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Thursday, 4 February 2010
Page: 488

Senator BIRMINGHAM (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Does the minister stand by his statement to the Senate yesterday:

We have undertaken to fully compensate Australian families for the costs of our ETS and 92 per cent of the families will receive full compensation and working families in Australia will have those costs met.

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I am pleased to get my third question this week from Senator Birmingham on climate change issues. I suspect they get him to ask the questions because he is the only one who believes that climate change is a problem, whereas the rest of the frontbench of the Liberal Party in the Senate, of course, are all climate change deniers. If they were not before the election of Mr Abbott, they certainly are now. But I will certainly have a look at the Hansard from yesterday and see what point Senator Birmingham is trying to make. I will check the Hansard and see if his claims are correct and if anything needs to flow from that.

But can I indicate that our scheme, the government’s serious attempt to deal with the threat of climate change, includes compensation for Australian families. It includes a system of providing compensation for Australian families and pensioners. I would remind Senator Birmingham and the Senate, through you, Mr President, that in fact Mr Abbott’s plan not only does not do anything to put a cap on pollution but provides no compensation for Australian families and pensioners. What it does is take $11 billion worth of their money over the next 10 years. It takes that money from taxpayers. The opposition do not have a compensation package; they have a huge call on Australia taxpayers.

So I can confirm there is a compensation scheme available to Australian families and pensioners. That was revealed in October, I think, of 2008. Senator Wong can correct me if the timing is wrong there, but I think it was in October. It was available when we last debated the legislation, Senator Birmingham, when you in the Liberal Party changed your mind and decided not to honour your election commitments to the Australian people. But I will check the Hansard. If there is anything that I need to correct, I will do so.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is it true that, according to the government’s own estimates, around 4.2 million of the estimated 8.5 million Australian households—that is, just under half, or around half, of Australian households—in 2011 will receive less than full compensation or will receive nothing at all? Doesn’t that mean that, far from 92 per cent of households receiving full compensation, around half of Australian households and working families will actually be worse off?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I do not know why Senator Birmingham persists in highlighting the fact that, under the government’s scheme, there is compensation to Australian families and under the Liberal Party’s proposal there is no compensation. As we have made clear—and we have debated this bill twice—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! The time for debating this is at the end of question time. When there is silence on both sides, we will proceed.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —As I pointed out, Senator Birmingham’s question only goes to highlight the fact that this government, the Rudd Labor government, has a serious plan for tackling the impact of climate change on our environment, has a plan to put a cap on pollution and is making a serious effort at tackling the problems associated with climate change, and the Liberal opposition have come up with a con job that does not put a cap on pollution, that spends $11 billion of taxpayers’ money and that provides no compensation at all. So, yes, Senator, you are right: we provide compensation for families. We actually make polluters pay. Your scheme makes the taxpayers pay.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Does the minister accept that he misled the Senate yesterday by claiming that 92 per cent of Australian families would be fully compensated for the ETS? Will he apologise to the Senate and to the millions of Australian families who will be worse off under the government’s big new tax?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thought for a moment the senator was suggesting that millions of Australian families were listening to the Senate yesterday. I am sure, despite how interesting it is, that is not quite correct. I indicated to Senator Birmingham at the start of his original question that, if there was something in the Hansard that needed correcting, I would correct it—absolutely. I will go back and read the Hansard. But the key point to make is—

Senator Abetz interjecting—

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Senator, it has been brought to my attention. If there is an issue, it will be addressed—no problem at all.

Senator Abetz —When?

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Following it being brought to my attention, Senator Abetz—and I will not get lessons on appropriate behaviour from you, Senator Abetz. You should still hang your head in shame.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Ignore the interjections. Address your comments to the chair.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —I made it clear that the key point was: there is compensation payable to Australian families and pensioners under the government scheme; there is no compensation payable under Mr Abbott’s scheme.