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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5837

Carbon Pricing

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (14:21): My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Why is it important, in putting a price on carbon, to provide assistance to households and pensioners? Are there any threats to this assistance and what is the government's response?

Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (14:22): I would like to thank the member for Parramatta for her question. As the House is aware, the government is seeking to introduce a carbon price to cut pollution and to drive investment in clean energy. The carbon price will be paid by fewer than 1,000 of the companies that are the largest emitters in our economy. However, of course, some industries will pass on the carbon price related costs to consumers, and that is precisely why the government has been upfront with the Australian people that there will be a modest cost impact on households. It is also why the government has consistently made clear that we will be providing fair and generous household assistance and that helping pensioners and low- and middle-income earners will be a priority for the government. On this point specifically, the government has committed that more than 50 per cent of the carbon price revenue—

Mr Chester interjecting

Dr Jensen interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The Pavlovian response of the members for Gippsland and Tangney when the minister is at the dispatch box is unnecessary. They are both warned!

Mr COMBET: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The government has committed that more than 50 per cent of the carbon price revenue will be used to assist households, that millions of households will be better off under the carbon price and that the assistance will be permanent. As the Prime Minister has indicated, the government is exploring a number of options for delivering that assistance, including through tax cuts. In addition, I can inform the House that all 3.4 million maximum-rate and part-rate pensioners will receive assistance. Under the government's plan, pensioners will receive assistance over and above normal indexation increases from the outset of the carbon price scheme. Therefore, right from the start of the carbon price scheme, literally millions of pensioners will see a real increase in their pension.

The greatest threat to that increase is the coalition, which has made crystal clear that, upon the introduction of a carbon price, the coalition will remove the assistance to households and remove the increase in pensions. The coalition's policy is to remove the assistance and, in doing so, leave millions of Australians worse off. Whether it is a pension rise or whether it is a tax cut, the Leader of the Opposition has made it absolutely clear that he will claw it back. Unsurprisingly, we see in the papers today that some on the coalition side of politics are horrified that the Leader of the Opposition wants to take money away from households, wants to take money away from pensioners.

What is worse, it is going to be, from the coalition, a triple hit on families: first, the coalition is going to hit them to fund its paid parental leave scheme; second, the coalition is going to increase taxes on average households by $720 to pay for the 'subsidies for polluters' scheme; and, third, the coalition is going to claw back the assistance the government will have provided to pensioners and households. It is Mr Abbott's great big new pension clawback that we are confronting here. The difference between the government and the coalition could not be more clear: the government will provide assistance to pensioners and householders, and the coalition will take it all away.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The members for Moreton and Mitchell probably should be outside the chamber now, but they are lucky.