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Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Page: 4276

Mr DREYFUS (3:28 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. Will the minister outline the importance of investment certainty in the transition to a low carbon pollution future and what has been the response to the government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme?

Mr GARRETT (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) —I thank the member for Isaacs for the question. The fact is that certainty is absolutely critical to the business community and to the Australian community in determining what appropriate measures and actions should be taken to respond to the dangerous threat of climate change. The fact is that action on delivering the necessary investment for clean technologies and for energy efficiencies is absolutely central to our efforts to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution. And for that investment to take place, business needs certainty. The Prime Minister has just referred to that. The Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and others have made clear on many occasions how important, in terms of economic planning, certainty really is.

The government recognise this because we have brought forward a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme for this parliament to consider, and we recognise it because we are bringing the largest ever rollout of a clean energy initiative seen in this country. I notice today a statement by the Australian renewable energy company Pacific Hydro, who, in responding to a major financing deal that they have announced today in relation to Chile, said:

Australia will benefit from similar significant investment and job creation opportunities once the climate change and energy policies proposed by the Rudd Government are put in place.

Pacific Hydro went on to say:

We call on the Australian Parliament to ensure passage of both the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) and the 20% Renewable Energy Target (RET) this year so we can set about the task of transforming our stationary energy sector into one that is substantially less carbon intensive and better able to compete on the world stage.

That was the message today from one of Australia’s leading renewable energy companies.

But what was the message that we got from the opposition? What we have seen today is a comprehensive failure of the position that the Leader of the Opposition has held ever since he came into political life. What is more, it is a position that shows that economic policy in the opposition has been abrogated to the National Party. The opposition’s position seems to be: ‘We aren’t prepared to do anything, but we’ll call for another report.’ Let us just see how long this has been going on. In 1997 the then environment minister, Robert Hill, established an inquiry into emissions trading. In 1999 the Australian Greenhouse Office released four discussion papers on emissions trading. In 2002 the previous Prime Minister announced Australia would not ratify the Kyoto protocol. In 2003 the then Treasurer and the environment minister took a submission to cabinet to establish an emissions trading scheme, only to see it vetoed. That was six years ago.

Six years ago, the opposition, when they were in government, were looking at an emissions trading scheme. In fact, as the opposition leader said on Lateline on 9 July:

The Coalition’s policy, the Howard Government’s policy last year was that we would establish an emissions trading system not later than 2012.

And he went on to say—

Mr Hunt interjecting

Mr GARRETT —This will interest the member for Flinders:

It was not conditional on international action, it was obviously done in the context of international action.

What has happened today is this. On one side of the opposition benches we have the National Party, who are sceptical about climate change and want to deny its impact and to delay it. On the other side we have the Leader of the Opposition, who previously has held that climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed. But, when the press releases came out today, I could not help noticing that the press release by the coalition announced that the coalition wants to be in touch with the rest of the world on this issue. I thought to myself: why would that trouble the opposition when, in government, they were perfectly happy not to be in touch with the rest of the world on this particular issue?

Mr Truss —You’re out of touch!

Mr GARRETT —I am glad that the member for Wide Bay, the Leader of the Nationals, has made a timely intervention because it gives me the opportunity to respond to his comments about an emissions trading scheme in which, if I read them correctly in the Age, he said something to the effect that it is a ‘job-destroying rabid dog’ scheme. So imagine the instructions that the Leader of the Opposition gives to the Productivity Commission: ‘I want you to consider the matter of an emissions trading scheme. Ignore the comments from my senior colleague that it is a job-destroying rabid dog scheme when it comes to your views.’

Seriously, that is where members of the opposition are at on this issue. And then we saw the release from the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Barnaby Joyce. Senator Joyce has seen fit to put his views on the record and state with absolute crystal clarity what the Nationals’ position on an ETS is. It has got nothing to do with deferring. It has got nothing to do with referring matters to the Productivity Commission. It has got nothing to do with waiting for any more time to allow other countries to do what the opposition cannot get its act together to think about: what it wants to do. It is all to do with the fact that the National Party do not want one at all. Why do we know that? Because Senator Joyce says that ‘delay is a vote against the ETS’ and then goes on to say that the goal of the Nationals is:

… to stop the scheme and utilise whatever mechanisms it possibly can to do that …

So what we have today is a position that has come out of the party room of the opposition, where economic and climate change policy is being determined by climate change deniers, agrarian socialists and hokey contrarians. Frankly, it is not good enough, and the opposition leader should show some leadership on this issue.