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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4057

Climate Change

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:17): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. If circumstances do not change, Australia will be left with no Direct Action Plan, no carbon price and no emissions trading scheme. Will the government now move to a new emissions trading scheme, or is the Prime Minister prepared to leave the country with no economy-wide plan to tackle climate change?

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:18): Mr President, I thought the standing orders had something in them about hypothetical questions, and if ever there was a hypothetical question I would have thought this was it. In relation to the question posed to me about action on climate change and ensuring that there are fewer emissions going into the atmosphere, I would have thought a price indicator might have been helpful—for example, for fuel. But of course our good friends in the Australian Greens now think that is a very bad policy. We acknowledge that policy statement by the Australian Greens, as we have acknowledged the statements made by other parties that will soon be represented in this chamber. We as a government, as always, will seek to pursue the mandate entrusted to us by the Australian people. If this place, as it has from time to time, decides not to accept the will of the Australian people then so be it. Until we come to those bridges, I am not going to be engaged in hypothesising on what may or may not happen. Suffice it to say that this government is absolutely committed to getting rid of the carbon tax, which will go up again on 1 July because the Labor Party continues to keep it on life support. That is undermining the cost of living for many households and destroying jobs right throughout our economy. We as a government want to get rid of the carbon tax. On the other side of the ledger, we are completely committed to our Direct Action Plan and we will seek to implement that to achieve the outcomes that we put to the electorate not only in 2013 but also in 2010. It is a very sensible plan and a plan that has been aired in public for over three years.

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:20): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the Prime Minister's abhorrence of environmental regulation or so-called green tape and his desire to hand over environmental powers to the states, who would oversee compliance and enforcement of regulatory measures to implement Direct Action when it fails to secure legislative approval?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Milne, that is hypothetical. I will give you, as I have given others, the opportunity to rephrase your question.

Senator MILNE: Thank you, Mr President. I rephrase it by asking: will the government implement Direct Action through environmental regulation or so-called green tape?

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:21): The senator ought to understand by now that just because you have a whole lot of regulation or indeed a whole lot of expenditure it does not necessarily mean that you are going to get a good outcome. The Greens have been tying up our nation time and time again with all this green tape, and that has perverse environmental outcomes. The biggest example of that is the carbon tax, which saw manufacturing leave this country to go to China and other places where the emissions are greater than they would have been had they remained in Australia in a pre-carbon tax environment. Green tape does not necessarily mean good environmental outcomes and that is why we as a government will look at every proposal on its merits and will seek to implement a policy that does deliver Direct Action without tying everybody up in green tape.

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:22): To be really clear—does the government rule out regulation to implement Direct Action?

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:22): The very simple answer to this is that we will do that which is necessary to implement Direct Action. That might mean some legislation, or it might need some funding or regulation. Whatever it might need, we will seek to introduce our Direct Action Plan, and we look forward to the support of the Australian Greens in that. I am saying this on the last day of this Senate sitting, because I am engaging in a bit of wishful thinking in that regard. But the simple fact is that we are determined to introduce our Direct Action Plan which we have taken to the people not once but twice, and that we believe is a good, sound policy. We will seek to implement it in the best way possible. As to the details on how it might be implemented, I am sure that my good friend and colleague Mr Hunt will be able to provide you with all of the details that I might not be able to on this occasion.