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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 1215

Carbon Pricing

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:12): My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. Is the minister aware of comments by the Chief Executive of Australia's largest power generator, Macquarie Generation, that as a direct result of Labor's carbon tax electricity prices will rise by more than the Gillard government has let on? Is this why the Minister for Resources and Energy, Mr Ferguson, said earlier this week that Labor's carbon tax could be to our disadvantage as a nation?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:13): First, in relation to electricity prices, the government does stand by the modelling it has undertaken in relation to the increases across different sectors. That is why we have put forward, and this has been endorsed by this chamber, a very comprehensive set of assistance to Australian households that recognises the additional costs flowing from a carbon price. That assistance, as the senator knows, will be provided through increases to the pension, the disability support pension, family tax benefits and other payments including a tripling of the tax-free threshold—all of which are to be clawed back by those opposite. In relation to what would disadvantage the nation, I again go back to what I said yesterday.

Senator Cormann interjecting

Senator WONG: What would disadvantage the nation is a policy which would more than double the amount that taxpayers would pay for every tonne of carbon, and that is the opposition's policy.

Senator Cormann interjecting

Senator WONG: No amount of interrupting by the opposition and Senator Cormann will get them away from these facts—

Senator Chris Evans: Mr President, I have a point of order. I ask you to draw Senator Cormann to order.

Senator Abetz: Precious!

Senator Chris Evans: I am not at all precious about interjections, particularly if they are witty. But the constant interjections by Senator Cormann who keeps it up throughout the answer, seeking to outshout Senator Wong giving her answer, is clearly disorderly and I ask you to call him to order.

The PRESIDENT: Order on both sides! Senators know that calling or shouting across the chamber or interjecting is disorderly. Both questioners and those who are responding to the question, in this case Minister Wong, are entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator WONG: As I was saying: I was asked in the question what would disadvantage the nation. What would disadvantage the nation is a carbon price over double what the government is proposing, without assistance to Australian families, that will cost 1,300 per household per annum out to 2020, that will impose a greater cost on Australian business, that relies on bureaucracy to pick winners without any guarantee that emissions will actually fall. That is the coalition's proposition. It is a higher cost proposition not only for the economy, not only for Australian business, but also, and worst of all, it is a higher cost that would be levied on Australian households and families—the same people that you want to take benefits from. (Time expired)

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:16): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In light of the evidence that electricity prices will increase by more than the 10 per cent admitted to by the Gillard government, has the government done any further assessment of the impact that even higher electricity prices will have on families who are already facing higher cost-of-living pressures as a direct result of Labor's carbon tax?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:16): We are very conscious of cost-of-living pressures, which is why we are providing tax cuts and which is why we are providing increases to the family tax benefit. We have already provided increases to assistance through the education tax refund and we are providing more funding to Australian families through the childcare rebate. We are serious about ensuring that we manage the economy, including managing the changes that a carbon price will bring, with a very clear eye to supporting Australian families, and that is what we have done. It stands in stark contrast to the economic illiteracy of those opposite, who are going to take taxes from Australian families and give them to large polluting companies with no significant benefit to the environment, at a higher cost to the economy and at a higher cost to the Australian taxpayer. The senator should remind everybody that he supports lower family tax benefits and lower pensions. (Time expired)

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:17): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Why is the Gillard government so intent on pressing ahead with the world's largest carbon tax when it will push up the cost of electricity and cost jobs without doing anything to reduce emissions?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:17): The carbon price the government has put forward—and it comes into effect on 1 July—is substantially less than the effective carbon price which would be imposed by the policy of those opposite. The Treasury's analysis is that the coalition's policy is equivalent to an effective carbon price—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: If people wish to debate the issue, the time for that is after three o'clock, when question time has finished.

Senator WONG: Under the coalition's policies Australia would need an effective carbon price at least twice as high as the government's—some $62 per tonne in 2010 dollars—by 2020 to reduce pollution by the bipartisan amount of 160 million tonnes by 2020. The party that used to be a party of market economics wants a taxpayer funded, bureaucratically run scheme, which will be more expensive for the economy, more expensive for Australian business and more expensive for Australian families. (Time expired)