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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8329

Carbon Pricing

Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (14:51): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to modelling released today by the Centre for International Economics which shows that, if Australia acts ahead of the world in introducing a carbon tax and the world does not follow, it will have a vastly bigger impact on productivity, wages and the cost of living. When will the government release the modelling of the scenario which would appear to be the most realistic, the situation in which the rest of the world does not match the government's zeal in seeking a tax on carbon dioxide?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:52): I do not wish to be rude to the senator but that was actually the question I answered previously.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! This is not the time to debate it.

Senator WONG: I am happy to briefly reprise some of the answer but it is the same question as Senator Brandis asked me.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, on a point of order on direct relevance: it is not the opposition's fault if the minister does not understand the question. Senator Boswell's question was specifically directed to modelling.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. There still remains one minute and 45 seconds in which the minister can address the question.

Senator WONG: In the government's view the report released by the MCA on the impact of the carbon price on the Australian economy significantly overstates the costs to the economy of carbon pricing. I have gone through the reasons, in my answer to Senator Brandis, why that is the case, which include the assumptions around international trade and the assumptions around the carbon price that proceed from those. So I am not really sure—through you, Mr President—how much more assistance I can provide. I could read out precisely the same details that I read out on the previous occasion if the senator really wants, but I think the key issue is that the government does not agree, for the reasons I have outlined previously, with the findings of the modelling commissioned by the Minerals Council. The government stands by the Treasury modelling, which confirms that Australia will continue to enjoy strong economic growth under a carbon price.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, on a point of order: before the minister sits down, the point of order is this. Senator Boswell asked when the government would release its modelling. You know, Mr President, that the minister did not touch on that issue in her answer. She has 44 seconds. She seems to have been bringing her answer to comple­tion. You ought to direct her to address the question she was asked.

The PRESIDENT: I understand the minister has completed her answer to the question. It is very difficult to take a point of order after the minister has sat down.

Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (14:55): Mr President, I ask my supplemen­tary question. If the minister disagrees with the Centre for International Economics modelling, why doesn't she release the assumptions and data for its MMRF and GTEM models, which would allow others to run like-for-like modelling scenarios and subject the government's claim to public scrutiny? What have you got to hide?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:55): As I have previously discussed with Senator Boswell on many occasions, the government has released an enormous amount of detail associated with this modelling—

Senator Brandis: But you have not released the assumptions behind—

Senator WONG: I will take that interjection. That is not correct. The assertion from Senator Brandis is that we have not released assumptions. There have been assumptions released. The government has put out some 200, I think, pages of modelling results, including 100 charts, and 350 pages of consultants' reports. The report provides a detailed explanation of assumpt­ions used in the modelling and is, if I may say, much more significant than the modelling which was not done, for example, under the Howard government in relation to water policy. We have been very transparent about the modelling which has been released. I accept that the opposition simply cannot accept the Treasury findings, which are that the economy continues to grow, wages continue to grow, jobs continue to grow and emissions fall against what they would otherwise be— (Time expired)

Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (14:56): I thank the minister for her answer and have a further supplementary question. Minister, I refer to the estimates committee where Mr Glyde said it was impossible to model because there was not sufficient information for a third party to do the modelling. Another part of that was that Ms Quinn said the modelling had not been released before 2007. In view of that fact, there is no chance that anyone has the modelling. Will you come clean and give us— (Time expired)

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:57): I will do my best with the question. I think it goes to the transparency of the modelling, and what I would refute is that there has been a lack of transparency.

Senator Abetz: Release it!

Senator WONG: Well, we have released two sets of modelling. The largest modelling exercise ever undertaken in the country's history was released and then it was updated, and we have released reports and charts and the consultants' reports and a whole range of the assumptions which underpin it. The truth is, Mr President, they want to talk about these issues because they do not want to talk about the fact that the Australian Treasury are advising the same thing that they advised Mr Howard when those opposite were in government: that you can introduce a carbon price and still grow your economy, grow your incomes and grow jobs.