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Monday, 7 July 2014
Page: 4196

Carbon Pricing


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:22): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. Is the minister aware that the President of Kiribati, in anticipation of his country being submerged by rising sea levels and storm surges due to climate change, has purchased land in Fiji for $8.7 million to relocate his people to avoid a humanitarian crisis? If the Prime Minister is aware of that, how does the government justify its five per cent emissions reduction target and its refusal to commit climate finance under its UNFCCC obligations to the small island states as they are displaced now?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:23): I thank the Leader of the Greens for her question. I trust that she is not trying to play crass politics with the situation being confronted by the people of Kiribati. The people of Kiribati clearly have an issue that they need to deal with. But a quantum leap has been made from their difficulties to the domestic debate in this nation about the carbon tax. The carbon tax, as we have pointed out all morning, has a perverse outcome on the world's environment because what we are doing is exporting emissions from Australia to other countries whose emissions are worse and who have less control than we do in Australia. As a result, if you do want to have lower carbon emissions into the atmosphere, you would have to vote against the carbon tax because of its perverse outcome for the Australian economy which would see the shifting of jobs and economic activity out of our nation which has such an excellent record in relation to matters environmental in comparison to other countries. We can learn from the experience of Europe, where they tried the same thing, only to see their aluminium smelters and similar activities go offshore to Africa and elsewhere. Does anybody in this chamber actually believe that those new smelters in those other countries are delivering less CO2 emissions than was the case in Europe? Of course not. What the Greens are seeking to do is replicate that mistake for the Australian economy. We as a government will not be part of it, nor will we be part of your crass politics of trying to involve Kiribati in this situation.


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:25): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the minister's answer, does he accept that Australia has a responsibility to put money into climate finance through the UNFCCC process in order to achieve a 2015 treaty, since climate finance is a major component of assisting those countries that are now being impacted because of emissions from countries like Australia?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:25): As very good stewards, we as a government would seek to ensure that pollution is minimised to the greatest extent possible. That is why we as a government see the perverse outcome of the carbon tax. That is why we put before the Australian people, not only in 2010 but also in 2013, the Direct Action Plan—a plan that will see a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. I am reminded that Senator Milne runs campaigns against the renewable, sustainable forest industry in my home state of Tasmania and then champions the use of wood products from Indonesia. In Indonesia they clear-fell one million hectares of forest per annum without replanting a stick, whereas in Tasmania we were planting more trees— (Time expired)


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:26): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the minister's answer, what percentage of the Abbott government's 'five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020' reduction in carbon emissions will be delivered by the Direct Action Carbon Farming Initiative amendment about which he has just spoken—the whole five per cent?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:27): I do not know whether I had a memory lapse, but I am not sure I referred to carbon farming in my answer.

Senator Milne: It is in your Direct Action bill!

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Milne, you have asked your question.

Senator ABETZ: Oh, as part of the Direct Action Plan, right. What I was talking about was the Direct Action Plan. The Direct Action Plan will deliver—

Senator Milne interjecting

Senator ABETZ: Senator Milne either does not want to hear an answer or just keeps interjecting because she is so knowledgeable on all matters. She did ask a question and, if she wants an answer, I am happy to oblige. The situation is that we believe the Direct Action Plan will deliver the five per cent reduction to which we are committed. I am not going to get into a game as to how much of that percentage will be delivered by each individual component of that plan, but we believe that the totality of the plan will deliver the totality of the five per cent to which we are committed.