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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7590

Carbon Pricing

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (15:00): My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Will the minister update the House on the government's plan to introduce a price on carbon pollution as the cheapest and most effective way to cut pollution? What other options have been advanced, how has the government's plan been received and what is the government's response?

The SPEAKER: I will allow the question because I did not think the member for Throsby was seeking an announcement of policy.

Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (15:01): I thank the member for Throsby for his question. Of course it is very well recognised that putting a market price on carbon pollution is the cheapest and most effective way to reduce pollution. It is a view that is supported by many institutions—the IMF, the OECD, the Productivity Commission, the Treasury and economists all around the country. The government recognises that, which is why we are committed to the introduction of a carbon price, in the mechanism that we will announce on Sunday, as the cheapest, most efficient way of cutting pollution in our economy. This contrasts strikingly with the opposition leader's 'subsidies for polluters' scheme, where not only do businesses get paid from the taxpayers' purse but the Leader of the Opposition is the one who picks and chooses who gets a subsidy. In comparing the government's carbon price proposal with the Leader of the Opposition's 'subsidies for polluters' program, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Australia Bank, Mr Cameron Clyne, had this to say:

If you're asking for an economic assessment of the two (policies), the carbon price followed by an emissions trading scheme is economically superior to the direct action policy.

It will drive certainty; it will drive investment and so, in a straight comparison between the two, that's the choice.

That is, the CEO of the National Australia Bank is making it clear that the government's policy position is the only way to go. It is no wonder that the opposition cannot find a single economist to support their proposition and, as previously stated by the member for Wentworth, of course it is a policy proposal that is a fig leaf that can be easily scrapped. But that does not worry the Leader of the Opposition in his approach to this issue. When he was asked today on ABC radio in Adelaide about his 'subsidies for polluters' plan and, in particular, the plan to plant trees to prevent climate change, this was what the exchange involved. The host asked the following:

Where are you going to plant all these trees and how are you going to water them?

The Leader of the Opposition replied:

Well, I'm not saying that tree-planting is the whole answer but it is part of the answer ...

The host then said:

Well how many trees do you plan to plant?

The Leader of the Opposition said:

Well, that depends upon what proposals we get, and how cost-effective the proposals are, but there are all sorts of ways of doing this.

There is a great degree of specificity in this proposal, isn't there! The fact of the matter—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr COMBET: Not a bit sensitive, are you, mate?

The SPEAKER: Order! Those on my left will come to order. The minister will refer his remarks through the chair.

Mr COMBET: The fact of the matter is that the Leader of the Opposition does not have a clue about his own policy. Of course, when the department of climate change had a look at this tree planting proposition, as the Prime Minister was noting before, the 'subsidies for polluters' policy would require trees to be planted in an area five times the size of Tasmania, 23 times the size of the Sydney Basin and roughly the same area that is covered by Germany. That is what the 'subsidies for polluters' policy means. I wonder whether the National Party has worked out that this means planting trees all over prime agricultural land in this country. The fact of the matter is that the opposition's policy is a joke. The only way to deal with this issue is by a market mechanism to do it at cheapest cost. (Time expired)

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! Those on my right will contain themselves. There is a certain inevitability about this, and the Leader of the Nationals has the call.