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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4447


Senator PAYNE (2:38 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. Will the minister guarantee to the Senate that there will not be an increase in power blackouts across the country as a result of the government’s flawed emissions trading scheme failing to—in the words of the New South Wales Labor Treasurer, Mr Eric Roozendaal—‘ameliorate risk’?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —At the Press Club yesterday, I think it was, I made the point that in this debate there are those who have taken refuge in slogans, those who have taken refuge in stunts and those who have taken refuge in fear and negativity. It is unfortunate, Senator Payne, that you have joined the latter. I would have thought better of you. If that is the case, so be it. The fact is that we have provided very significant assistance to the electricity sector to reflect the adjustment that will be required. That was announced in the white paper. We recognise that the introduction of the CPRS could have an impact on the asset values of the most emissions-intensive generators. That is why we have provided, through the Electricity Sector Adjustment Scheme, free permits worth approximately $3.8 billion to be focused on the most emissions-intensive generators; it is because these generators are likely to experience large losses in asset value. This scheme is designed to maintain investor confidence and to support a smooth transition in the electricity sector. In addition to the ESAS, the broader design of the scheme, such as, for example, the international linking that is proposed to be in place, supports a smooth transition in the energy sector that does not risk Australia’s energy security.


Senator PAYNE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the minister’s failure to guarantee that there will not be an increase in power blackouts and given the minister’s obvious failure to persuade Labor Treasurer Roozendaal in New South Wales of that, why won’t the government consider alternatives to the CPRS plan that will ameliorate risks, such as the cheaper, greener, smarter ETS options put forward by Frontier Economics?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —It is not cheaper, it is not greener and it is not smarter. That is the first point. But, Senator Payne, I am interested that a couple of days before a vote we have got the opposition asking questions about why the government will not consider something when you fail to put anything forward—not a single amendment. Let Australians understand that. This issue is of such great importance to the nation now and into the future and there is not a single proposal or amendment from the Leader of the Opposition or from that side.


Senator Brandis —If it is so important, why won’t you have a discussion with the opposition?


Senator WONG —You can shout, Senator Brandis, but the absence of policy rigour on your side is patent for all to see. You have failed to engage in this debate because you have been ruled by the sceptics and flat-earthers in your own party room. Shame on the opposition for failing to come forward with anything and then, in the week of the vote, coming forward with some modelling that they have paid for and that they do not even have the guts to adopt as policy.


Senator PAYNE —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that Treasurer Roozendaal also warned of extreme job losses in the electricity and coal sectors as a result of the government’s flawed emissions trading scheme, why won’t the government even consider alternatives to its flawed CPRS that will save jobs, such as the cheaper, greener and smarter ETS options put forward by Frontier Economics? Why is the government so arrogant to assume that it has a monopoly on insight and wisdom in this area?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I suggest that what is arrogant is going to the Australian people with a promise you will not keep. What is arrogant is going to the Australian people and telling them that you are going to have an emissions trading scheme and then walking away from them because the sceptics in your party room have you too scared to act. What is arrogant is pretending to the Australian people when you went into the last election that you wanted to take action on climate change and then refusing to do it after the election. What is arrogant is telling the Australian people that you want the government to talk to you but you are not prepared to adopt a policy and you are not prepared to put forward an amendment—you are not prepared to put anything solid forward. What is arrogant is pretending that you care about climate change and then never having the guts to stand up to the sceptics in your party room and actually deliver a result.