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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5186

Senator KROGER (2:11 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. Given that the Prime Minister has claimed we must introduce an emissions trading scheme by the end of the year in order to avoid so-called carbon tariffs, would the minister tell the Senate specifically which countries are planning to impose a carbon tariff on Australia?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I am so glad you asked me that question, Senator, because as usual what we have seen is the Leader of the Opposition and some of the loyal followers—they are not a very large band—jumping on board—

The PRESIDENT —Please address the question, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG —I apologise, Mr President. They are jumping on board with a question on an issue that is not factually correct. The Waxman-Markey bill before the United States Congress currently has a specific provision for border adjustments. So the bill that you want us to photocopy—that Mr Turnbull says we should hold off and photocopy after it has been passed through the US senate—contains a specific provision for border adjustments. What an own goal.

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! When there is order we will proceed.

Senator WONG —What an own goal. The very legislation that those opposite wish to trumpet as their position contains itself a demonstration of what the Prime Minister said could happen and, that is, the capacity for border adjustments that is contained in the current US legislation that has been passed by the house of representatives.

Senator Abetz —Obama said he would veto it.

Senator WONG —Thank you, Senator Abetz—he also said, ‘Not the senate.’ Let’s talk about the US senate. Ten senators this month wrote to President Obama advocating a border adjustment mechanism. They said: ‘We write to express our strong support for the inclusion of a package of initiatives, including a border adjustment mechanism to ensure the viability and effectiveness of any climate change policy crafted by Congress.’ This is a live issue in the discussions internationally and if those opposite cared to actually keep up with the facts they would already know that. The Prime Minister was quite right to raise this. I again emphasise that this is not Australia’s position. We do not support going down the protectionist path. That is not how the bill before the Senate, which those opposite voted against, was framed. But this is an issue— (Time expired)

Senator KROGER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that the minister cannot say which countries are going to impose this so-called carbon tariff, can the minister at least tell the Senate which products are going to be hit and by how much by this imaginary tariff?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —The senator might like to be aware that the issue of climate change related tariffs has also been under consideration within the European Union, and in March this year President Sarkozy in fact floated a proposal for a carbon tax on imports from countries that have a lower environmental standard than France. This issue was also the subject of public discussion following a European environment ministers meeting in July. It really shows that those opposite are prepared to say anything, make any false claim, in order to try and dodge this tough issue of climate change. The reality is that this is a live issue in the negotiations and the international debate. If you kept up with the debate, you would know that. You are not interested in keeping up with the debate because you are only interested in fighting with each other on whether or not you are actually going to have a coherent position on climate change.

Senator KROGER —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is it a fact that Labor are misleading the Australian people about the need for an emissions trading scheme because they have a political strategy on emissions trading, not a jobs and environment strategy?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I might assist the opposition as well on this issue. If they turned to the last page of the Frontier Economics report that they sort of support—sort of—they would see that they themselves, in their report that they have paid for, acknowledge that border taxes are an option. You yourselves acknowledge that. I quote:

Options for reducing this risk both involve offsetting the loss of competitiveness of local products versus foreign substitutes ... these include:

  • Border taxes to increase the costs of foreign produced goods.

So you are suggesting that the Prime Minister, in telling us what is factually correct, is somehow running a scare campaign when you yourselves, in your own modelling report, have alluded to the fact that this is a live issue. This really shows the extent to which those opposite are prepared to engage in fear and smear rather than dealing with the issue of climate change, rather than being responsible on an issue that is so important to the future of this nation.