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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11240

Carbon Pricing

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (15:12): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to facts provided by the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency yesterday which will reveal that, on a per person basis, Australia's carbon tax will cost $1,130, while Europe's scheme will cost $290 per head. With a world economy unsettled, our unemployment rate rising and our economic growth forecast being slashed, how can this be the right time to introduce a carbon tax that is more than four times larger than Europe's?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (15:13): May I remind the shadow Treasurer that there are bipartisan commitments in this country to cut carbon pollution by five per cent by 2020. Either the shadow Treasurer is suggesting that the opposition no longer holds that commitment—and I do not hear him suggesting that—or he is suggesting that that remains the commitment of the opposition. If it remains the commitment of the opposition to reduce carbon pollution by five per cent by 2020, then the questions that need to be answered are: when should we start to do that? And how should we do it?

I say to the shadow Treasurer: if he is concerned about adjustments in our economy, then it would make sense, wouldn't it, to start soon and that there is not some form of dramatic dislocation in 2018 or 2019 because you have not started until then. You would start soon—that is what we are intending to do—and you would use the most efficient method possible. The shadow Treasurer would be studying his economics, I am sure, to fulfil his role as shadow Treasurer. If he were doing that, he would be well aware that reputable economists here and around the world recommend that the least cost way of cutting carbon pollution is by putting a price on carbon that big polluters pay. That is exactly what we are proposing to do. The shadow Treasurer, I believe, if he brings economic rigour and principles to bear, would have to look with disgust at the opposition's policy, knowing that it will be wasteful, knowing that it will be inefficient, knowing that it will be more costly, knowing that for every tonne of carbon abatement it will cost more and, ultimately, it will add up to a cost for Australian families of $1,300 per year.

Mr Hockey: Mr Speaker, on a point of order—it does go to direct relevance: I asked the Prime Minister why now is the time to have a carbon tax in Australia four times larger than Europe.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will respond and she understands the requirements of the standing orders.

Ms GILLARD: On the question of timing of starting to address carbon pollution, I have been addressing that. I presume the shadow Treasurer must stand for starting in 2019 and trying to do it all in 12 months at some hideous cost per tonne of abatement rather than having our economy adjust over time, using the most efficient mechanism possible.

I presume in his question the shadow Treasurer was referring to some advertisements and comparisons that were done by the Australian Trade and Industry Alliance about the Australian scheme and the European scheme. As the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency made clear yesterday, those advertisements compare an overinflated number for Australian permits with only auction revenue from the introductory phase of the EU's emission trading scheme—or, put more simply, it is an apples to oranges comparison that does not stack up.