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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8384

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (17:28): I think there were two propositions. One was that I was being asked to give an indication of what might happen mid-century. Obviously, what I would say to the senator is that, whilst I have enormous regard for Treasury modellers, I think they would acknowledge that when you are looking at 2050 it is difficult to be completely precise about what will happen in that time frame. But I would also make the point that the findings of the modelling are as I outlined earlier: continued growth in the economy, jobs and income, as well as the reduction in emissions from what they would otherwise be. That is the consistent set of findings from this modelling and the previous modelling. I would also make the point that the modelling does cost the costs of climate change. So we do not have in that modelling the counterbalancing set of costs that the senator does not want to talk about, which are the costs of climate change to our economy, the costs of climate change in terms of the risk that future generations of Australians will have to contend with. I think that is an important point. We do not propose this set of legislation simply as an environmental policy. It is an economic policy. It is changing the way the economy works and it is providing an economic solution to what ultimately in many ways is an economic problem, which is that we externalise the costs of pollution, we do not trap them in any way; what we do is simply defer them to the next generation and beyond. I think the senator is speaking in relation to the opposition's amendment—or Senator Xenophon's amendment, which is the same. I make this point: this is an amendment about delay in relation to a policy where we know that delay increases the costs. In this chamber we are debating policy which has been the subject of debate in this country for almost two decades. There have been some 37 parliamentary inquiries since 1991 and a number of public reviews, including the Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading, commissioned by Mr Howard, headed by Dr Shergold, which reported in 2007 and which led to the policy to price carbon through an emissions trading scheme, which the senator used to support. We have had debate in the context of the CPRS, which I think had 60-odd hours of debate—I might be wrong on that but I think that is about right. We have had lengthy debate and many Senate inquiries, including a number, I think, in which Senator Cormann was engaged.

I disagree with their position but I accept that the opposition oppose this. I do not accept the basis of their opposition. They used to support this when they were more sensible when it came to economic policy and policy more generally. They are simply trying to delay something they oppose. They have consistently done that in the course of this debate. The government's view is that it is time that the country acted, for the reasons we have outlined.