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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 239


Senator BOSWELL (2:50 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. The minister will be aware that the Chairman of BHP Billiton, Mr Kloppers, has called for a broad based carbon tax in Australia ahead of action by the rest of the world but in a form that would not expose BHP to the cost. Is the minister also aware that the Democrat majority in the United States Senate very recently dumped legislation that would have put a price on carbon? How can the government now support Mr Kloppers’s call for a carbon tax when the reality is that, with the US not moving on climate change, China and India certainly will not and all that Australia would be doing by putting a price on carbon would be putting our economy and our jobs in grave jeopardy and doing ourselves a lot of harm?


Senator WONG (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —I am aware of Mr Kloppers’ comments in relation to a carbon price. I am aware that there have been a range of commentators speaking about what is occurring in the United States. Obviously the consideration by the US congress of this issue has been a lengthy process and I would not want to make any prediction about that.

Obviously, Senator, it is no surprise to anybody in this place that this is a government that has made clear it believes that the science of climate change is real. We accept the science. We accept that carbon pollution is contributing to climate change and we believe that we need to deal with Australia’s carbon pollution. The Prime Minister said that before the election. She made her view very clear that we needed to do a range of things in renewable energy, and obviously also energy efficiency. But in order to reduce Australia’s pollution to the levels that are required, we need to look at a carbon price. That is not a new position for this side of politics; this is a position we have held consistently. I do understand that is not a position that the good senator agrees with. I think that he and I have had that discussion, if one can call it that, in this chamber some might say ad nauseam—certainly for a long time over and over again. I do not think that anything I say to him about the science and the overwhelming consensus around the need to act on climate change is going to change his mind. But that is the position of this government and we have been very clear about that and about the process we will now engage in.


Senator BOSWELL —Mr President, I have supplementary question. Given that the cost impacts of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme modelled in the Garnaut report were based on an assumption that action on a carbon price would be global, will you ensure that a proper cost-benefit analysis reflecting your intention to put a price on carbon without a global agreement is undertaken and made public?


Senator WONG (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —This is a government that put an enormous amount of information into the public arena on its policies on climate change. My recollection is that the Australian Treasury undertook the largest modelling exercise in the nation’s history—Australia’s low pollution future—which informed the discussion previously.

Obviously we have a multiparty committee which has been agreed with the Australian Greens and the Independents. The opposition has been invited to participate in that. I understand that the moderates on that side who actually used to believe that climate change was real have fallen into line behind Mr Abbott and Senator Bernardi on this issue. That is to their shame. But we are clear that we need to go through this process of engagement. We will do so and we will do so sensibly.


Senator BOSWELL —Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Minister, you were not prepared to offer protection from a carbon price to the not-for-profit organisations, hospitals and old people’s homes in your Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme first time around. Now that it is back on the table will you do it this time?


Senator WONG (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —Senator, the issue of what the policy will be and how it will be implemented is a matter that will go through a lot of discussion in this parliament, and it will go through a multiparty committee, as we previously agreed. But I make the point—and we saw this over the last three years in this place—it does not matter what the answer is to any question that Senator Boswell or those on that side put, they will not change their position, which is to oppose action on climate change. So it is in many ways, Mr President, a false debate. Those on that side will not change their minds regardless of what answer on policy detail is ever given because they simply have a prejudice on this issue. They do not want to act on climate change. They do not accept the science.

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order on my right! I am waiting to call Senator Bilyk. Order, Senator Sherry! Senators on my right, I am waiting to call someone from your side to ask the question.