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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 24

Senator CORMANN (2:11 PM) —My question is to Senator Conroy, the Minister representing the Treasurer. In light of today’s updated Treasury forecasts, will the government direct Treasury to conduct further modelling on the impact of Labor’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme on the economy?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —I thank Senator Cormann for that question. What this government is doing is addressing the challenges that it is faced with today. The IMF forecasts which have been released in the last few days have indicated the magnitude of the worldwide recession. The government is also, unlike those opposite, facing up to the climate change challenge and is going to press ahead with its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We have modelled it, we have worked through these issues and we are completely confident that the world economic recession will not allow us to be deflected—unlike those opposite, who are torn between those wanting to support their leader and those who want to support their leader in this chamber. Those who are climate change sceptics, those who are non-believers in climate change, let us be clear—

Senator Brandis —Are we going to burn at the stake?

The PRESIDENT —The minister will resume his seat. I know it is the first day back and there are a number of people a little bit excited, but the person answering the question is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator CONROY —The Treasury engaged in the largest modelling exercise that we have ever seen in this country before we released the paper. Let us be clear about this: those opposite can choose to put their head in the sand and continue to be deniers or they can get on board. (Time expired)

Senator CORMANN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware that Paul Howes, the National Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, representing more than 100,000 working Australians, has criticised the Treasury modelling as inadequate, calling on the government to do more Treasury modelling on the impact of the CPRS on various sectors of the economy? Does the minister share Mr Howes’s concerns for jobs that could be lost as a result of the CPRS putting additional pressure, for example, on the steel and aluminium sectors?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —Unlike those opposite, I know Mr Howes well, and I have a very high regard for Mr Howes’s skills. But, when it comes to economic analysis, forecasting and Treasury modelling, I will stick with Treasury—no disrespect to Mr Howes, whom I consider a friend. When it comes to the impact of the scheme, I will go with Treasury any day of the week—any day of the week when it comes to the modelling. I am very confident that Treasury know a little bit more about this than Mr Howes, and that is no disrespect whatsoever to Mr Howes, a man for whom, as I said, I have a high regard.

Senator CORMANN —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the minister’s answer and his confidence in the Treasury modelling, will the minister guarantee that no further Australian jobs will be lost as a result of the implementation of Labor’s proposed CPRS?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —The Treasury modelling released in October 2008 demonstrated that economies that defer action face long-term costs that are around 15 per cent higher than those that take action now. So those opposite who want to defer, delay and deny will be putting a greater cost on this economy and Australian workers and families by the position that they are taking and now advocating—once again, inconsistent with Mr Turnbull’s position. Those opposite who want to try and argue that they have some—

Senator Cormann —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The minister is misleading the Senate because he is referring to modelling done for the Garnaut review and not to the Treasury modelling. I urge you, Mr President, to call on the minister not to mislead the Senate.

Senator Wong —Mr President, on the point of order: I suggest perhaps that Senator Cormann read the Treasury modelling, the largest modelling exercise in Australia’s history. He would find that Senator Conroy is quite accurate in his analysis of what is in the report.

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! I am not proceeding until there is silence; it is as simple as that. There is no point of order. Senator Conroy, you have 10 seconds left to answer the question.

Senator CONROY —The premise of the question being put by those opposite is completely flawed. That is why answering a question as irrelevant— (Time expired)