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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 3550

Carbon Pricing

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (14:39): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to analysis by Macquarie Research Economics that shows high level of emissions intensity within the electricity supply sector and to previous statements made by the Greens and Professor Garnaut that compensation to electricity generators would be 'counterproductive'. Will the minister confirm whether there will be any compensation at all provided to electricity generators under Labor's proposed carbon tax?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:40): I am somewhat surprised to get a question on climate change.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator WONG: I will take that interjection because—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, ignore interjections and just address the question.

Senator WONG: I have just been asked by Senator Brandis not to be patronising, and that is one of the funniest things that has been said in this chamber.

The PRESIDENT: Ignore the interjections, Senator Wong. They are disorderly.

Senator Conroy interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy, I am seeking to listen to Senator Wong. Senator Wong, you have got the call.

Senator WONG: I am trying to compose myself after that interjection. In response to Senator Bernardi's question, the government has made clear its view about the importance of ensuring any policy in this area does recognise the importance of the energy sector. Obviously, these are issues that were addressed in the former Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The government set out its policy very clearly on that occasion. These policy matters are in the process of being discussed through the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Multi-party? Two party.

Senator WONG: As I recall, the opposition were invited. They chose, on this issue of importance to the nation's future, to simply play a negative game, to turn their backs on the legacy of Prime Minister Howard, who sensibly approached the issue through the Task Group on Emissions Trading, and to simply run the sorts of political stunts that we have seen. That is on their heads. We are not going to allow their negativity to stop this government working through what is a very important reform of the nation's future, a problem that is not going to go away. On this issue of what is included in the policy, all of those details will be made clear. (Time expired)

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (14:42): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Will the minister rule out that the carbon tax the Gillard government is designing is likely to see the full price impact of electricity passed straight through to consumers, who are likely to receive no income tax in return, meaning Australian families and households will be left to bear the full brunt of this new tax?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:42): We have made clear that under our policy—

Senator Abetz: No. The only clear thing is no carbon tax.

The PRESIDENT: Ignore interjections. They are disorderly.

Senator WONG: When Senator Abetz has finished.

Senator Abetz: No carbon tax.

Senator WONG: Oh dear!

The PRESIDENT: Senator, ignore the interjections and address your comments to the chair.

Senator WONG: I am trying. I am being clicked at currently, and that is a rather odd thing. What the government has made clear is that it will place a price on carbon pollution. The revenue from that will be used to assist Australian households and the Australian economy more broadly to adjust as we move to a low-carbon economy. That is the fair way to approach this issue. That is the economically efficient way to approach this issue. This is the way the coalition, when they used to have a rational approach to policy, approached this. In contrast now, the coalition have a policy that is about slugging taxpayers without any assistance—$30 billion to be taken from Australian households, Australian taxpayers, to pay to the big polluters in the hope that something might happen. That is not equitable and that is not fair. (Time expired)

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (14:44): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Will the minister confirm the government will not cut income taxes as part of the so-called compensation to households package under the carbon tax?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:44): As I have previously said, the details of the package will be made clear and announced after the package has been finalised. But the government has made very clear that it has made a priority the assistance to be provided to Australian households. Tax and transfer are amongst the things that can be utilised to provide that assistance. Of course, what we do know is that the party of which the senator is a member would claw back any assistance that is provided in this package in its blind opposition to doing anything about climate change. I mean, that is the reality. What is interesting is that, if you have a look at what has been backgrounded to the media, there are some on the other side who are starting to understand just what that clawback would mean to members of the opposition.