer or the number of 12 per cent with the decision of the New South Wales Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to recommend price rises of between 21 and 25 per cent by 2013 because of the costs the ETS would add to producing electricity? (Time expired)

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! The chair will not be assisted by people intervening calling time. I will determine the time in conjunction with that set by the clerk assistant and I will do it in a fair and reasonable manner.


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —We made clear, on the basis of Treasury modelling, what the costs of our proposed ETS were. We also introduced a compensation package designed to protect households from those costs. It was designed to make sure that polluters pay—something absolutely absent in the Liberal Party’s policy released today.

We all know there are pressures on the state electricity commissions in terms of the cost of energy, but in terms of the costs attributed to the ETS proposal by this government the modelling has been done and the modelling has been made public. It has been included as part of the legislation and the debate around that legislation in this parliament—legislation that you were going to support until very recently and legislation you took to the Australian people at the last election and which you have now reneged on. We provide compensation to families and make the polluters pay. (Time expired)


Senator BIRMINGHAM —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Doesn’t this failure of modelling show that the government is deliberately underestimating the cost to Australian families and small businesses of its massive new tax on everything? If the minister is going to continually rely on government modelling that he says is being released, will he actually release all of that modelling and all of the supporting data so that Australians can assess the true impact of the government’s new tax?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —Senator Birmingham seeks to debate legislation which has twice been rejected by this parliament because of the failure of the Liberal Party to support it and to support their own election commitments. This government has made clear that you will get another opportunity to debate that legislation. We will go through the committee stage and you can make those arguments if you want. We have released the modelling the Treasury did that indicated the costs that would be faced by consumers and we also produced a package that provided full compensation for them. We wanted to make the polluters pay for the pollution they cause and the damage they do to the environment, and to protect Australian working families from the impact of the scheme. That is what we undertook to do, that is what we are still trying to do, and I would like you to think seriously about honouring your election commitment. I am asking the Liberal Party to honour their electoral commitment and to support an ETS for the nation’s future. (Time expired)