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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7580

Carbon Pricing

Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (14:19): My question is to the Prime Minister. How is taking action to cut carbon pollution through pricing carbon the fairest and most efficient way to reduce emissions? How will the government tax polluters and assist households as part of this change?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:20): I thank the member for her question and I thank her too for her advocacy on behalf of the Central Coast community that she represents in this parliament. She does a great job raising their needs and concerns. Living in that very beautiful part of the world, she also understands that we as a nation need to tackle climate change and to cut carbon pollution, that the most efficient way to do that is to price carbon, that pricing carbon is the right thing to do by our environment and that it is the right thing to do by our economy so that we have the clean energy jobs of the future.

By world standards, we have a very carbon pollution intensive economy. Per head of population we generate more carbon pollution than even the people of the United States. That means that, in transforming our economy to a clean energy future, we have a big journey to go, and that is why it makes sense to start that journey soon.

Of course, we have a strong economy. We have come out of the global financial crisis with an economy that is the envy of the world, and the right time to act on a big reform is when your economy is strong. I understand that many Australian families, even whilst the economy is strong, do not necessarily see the benefits of that strong economy in their own lives, which is why we will support Australian families as we make this transition to a clean energy future, with nine out of 10 households getting tax cuts and payment increases to assist them through.

And, because we want to work with Australian families as we transition to a clean energy future, we have determined that carbon pricing will not apply at the petrol bowser. We understand that many Australian families have very little choice but to jump in their car to get places and we will not have carbon pricing apply directly to petrol.

That does mean that I have made a different choice compared with former Prime Minister John Howard. Former Prime Minister John Howard, who advocated an emissions trading scheme, had determined that he would have that scheme apply to petrol. He also made the very perceptive points that you cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions unless you have a price on carbon. He went on to say that if you wanted to be a serious participant in this debate then you needed to acknowledge that pricing carbon came with costs. I do acknowledge that, and the biggest losers in this country will be asked to pay the price. The difference between me and the Leader of the Opposition is that he will be asking Australian families to pay the price. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his acknowledgement on the 7.30 program last night that his policies come with a price. When he was asked whether or not the money he would be using was taxpayers' money, he said, 'Look, I accept that.'

So we know that the difference between the two plans is putting a tax on pollution and asking polluters to pay it, as opposed to putting a tax of $720 per year on Australian families. As we explain our carbon pricing package we will be explaining the assistance to Australian households, the mechanism to protect jobs and the impact of the tax on big polluters. The Leader of the Opposition will need to explain his $720-a-year tax on Australian families.