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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8261

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (10:01): The committee stage of the clean energy bills is designed to ensure that we get answers to specific questions. I seek to raise with the minister this morning whether the govern­ment still claims that the carbon tax is needed to save the planet. If so, why has it ignored constant warnings, especially from the opposition, that the carbon tax in Australia, acting alone, would in fact have the perverse result of increasing the world's carbon dioxide emissions? As yet another specific example, I refer to Coogee Chemicals, which will now shelve its methanol plant proposed for Australia. Instead of being built in Australia, it will now be built in China, with four times the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. Not only does the world suffer four times the carbon dioxide emissions; Australia loses 150 jobs, a $1 billion investment and $14 billion in export earnings. Indeed, the existing methanol plant, in Ms Gillard's very own electorate, has had its future questioned.

I ask in relation to all that: was this part of the Treasury modelling? In that context, I also ask the minister to explain—because it was not answered last week—why it is that Australian coal dug up for Australian energy production, for Australian jobs and Australian manufacturing, is seen as being so evil that it requires a carbon tax, but Australian coal dug up for energy production in China, for Chinese jobs and Chinese manufacturing, is okay and will not have a carbon tax imposed on it?

Finally, another issue that the minister did not answer last week: on what authority does the government claim that it can force this legislation through the parliament? Was it an election promise? Does the government claim to have another electoral mandate? Does it claim to have popular support as witnessed by opinion polls? On what basis does the government actually believe that it can guillotine these measures through this place, or is it simply that the government is doing the bidding of the Australian Greens?