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Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Page: 66

Senator LIGHTFOOT (2:05 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell. I ask: would the minister outline the government’s contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies, including a proposal for a carbon tax?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —Thank you to my Western Australian Liberal colleague Senator Lightfoot for a question which is very important to Western Australia and, in fact, all of Australia. Climate change is one of the most substantial challenges to Australia’s economy and environment. As I have said in the past, you can spend hundreds of millions, in fact billions, of dollars on biodiversity conservation and marine protection—indeed, on the Barrier Reef—but if you have global warming at the sorts of rates predicted by the consensus of science then all of that work will be for nought. So it is very important that Australia in a practical, sensible and outcomes oriented way pursues a reduction in greenhouse gases and tries to reverse what is now quite clearly a significant contribution of human activity to greenhouse gases and climate change.

That is why the Australian government has committed $1.8 billion in ongoing programs: investing about half a billion dollars in lower emissions technology and $100 million in a renewable energy development initiative, the Solar Cities program, which is already working. We saw last Friday an announcement by BP Solar to expand their operations at Homebush in Sydney with a further $8 million injection. I met yesterday with Origin Energy, who look like they will be expanding their operations in Adelaide which I know Senator Minchin and Senator Vanstone will be very pleased about. There is also the advanced energy storage technologies fund and the $14 million wind forecasting program, which is very important for wind turbine technology and wind farms that are a significant part of the renewable answer to greenhouse gas emissions. It is very important for the wind turbine industry to know exactly where wind is most reliable. So we are doing all that. I am sure Senator Lightfoot is aware of a number of those measures. No doubt he would have seen the new wind turbine on Rottnest Island over the summer which is getting rid of about 500,000 litres of diesel on that one little Western Australian island alone.

The other proposals Senator Lightfoot asked about relate to the Labor Party policy. One of their policies, which was trumpeted during the last federal election campaign and has been signed on to by all of the Labor states, is this thing called the national emissions trading scheme. It is very hard to get any actual information out of the state Labor governments. I have asked that the Carr government—that is, Bob Carr—produce the national emissions trading scheme. I have asked that Dr Gallop produce the details of the scheme before the WA election so we in fact know what the taxpayers and electricity consumers of Australia will be up for under Labor’s proposal.

The coalition is investing in lower emissions technology, investing in renewables and investing in wind and solar power, and Labor’s proposal is to introduce a new carbon tax. What we do know about Labor’s secret plan in the states is that it may involve a tax on carbon—or a carbon tax, as it is known. The lowest carbon price of about $1.05 per tonne was factored into the Allen Consulting Group report, which I commend to people to read. I will probably need for Senator Ross Lightfoot to seek further enunciation of the national electricity markets scheme if he does feel minded to ask a supplementary question, but I think we need to know what the true cost of this scheme will be. The Allen’s report will show a 27 per cent increase in the wholesale price of power across Australia. That would represent about a $200 a year increase in people’s power bills. The lowest emissions cost— (Time expired)

Senator LIGHTFOOT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Could the minister further outline those contributions or any alternative policies relating to greenhouse gas emissions?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —Thanks again to Senator Lightfoot for that very sound supplementary question. I was explaining that the 27 per cent increase is at the upper end of the Allen Consulting Group’s analysis of an NETS. The other is what is called a national electricity market based on energy intensity levels—a complicated program but once again it pushes the price of power up, and even at this lowest option level analysed by Allen consulting for the Labor states that shows an increase of between two and six per cent in power charges for electricity consumers, which would see a $29, $30 or $35 increase in everybody’s power bills. Labor’s plan is to put a tax on carbon; our plan is to invest in carbon reduction technologies. What the people of Australia need to know, and preferably before the WA election, is what Dr Gallop is going to do. Is he going to come clean and tell the people of WA what the increase to power charges will be when he signs on to the NETS? (Time expired)