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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5184

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. Has the minister finalised the details of the emissions trading scheme as it relates to the steel industry?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —The issues relevant to the steel industry are obviously the design of the emissions-intensive trade-exposed program. The senator would be aware that that has been the subject of quite detailed discussion between the government and industry. The details of that program were identified first in the green paper, determined in the white paper and then added to after negotiations with industry in the Prime Minister’s 4 May announcement in which we said the architecture is that the most emissions-intensive industries will receive 90 per cent of their permits for free. The next level of emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries will receive 60 per cent of their permits for free. On 4 May we added to that assistance, such that the most emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries will receive 94.5 per cent, and the next level will receive 66.

With the steel industry, as with all other emissions-intensive trade-exposed sectors, we are going through a process of detailed discussion about the technical definition of what constitutes the activity. My recollection, and I stand to be corrected, Senator, is that the government has released some 23 activity definitions. That is far more at this stage of the debate than those opposite ever put out in the context of the GST or the Work Choices legislation. Just to underscore, technical details that required detailed information from industry were put out before this bill went through the Senate. That was not the case when you were in government. (Time expired)

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Was the CEO of BlueScope Steel, Mr Paul O’Malley, right yesterday when he said:

... the CPRS undermines Port Kembla Steelworks’ current world class competitiveness. It risks the viability of these long-term manufacturing assets. It’s a direct threat to this NSW regional economy and the 12,000 workers and their families who rely on the steelworks, and more than 1000 employees and contractors ... at Western Port in Victoria.

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I again make the point that the government’s modelling shows that, under the CPRS, iron and steel production will continue to grow. This is an issue about what is a fair contribution from industries towards the task of reducing emissions. Those opposite might have the view that industry has no role in this, but this government does believe that industry should pay its fair share. The figures that were in the announcement that the senator is referring to are a very high estimate of the costs. The government’s view, considering what has been put on the public record by BlueScope, is that the costs per tonne of steel are significantly less than the maximum costs which are postulated. We will continue to work with BlueScope, OneSteel and other industries that have not yet had their activity definition finalised. As I said, some 20-odd have— (Time expired)

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Was Mr O’Malley also correct when he said:

The proposed CPRS scheme unfairly discriminates against the Australian steel industry relative to international competitors. Without comparable global action, the CPRS becomes a compounding tax ... needlessly putting Australian steel jobs and investment at risk for no environmental benefit.

Will the minister now commit to not reintroducing her flawed and rushed emissions trading scheme legislation until after the UN Copenhagen meeting in December this year?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I will make two points. First, those opposite have claimed that they want this legislation deferred until the US finalises its position. The United States will finalise its position in 2013, under the current Waxman-Markey bill.

Opposition senators interjecting—


Senator WONG —So what those opposite are postulating yet again is another set of excuses. I think Australians will be entitled to ask themselves this question: if we do delay again, if we do defer again after 12 years in government and after a series of excuses from those opposite—

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator WONG —Does anyone in Australia really believe that Senator Bernardi, Senator Minchin or anyone else on that side of the chamber who opposes action on climate change will change their mind?