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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 6367

Carbon Pricing


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:31): My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer and the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to the new partially leaked Treasury modelling of the government's carbon tax and ask the minister two very specific questions. Firstly, has this modelling been completed? Secondly, does this modelling still assume that real wages will adjust to offset the impact of the carbon tax so as to maintain full employment?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:32): I love the way the tactics committee sees the word 'modelling' somewhere and then decides they want to talk only about modelling for the entirety of question time. It is a pity the senator did not listen to my response to Senator Bernardi, wherein I pointed out that the Treasurer had flagged the release of this modelling this week. I am not sure how the senator comes to suggest that there has been a leak. Some aspects of it, and the fact of it, were released in the Treasurer's economic note. That is hardly a leak.

The coalition cannot come into this chamber pretending to actually care about the economic costs of action on climate change when its own policy has been so poorly costed and will lead to a doubling of the economic cost of achieving the five per cent target. But you do not have to believe me. It is what the Treasury says. It is what the Business Council of Australia has referenced.

The PRESIDENT: I draw the minister's attention to the question.

Senator WONG: The question goes to the modelling and the economic cost. Those on the other side, if they are interested in the economic cost, should perhaps look at some of their own policies. Again, I refer the good senator to the note released by the Treasurer. He made reference to the fact that the modelling will be released this week, as previous modelling has been—unlike anything on the opposition's side when it comes to both the economic and the fiscal cost of this policy.




Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:34): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I again ask the minister if she can confirm whether the modelling to which the Treasurer has referred has been finished yet. Further, can the minister explain why the government claims that the carbon tax has no impact on employment when—unless they have reversed their previous approach—the government's modelling starts with the assumption of there being no impact on employment? Will the minister inform the Senate how much lower real wages will be in 2020 under the carbon tax?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:35): I again say to the good senator that this modelling will be released when the government releases it, and I am not going to be drawn into a discussion of modelling that the government has not released. I would make the point that the modelling the government has released to date shows that with a carbon price we can grow our economy, we can grow our incomes and we can increase the number of jobs in Australia. The economic cost of our policy is far less than the economic cost of the policy that the opposition says it would implement. It is a joke to come in here and say, 'We don't believe that incomes will continue to grow' when the opposition's policy will cost the economy more and will cost Australian taxpayers more.


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:36): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Does the government believe it appropriate that this modelling be subject to scrutiny by the joint select committee established to consider the government's carbon tax legislation? If so, will the full modelling be released before Treasury fronts that committee on Wednesday morning of this week? If so, how many hours or minutes beforehand can we expect to see it?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:36): Firstly, in relation to the committee, the functioning of the committee is a matter for the committee. In relation to the release of the modelling, I have answered that question previously. But I will make two points. Firstly, does anyone in this chamber believe that the coalition cares about the content of this modelling or the content of this policy? They do not care about it, because they only have one answer to anything that comes into this chamber or the other place: 'No, no, no, no, no.' That is the entirety of the coalition's policy, whether on climate or on anything else. No-one listening to this debate would be under any illusion that you actually care about the substance.

Senator Birmingham: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. I asked two questions related to the joint select committee that is looking into the carbon tax legislation about whether this modelling would in fact be presented in time for that committee to ask the Treasury about it. If the minister could address those direct questions, she might have some chance of being directly relevant to the matter.

The PRESIDENT: The minister is answering the question. The minister has 10 seconds remaining.

Senator WONG: This government has released an extraordinary amount of information in relation to the economic cost of its policy. It is a pity that the opposition cannot do the same.