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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8296


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (12:33): What is the time? We had four hours on Thursday and we have had two-and-a-bit hours today. And there has still been no amendment from the opposition.

Senator McEwen: They haven't moved it yet.

Senator WONG: They still have not moved it. They still do not want to vote on it. And they are still giving the same speeches—except that they are not quite the same speeches. If anybody thinks that Senator Cormann has had a consistent position—

Senator McEwen: On super?

Senator WONG: On super, to be fair to him, he has had a consistent position. It is just that he got rolled. In August 2007, he said, 'The government's recent announce­ment of a national emissions trading scheme is a positive and sensible approach to addressing global warming.' So in August 2007, Senator Cormann—when Prime Minister Howard was in power—supported an emissions trading scheme and supported the price on carbon that he now says is a tax on everything. And he also supported the part of the policy of the then Prime Minister that the emissions trading scheme would be introduced ahead of other nations. Let us keep things in perspective when we hear the continual diatribe from Senator Cormann.

In relation to a number of the issues raised, if the senator cared about giving an incentive for cleaner energy generation and investment in cleaner energy generation he would support a price on carbon, because what a price on carbon does is give people an incentive to abate—that is, to reduce pollution. It also gives investors an incentive to invest in clean energy. If the senator cared about incentives for clean energy generation, he would not worry about the argument over who is getting handouts; rather, he would support a price on carbon to give people an incentive to pollute less and investors an incentive to invest in clean energy. The fact that he does not demonstrates that he is not being principled in his approach to this.

The second point that I would make on handouts is this: one of the most bizarre things in this whole debate is that the Labor Party is arguing for a price signal and a market mechanism and the Liberal Party are asking for taxpayer handouts. It is fantastic, isn't it? The Liberal Party, who are supposed to be the rational economists in this place—but they certainly have not demonstrated that under Tony Abbott at any point—are arguing for taxpayer funded handouts for polluters. If Senator Cormann is worried about handouts he ought to go into his party room and argue against their direct action policy, which is the government taxing Australian households to give money to polluters on a wing and a prayer and a hope that they might reduce their pollution. With respect, Senator—and I know there is a lot of rhetoric in this place—I have outlined very clearly that the rationale behind the fund is the mitigation of energy security risks as Australia transitions from highly emissions-intensive sources of generation to more renewable and low-intensity sources. That is why we have the Energy Security Fund and the measures I have outlined. I have also explained to you that that is the rationale behind the emissions-intensity basis of the allocation of one component of the assistance, which is the $5½ billion.

In terms of the impact on households, we have been completely transparent about that. We have not only done the Treasury modelling previously; we have done it subsequently—and what that shows is that you are looking at a CPI impact of around 0.7 per cent in 2012-13. On average that is $3.30 per week, about 10 per cent on electricity prices. We recognise that, and that is why we are providing a reduction in people's income tax arrangements. We are increasing the tax-free threshold. That is why we are providing an increase in the pension payment—in the age pension, in the disability support pension—and also assist­ance through the family tax system. So we have not hidden the price impact, Senator; we have accounted for it and we are providing assistance which is particularly focused on low-income Australians.

I invite the opposition to move their amendment. I certainly invite Senator Xenophon, who has come back at this stage, to get to his amendments, because he has quite a number and as yet we have not dealt with any of them. I appreciate he has asked some questions about one amendment which he is considering his position on. I understand he flagged that, but I would certainly invite him to consider moving his amendments.