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Thursday, 3 November 2011
Page: 8177

Carbon Pricing

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:52): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. Does the government believe that its carbon tax will have a negative impact on any decisions made by multinational companies to invest in Australia rather than in other countries? Will the minister confirm whether there will be any negative impact at all on decisions by companies to invest in Australia?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:53): Senator, through you—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, continue your answer.

Senator WONG: I am very pleased they are so interested in what I have to say, Mr President. I certainly look forward in the in committee debate of the bill to answering—

Senator Abetz: That you have truncated by days.

Senator WONG: I will take that interjection from Senator Abetz—

The PRESIDENT: Ignore the interjection, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: because I can recall him gagging and guillotining many times.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, just return to the question. Ignore the interjections. They are disorderly.

Senator WONG: I believe that the question is essentially a more articulate exposition of Mr Abbott's sovereign risk argument. We are intent on providing a competitive environment for business investment in Australia, which is one of the reasons we want to pass the mining tax—to reduce company tax rates. We have also seen, contrary to quite a bit of scare campaign rhetoric from Mr Abbott, investment continuing in the mining sector, in the resources sector and also in the coal industry, notwithstanding the fear campaign that the opposition has been engaged in.

As the world moves to increasingly paying a premium for low-carbon goods and services, we do have an economic interest in ensuring that there is more investment channelled to the clean energy jobs of the future and to the clean energy technologies of the future, and that is the important role played by a carbon price.

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:55): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to statements by the chief executive of Anglo American, the world's fourth largest miner, that they do not think the carbon tax is the right approach at all and that it will have an impact on investment decisions. Does the government accept Ms Carroll was telling the truth when she said that withholding investment was 'something we are going to have to consider'?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:56): What I would invite Senator Bushby to do, because I know he has an interest in numbers, is look at the numbers. For example, the Deloitte Access Economics Investment Monitor report showed that $487 billion in large investment projects was in the pipeline, almost all of which will occur in the mining sector. It is hard to see, therefore, how the proposition that the carbon price will deter such investment stacks up. The numbers simply do not demonstrate that.

I would also make the point, because I think the article to which the senator was referring also spoke about Macarthur Coal, that Macarthur Coal, as he would know, was the subject of a nearly $5 billion offer by Peabody Energy. In fact I think that was the same day as Tony Abbott said that the carbon tax will—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, you need to address—

Senator WONG: Mr Abbott. It is extraordinary that the opposition is so prepared to call other people names. They are very sensitive. (Time expired)

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. With more than $15 billion in investment decisions at risk from Anglo American alone, why will the government not acknowledge that this carbon tax poses a massive risk to investment in Australia? Why should Australians believe the assurances of a government who promised no carbon tax, rather than the concerns of those who make investment decisions that impact on the jobs of thousands of Australians?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:57): Mining investment has gone from $35 billion in 2009-10 to $51 billion in 2010-11 and will go to an expected $83 billion in 2011-12. According to ABARES, the resource investment pipeline is $430 billion—and the Deloitte numbers are even higher—and mining employment has grown by nearly 20 per cent. What I would say to Australians is: look at the facts; do not look at the shameless self-interested scare campaign from a man who is only interested in his political benefits, only interested in his own political wellbeing, not interested in the wellbeing of the nation and certainly not interested in the wellbeing of Australian workers and Australian families. Everyone knows Mr Abbott is only interested in one job, and that is the job of Prime Minister Gillard's. He is not interested in the jobs of working people. (Time expired)