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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8320

Carbon Pricing

Senator RYAN (Victoria) (14:18): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to a report in today's Herald Sun that Coogee Chemicals, which operates Australia's only methanol factory, which is in the Prime Minister's electorate of Lalor in western Melbourne, is planning to shelve its proposed $1 billion world-class expansion due to the direct impost of the Gillard government's carbon tax, potentially costing 150 jobs and exports worth $14 billion. Hasn't the Prime Minister now not only betrayed Australian voters, but also her own constituents, by going back on her word that there would be no carbon tax under the government she leads?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:19): I will take the question, anyway, because I am very happy to answer it, but this is about the bill that is already before the chamber. If the senator had taken the time to rock up to the committee stage today I actually answered that question specifically on a number of occasions.

How pathetic from the opposition. All they can do on this important economic and environmental reform is rock up with the Australian and ask questions from it. You should be able to do better than that. I answered the question in detail and I am happy to read the same answer. It is also in the statement that Minister Combet put out earlier today. It said:

The fact is that a highly-efficient methanol producer like Coogee Chemicals is likely to end up with no net carbon price liability under [the government's] industry assistance arrangements, so they will not be at any disadvantage compared to their international competitors.

On the basis of information provided by the company, due to the expected efficiency of the proposed new facility, Coogee Chemicals would be entitled to more than 100 per cent of its carbon price liability in the form of free … permits.

Let us get the facts on the table, as opposed to this scare campaign.

But I remind those opposite, because there is this continuing misinformation in their campaign.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator WONG: There are many. Let everyone recall that when they supported Prime Minister Howard taking an emissions trading scheme to the 2007 election it was explicitly their policy that they would not wait for a global agreement. They would not wait for a carbon price to be introduced globally. It was specifically part of the policy that Mr Howard and the Liberal Party would move ahead of the rest of the world. They have changed their position now, haven't they?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind senators that the appropriate time to debate these issues is after question time.

Senator RYAN (Victoria) (14:21): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I would point out to the minister that that question is being asked now because of a lack of an answer earlier. Also, no part of the answer provided in the committee stage addresses the point raised by the company about increasing future costs. Given that Coogee Chemicals has spent 16 years developing the best technologies and have the lowest carbon dioxide emissions per tonne of any methanol plant in the world, isn't the threat of increasing costs in the future just another example of how the government's carbon tax is driving up emissions and not reducing them?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:22): The answer is no, for the reasons I outlined in response to the first question. If the company is in fact significantly more efficient than the industry average on which the permits are allocated, on the basis of the information provided to the government the company is likely to be entitled to more than 100 per cent of its carbon liability in the form of free carbon permits. I do not know how many times I can give the same answer to that question. It is an obvious proposition. What we know is that the coalition will not allow the facts to get in the way of any aspect of the scare campaign, which I notice is petering out a bit. It has been interesting, hasn't it? It was a blood oath and now we see a bit of moving around in the coalition's position— (Time expired)

Senator RYAN (Victoria) (14:23): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that the government is so intent on introducing its toxic carbon tax that we now know will cost Australia a billion-dollar project, threaten local jobs in the Prime Minister's own electorate as well as a potential 150 future jobs and lead to increased carbon dioxide emissions through the importation of methanol from less clean countries, why in every way is Labor deserting working Australians who want jobs and a cleaner environment? If the minister knows so much about this company, why are they withdrawing their investment?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:24): Senator Ryan is asking us about working families and low-income Austra¬≠lians. Let us remember: we are the govern¬≠ment that got rid of Work Choices; we are the government that put in place the first paid parental leave provisions in Australia's history; we are the government that has delivered an increase in the pension; we are the government that has increased the childcare rebate, increased funding to schools and increased funding to hospitals—none of which was done under the coalition. In fact, under Tony Abbott there was $1 billion taken out of public hospital funding.

Senator Ryan: Mr President, I raise a point of order. If the minister cares to range back to the topic, I could point out that she is also in the government that has seen electricity prices rise by nearly one-third—

The PRESIDENT: That is a debating point, not a point of order.

Senator WONG: If the senator cares about jobs for working people, why does he want mining companies to pay less tax and manufacturers and small business to pay more tax? Explain that. Go and explain to workers employed in manufacturing that your policy is that you want miners to pay less tax and manufacturers to pay more. Go to the small businesses in your electorate and explain to them that you want them to pay more tax but you want BHP to pay less. (Time expired)