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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 7968

Carbon Pricing

Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (14:31): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer to evidence given in the Senate last week by Ms Meghan Quinn, General Manager of the Macroeconomic Modelling Division of Treasury, who stated that the government had not released the model code for the GTEM used in the government's carbon tax modelling. The release of the code and other data and assumptions would allow economists such as Henry Ergas, Brian Fisher and Warwick McKibbin to independently model the carbon tax. In estimates you said five times that you would take the question on notice. Will you now release the modelling in its entirety?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:31): I thank the senator for his question. I have to say it sounds remarkably like a question I got in the last fortnight from Senator Cormann, even with the reference to Mr Henry Ergas. I make a number of points in response to the question. The first is that this government has released an unprecedented amount of information in relation to not only the clean energy package broadly but also the modelling. The modelling that has been released most recently has updated the modelling which was done previously in Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme: Australia’s Low Pollution Future, and that modelling was, I think, the largest modelling exercise undertaken by government in the nation's history. An enormous amount of information has been released with both sets of modelling.

The senator refers to the need for eminent economists to look at this. I remind the senator that his own leader has in fact said that he is not interested in the views of economists when it comes to carbon policy. He has said, 'Economists are wrong.' He has said, 'I am not interested in what the economists say,' just as he is not interested in what the scientists say when it comes to climate science.

My final point is this: we have been in this chamber arguing about climate policy for years, and that is just in this chamber. Senators will recall the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was argued and debated in this chamber three times in addition to the myriad inquiries. There has never been an occasion, no matter how much science, no matter how much economic policy and no matter how much modelling, on which Senator Boswell has countenanced voting for a carbon price and I doubt that there ever will be. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am waiting to call Senator Boswell. When there is silence I will ask you to ask your question.

Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (14:34): Mr President, I have a supple­mentary question. I refer the minister to terms of reference sent by Minister Sherry to the Productivity Commission on 18 June 2010 to assess COAG reforms, which state that the commission 'frameworks should be made available for wider use'. Given the Productivity Commission has confirmed that it is using the same MNRF model relied upon by Treasury to model the carbon tax, and the commission plans to release the details of this model, why is transparency in modelling good enough for COAG reforms but not for carbon tax?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:34): I congratulate the senator for taking precisely 60 seconds to ask that question—

Senator Abetz: It's 30 seconds—get it right.

Senator WONG: Sorry, 30 seconds. That is right, I was wrong on that. I am so glad Senator Abetz picked me up on that—I am sure it is a killer blow. I am a little unclear as to how Senator Boswell's question is relevant to the primary question, but I think the question relates—

Senator Mason: Just answer it!

Senator WONG: When the senator has finished.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Continue.

Senator WONG: I think the question relates to modelling, but I make the point that this would obviously be a question better directed in a primary sense to Senator Sherry in that capacity. In relation to transparency, which was in the second part of the question, I again point out that the government has released some 200 pages of modelling results, some 100 charts and some 350 pages of consultants reports.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator WONG: I will take the interjection from Senator Brandis— (Time expired)

Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (14:36): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Given the govern­ment's own modelling shows Australian GDP will be down $33 billion by 2020 and $1 trillion by 2050 as a result of the carbon tax, why will the government not release details of this modelling for scrutiny, despite that being the standard practice of the Productivity Commission and ABARES during the term of the coalition government? What have you got to hide?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (16:29): I again say we have released an unprecedented amount of information associated with the economic modelling, far more than any of the state governments' dodgy modelling that those opposite have relied on time and time again as part of their fear campaign. The findings of the Treasury—the same people who advised Peter Costello—are that with a carbon price our economy grows, our incomes grow and our emissions fall from what they would otherwise be. Nothing that the senator can say or do can deviate from those central findings of the Australian Treasury and its modellers. The reality is that those opposite want to oppose this reform because they are not interested in the future. They have never, never been interested in ensuring a brighter, stronger future for this country.