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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7582

Carbon Pricing


Mr SYMON (Deakin) (14:27): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline for the House the importance to our economy of putting a price on carbon pollution and providing assistance to households through tax cuts? How has this approach been received and what is the government's response?


Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:27): I thank the member for Deakin for his very important question. We on this side of the House understand the importance of tackling clim­ate change. We understand the importance of doing that for our planet but also if we want a prosperous economy for our children and grandchildren. We also understand the importance of doing this in the most efficient way, and a price on carbon is absolutely critical to provide the incentive to drive the investment in more energy-efficient practices and most particularly in renewable energy. A price on carbon is the key to a clean energy future, and to be a first-rate economy in the 21st century you have to be able to invest in clean energy. That is the point of putting a price on carbon.

We understand that this will have a modest impact on prices, and that is why we will provide assistance to households and also assistance to support jobs. That is why we will support nine in 10 households, who will receive a combination of tax cuts, increases in family payments and pension increases. For those on the lowest incomes we will provide a battlers' buffer to make sure that those people are looked after. This will come on top of the tax cuts that have already been provided: three rounds of tax cuts over the past few years, where a person on $50,000 now pays $1,750 less tax and a person on $80,000 now pays $1,400 less tax. We will build on that to provide further assistance to households. There is one very clear difference here: we will put a price on carbon for the up to 1,000 largest polluters and use that revenue to support households and businesses. What those opposite will do is tax households and hand the money to the largest polluters. That will cost the average household something like $720 per year. That will be like sending cheques for $720 from Australian households to all of the largest polluters in our country. So there is a very clear choice between both of these policies. But the Leader of the Opposition cannot account for any of this. As former Treasurer Peter Costello said, 'He was never one to be held back by the financial consequences of his decisions.'

The SPEAKER: Order! The Treasurer will return to the question. The Treasurer still has the call, but the Treasurer will be directly relevant to the question.

Mr SWAN: I am, Mr Speaker. I am putting forward our approach to climate change and I am comparing that with the views of others, which is precisely what I was asked about.

The SPEAKER: The Treasurer will resume his seat. I have commented upon the point that, yes, the questions are cleverly framed, but if we look closely it is how the government's response is received and what is the government's response to the reception to the government's actual policies. So I think we should be very careful. There are certain things that I will endeavour to do in this place: get people to actually listen to the responses and once we can hear the responses we will then narrow the focus of those responses so that they are more directly relevant. We will then, I think, have a better question time. The Treasurer has the call and he will be listened to in silence.

Mr SWAN: These are very big reforms and they do deserve a serious and considered debate. In our nation 25 years ago there were those who were opposed to the floating of the dollar, to the tearing down of the tariff wall and to the introduction of superannuation. Now, 25 years on, there is no serious policy maker—

Mr Hartsuyker: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Treasurer is quite clearly defying your ruling to be directly relevant to the question. He was actually asked how this was received, and the reality is that it has not been received very well.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Cowper will resume his place. He is now warned. We note that he has used his point of order to make a point, as well as the point of order. He is rewarded by only getting a warning. The Treasurer has the call and I am sure that, whilst he has 35 seconds, he will be bringing his answer to a conclusion well within those 35 seconds.

Mr SWAN: There can be no reform more important to our nation, to our economy and to our environment than reducing carbon pollution in our environ­ment. No reform can be more important than that. So, this is a worthwhile reform. It is a reform that is worth fighting for and it does deserve the most serious consideration in this House. That is what we are doing. We are putting forward our principles and we are comparing them with the lack of policy from those opposite.