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Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Page: 4675

Carbon Pricing

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:47): My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. Is the minister aware that the RSPCA, one of Australia's most recognised charities, is yet another victim of the government's carbon tax—expecting to face a carbon tax bill of up to $180,000? Which important services for animals does the government expect the RSPCA to cut to make up for its carbon tax bill?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:48): I think we know where the National Party is in the coalition tactic room hierarchy, because they are always a day late with the questions. Can I say to the senator—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator WONG: I have to say, even if it is a day late, that I think all of Australia was particularly—

The PRESIDENT: Minister, come to the question.

Senator WONG: All of Australia was particularly interested in the Leader of the Opposition going to the RSPCA—as I was part of the way through saying—to talk about the poor old cats and dogs that were very scared about the introduction of a carbon price. As the Prime Minister said, next he will be talking about Skippy. I would have thought that a person who aspires to be Prime Minister would perhaps do a little better than wandering along and trying to scare homeless cats and dogs over the introduction of a carbon price. Politics is odd and people do different things, I suppose.

In terms of the programs that will assist not-for-profit groups around the country, these are obviously in addition to the reforms the government has put in place for the not-for-profit sector. I would like to draw the Senate's attention to the Low Carbon Communities program, which is worth more than $300 million. This is intended to fund grants for community organisations to retrofit or upgrade facilities to reduce energy use. I would encourage charities, including the RSPCA, to consider such an application. I am advised that the RSPCA did not apply for the first round of the Community Energy Efficiency program, which is part of this program. For charities there is also a dedicated funding stream under the program to provide payments to offset any carbon price impact on essential maritime and aviation fuels used by such organisations as air and sea rescue services. This funding will be provided on an ongoing basis.

Senator Abetz: There is a maritime component?

Senator WONG: I am providing information on charities, Senator. If you do not want information—

The PRESIDENT: Order! It is not time for debating; it is time for answering.

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:50): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of comments made by Mr Michael Linke, the CEO of RSPCA ACT, who said yesterday that, in relation to the impact of the government's carbon tax:

… we will see an erosion of the services not only at the RSPCA but at charities across the country because there is no compensation, there is no funding elsewhere to pay for this.

Given Mr Linke's statement, will the minister now concede that not even organisations looking after animals are safe from the government's carbon tax?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:51): What can I say? I am thinking of a number of things that could be said, but I will refrain. I will simply say this. I find it pretty extraordinary that the people who wish to be in government could seriously come in and run an argument about puppies and suggest that somehow it is a matter of great political contest. I do not think anybody in this country or parliament is—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Wong, resume your seat. Order! On both sides I need order.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Wong, resume your seat. On both sides, I need order!

Senator Crossin: Guppies! What about guppies?

Senator Abetz: You should be calling for hush!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Abetz, I can do without that sort of help.

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator Brandis: I hope Hansard caught Senator Abetz's timeless interjection.

Senator Abetz: I hope not.

The PRESIDENT: I hope not.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, seriously now, on the question of direct relevance: yet again, the minister is doing what you have ruled previously she may not do—that is, not answering the question but ridiculing the senator asking the question. Nothing she has said bears upon Mr Linke's statement about the effect of the carbon tax on the RSPCA.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order.

Senator WONG: I refer the senator, in terms of the effect on charities, to my first answer, in which I took her through the assistance available for charities under the Low Carbon Communities program to provide payments for retrofitting and for the upgrade of buildings to reduce energy use. Obviously, organisations such as the RSPCA are welcome to apply. (Time expired)

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:54): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that organisations such as the RSPCA generate 97 per cent of their funding through the community, which the minister obviously has some clear disrespect for, does the minister concede that the government is completely out of touch with the reality of how these organisations operate and is ignoring the impact on them of the world's biggest carbon tax—a tax which is based on a lie?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:55): First, I take issue with the accusation that was in the question. I do not think anybody in this parliament means disrespect to the RSPCA—maybe some do, but I certainly meant none. My disrespect was for an opposition that is prepared to go down to an organisation and say, 'Cats and dogs and puppies and kittens are not safe from the carbon price!' Talk about an example of the ridiculous scare campaign this country has been subjected to! Senator Crossin had it right: what about guppies and snakes? Are they are at risk too? That is the disrespect, Senator. You are not interested in a serious public policy debate on this. You are not interested in a serious debate about how we deal with climate change. You are not interested in any economically responsible policies; you are just interested in a scare campaign for the TV. That is all this has come down to for you. That is all you are interested in. You are not interested in any proper debate; you are just interested in a scare campaign. (Time expired)