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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 11605

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation) (16:33): It is with pleasure that I rise to speak on this matter, because the future of the Australian economy, our prosperity, fairness and equity, are of the greatest importance to the Gillard government. What we have heard today from the member for Wannon is yet more of the campaign of aggressive negativity that we have become accustomed to from the Leader of the Opposition and others opposite, and a bit more of what we have become very accustomed to, which is the opposition talking down and misrepresenting the state of our economy. The only major threat to business confidence in this country is the opposition and the way in which they wish to create a climate of uncertainty by talking down our economy. They like to talk about chaos and destruction. They like to talk about the supposed dreadful effects of the price on carbon. It is those opposite who are causing chaos, it is those opposite who are causing destruction, with their negativity. They talk down Australia's economy because they want to take cheap political advantage of job losses and business failures.

You will never hear those opposite talking about job gains. You will never hear those opposite talking about the fact that, since Labor came to office at the end of 2007, 800,000 jobs have been created in our country. You will never hear those opposite talking about the fact that our economy has continued to grow while other economies across the developed world have shrunk. Our economy, by contrast, has grown by 11 per cent since the start of 2008. But what we get from those opposite is more of the same: more wishing to go back to the days of inequity, the good old days of John Howard and Work Choices and, in fact, the days when we had higher taxes—because that is what the Howard government brought this country; it was the highest taxing government this country has ever seen. And, of course, it brought far higher interest rates than anything the Australian people are experiencing now.

We have opposite us an opposition who want to gain votes not because it is in the public interest, not for the wellbeing of all Australians and not to implement policies that would drive growth and promote fairness. On the contrary, those opposite would have us believe that the carbon price—we heard this again today from the member for Wannon—is going to cause the destruction of our economy. I am not overstating that, because we have heard them say that. We have heard that it was going to destroy whole towns. We have heard that it was going to destroy whole industries. We have heard that it was going to lead to unimaginable price rises. We have heard that it was going to lead to the most unimaginable consequences. And, of course, we have heard the various animal metaphors from the Leader of the Opposition. There was going to be a 'cobra strike', but then, no, it was going to be a 'python squeeze' or there was going to be an 'octopus embrace'. I think that was at the fish markets! But there has been no cobra strike, there has been no python squeeze, there has been no octopus embrace. No matter what animal the Leader of the Opposition uses in his next metaphor to describe the impact of the carbon price, it simply will not be true—unless perhaps the animal is a bunyip, because the bunyip is a mythical creature. That might be a fitting animal metaphor for the Leader of the Opposition to use, because the impacts that the Liberal Party have gone on and on about are mythical, just like the bunyip.

Under this government the Australian economy continues to outperform other advanced economies and that is because of our investments in skills, in infrastructure and in education. It is because we, as a national government, acted to stimulate the economy at the right time. We acted fast and we acted large. That is what produced the economic prosperity that Australians are continuing to enjoy and that is what kept 250,000 Australians in work when they otherwise would have been thrown out of work. Our firm policies and our prompt action are what have kept the Australian economy from going down the track that, regrettably, many other Western economies have gone down.

I want to comment on something that the member for Wannon, in some of the further repetition of the wild overstatements and misstatements about the effect of the carbon price, has had to say today. He talked a bit about landfill. I need to say that the landfill industry in our country is predicted to earn $150 million over the next three years by capturing dangerous methane gas and either destroying it or turning it profitably into renewable energy. That is our carbon price scheme. It is a feature of our carbon price scheme that a whole different range of methods are being used to encourage abatement of dangerous pollution. For the landfill industry, its use of the Carbon Farming Initiative—which will give direct rewards to the landfill industry when it captures dangerous methane pollution—is a key plank of our Clean Energy Plan, not that you would get this perspective from listening to the member for Wannon or to anyone from the other side of this parliament. The member for Wannon was drawing attention to some companies which he suggested were experiencing some competition from small operators, while neglecting to mention some key details.

Across the Australian landfill industry there has been a wide-scale welcome of the price on carbon and general approval of the carbon farming initiative. In relation to large landfills, there are economies of scale to make them vastly cheaper and more profitable to run than smaller landfills. The member would do well to explore a little bit further the turnover of the landfill companies he is talking about. It might put some of the complaints he has referred to into clear perspective.

The economic data that has been recorded recently for Australia puts a wrecking ball through the Leader of the Opposition's scare campaign, which has now been running for months and months. He said price rises would be unimaginable. He said that the carbon price would be like a wrecking ball through our economy, destroying jobs. In answer to that, let us look at the most recent statistic and economic prediction made about the Australian economy—that is the release today of the International Monetary Fund's October 2012 World Economic Outlook. That has reaffirmed the strength of Australia's economic fundamentals in the face of a weaker global recovery, with the Australian economy again forecast to outperform every major economy over this year and next. In case those opposite do not want to listen or are blocking their ears because it is inconsistent with all of the things they like to say in this place, I repeat: the Australian economy is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to outperform every major advanced economy over this year and next. In fact, this World Economic Outlook published by the IMF today shows Australia is now the world's 12th largest economy. It has leapfrogged three places ahead under our Labor government, after slipping back three places under the previous government. And not only that, it is the forecast of outperformance of other major economies that you can point to.

Far from being destroyed, the Australian economy is now one of the strongest performers in the developed world. We have solid growth, low unemployment, low interest rates, contained inflation, strong public finances and an enormous pipeline of investment in resources. The Leader of the Opposition has recently been trying to suggest that the economy is not growing. I repeat: the Australian economy has grown 11 per cent since 2008 and is continuing to grow. It is an economic report card that most developed countries could only dream of at this moment. Of course, it is an impressive performance which is the product and the result of decades of reforms.

The government is building on this legacy of hard but necessary reforms. We are investing in skills, we are investing in education, we have invested in infrastructure like the National Broadband Network. We have reformed mining taxation to provide support to businesses not in the fast lane of the economy and we are putting a price on carbon. While the economy is strong, of course, too many Australians are still finding it hard to make ends meet and that is why we have put in place a package of measures—to help people make ends meet and to spread the benefits of the mining boom. That is why we are going to continue to work to improve services in education and in health. That is what Australians want—that is what Australians would far rather we were talking about in this place than the nonsensical claims of doom and gloom from those opposite.

Those opposite like to claim that Australia is acting alone on the carbon price, and this, too, is false. Every major economy is tackling climate change. Ninety countries representing 90 per cent of the global economy have committed to reducing their carbon pollution and have policies in place to achieve these reductions. Many of these countries are relying on a market based mechanism. It needs to be restated that some of those opposite understand this but some of those opposite still have some vague commitment to the free market. A carbon price is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions and is more efficient than other direct subsidy policies.

Some members of the Liberal and National parties understand the benefits of an emissions trading scheme and understand the benefits of a cap-and-trade mechanism. The member for Wentworth would be chief among them. I am pleased to say that there are some representatives of state governments who have a clear understanding of the benefits of putting a price on carbon as well. I am pleased to be able to quote from the statement made just today by the Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Food, Terry Redman, who is quoted as saying that the introduction of a carbon price has given Western Australian farmers—I hope the member for Wannon is listening—another tool to manage salinity. This is the direct quotation from the statement today of the Western Australian coalition government's minister for agriculture:

Traditionally, many land managers in the northern Wheatbelt have attempted to address salinity through saltbush plantings, which also provides feed for stock.

However, the recent trend in the area towards fewer stock and increased cropping has meant this may no longer be a solution.

And here is the key bit:

With the introduction of a carbon price, the ability of salt tolerant native species to sequester carbon has the potential to provide farmers with another option to manage salinity.

He went on to announce $330,000 of state government funding—that is coalition state government funding—to test the sequestration properties of native plantings at various sites and examine the potential to use our Labor government's Carbon Farming Initiative as a means of managing salinity. Perhaps the next time the member for Wannon thinks about saying that the carbon price is in some way prejudicial to the interests of farmers in this country, he might like to talk to the coalition minister for agriculture in Western Australia, Terry Redman, who seems to have no doubt about the benefits of the carbon price.

Mr Tehan: I'll be happy to talk to him.

Mr DREYFUS: And you should talk to him often, because he seems to have no doubts about the benefit of the carbon price for Western Australian farmers.

I have said that a carbon price is the most effective way to reduce emissions, and that is why, by next year, 850 million people across the world will be living in a country, a state or a city with an emissions trading system. That includes countries like the United Kingdom, governed by a conservative government; Germany; France; Sweden; Norway; New Zealand, also governed by a conservative government; and Switzerland. Carbon trading is operating at the subnational level in the United States, Canada and Brazil.

Mr Tehan: Subnational!

Mr DREYFUS: Subnational—and I will come to that. The momentum is growing. California will commence emissions trading next year, on 1 January. On 14 November, they will have their first auction of carbon allowances. By 2015, California's cap-and-trade program will be the world's third-largest emissions trading market, after the European Union and the Korean ETS. The scheme is remarkably similar to the scheme that we have in Australia. It will cover 85 per cent of California's emissions. I can speak with pretty direct and recent authority because I met with senior officials of the Californian government some two weeks ago.

Mr Tehan: When are we linking with that!

Mr DREYFUS: And we agreed to work together towards the development of regional and global carbon markets. California, which those opposite deride as being subnational, is in fact, if looked at as a stand-alone economy, the world's eighth-biggest economy, with 37 million people. That is why an agreement with the officials from the Californian government to work with them towards linking and to explore options—which we will be doing, of course, with the Europeans as well—to link the carbon markets of California, Europe and Australia over the longer term is absolutely in the interests of Australia. The recognition by the Californians of the worth of linking schemes shows that that is the direction the world is going in.

China is developing pilot emissions trading schemes in seven cities and provinces, and that will commence next year. Korea's emissions trading scheme will commence in 2015, and countries like Turkey, South Africa, Thailand and Chile are also working to develop carbon pricing schemes. The rest of the world is acting, and those opposite should stop disregarding the facts and the direction of the world. (Time expired)