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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6410

Mr COMBET (Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change) (10:47 AM) —Can I just address some of the issues that have been referred to by the member opposite. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the product of many years of work and consultation with industry considering the climate science. There is no doubt that the 2007 fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which was the product of over 1,250 scientists contributing evidence, scientific research and work that was the subject of peer review, has been a key determining factor in much of the international thinking on the reduction of carbon pollution—that is, the reduction of emissions.

The Australian government accepts the climate science and is determined to take action to address climate change. Over the last 10 years there have been numerous reports and work done at the Commonwealth level, including under the previous government, about the importance of reducing carbon pollution in our atmosphere and playing a role in international efforts to address climate change and reduce emissions. In consideration of those issues, work has been done on the development of emissions trading concepts as the principal means by which a price on carbon may be imported into the economy—and into economies internationally—and the linkage of those efforts to establish a carbon price and bring pollution levels down.

The Labor government in its time in office has done a lot of work in this respect, in contradistinction to the efforts of 12 years of the coalition government. The Rudd government received the report of Professor Ross Garnaut, which considered many of the various alternatives—and the science, industry and employment aspects of approaching emissions trading—as well as considering mechanisms such as a carbon tax. It has been internationally concluded that emissions trading is the best way of approaching this issue for a number of reasons. It is a market mechanism for introducing a carbon price, but it also enables the linkage of international efforts.

Following Professor Garnaut’s work, the government produced a green paper and engaged in extensive consultation with industry. In December last year, we produced a white paper—an extremely comprehensive piece of work which took into account the most extensive Treasury modelling ever undertaken in this country of the potential economic impacts of an emissions trading scheme and which contained within it, of course, extensive assumptions underpinning that work, dealing with the economic environment in which we are introducing this.

To take up that point slightly further: the government, on 4 May, announced—taking into account the global economic environment: the worst economic environment since the Great Depression—the necessity for providing a global recession buffer in assistance to emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries. Consideration of that position and its announcement came after extensive work.

The issue here is that, despite all of this going on and the release of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation—11 detailed bills, which have now passed the House of Representatives—the coalition has yet to put forward one constructive proposition in relation to this. We have had a series of delays, which the government regards as excuses made by the coalition for not wishing to consider this issue—excuses that have been put forward because of the division within the coalition side of politics over the issue of climate change and emissions trading.

We have put forward a very comprehensive plan for bringing down carbon pollution via the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We have also, as I have said, introduced into the House of Representatives today a further important institutional effort in the battle against climate change, in the form of an expanded renewable energy target: to secure 20 per cent of our electricity supplies coming from renewable sources by the year 2020.

As part of all of this, very extensive work has been undertaken with many sectors of industry to consider the impact of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme as well as the renewable energy target, which has led to very detailed work being issued concerning emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries. I would explain further what is on the table, but my time has almost expired. But it is extremely important to support jobs in this economy. (Time expired)