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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 7974

Mr HARTSUYKER (2:59 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to reports that the government’s flawed emissions trading scheme will result in an increase of up to seven per cent in grocery prices. Does the government expect consumers to pay more, farmers to receive less, or Australian food to be substituted with imports? Which is it, Prime Minister?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. The honourable gentleman may be referring to a report in today’s Australian, which I understand is in part—it may not be—derivative from an earlier submission from Woolworths, as I understand it, to the government’s public inquiry on the future of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. I would also draw the House’s attention to a statement which was put out by Woolworths this morning which says:

Modelling undertaken last year on the previously proposed scheme did show that food, like all goods, would incur a slight price rise. This price impact would be higher if agriculture was included but agriculture is omitted under the current plan. Woolworths submitted this information to the government in 2008 in order to assist with the compensation planning for lower income households.

Woolworths goes on to say:

Woolworth believes that the CPRS is necessary to effectively address climate change. Woolworth has already invested millions of dollars in sustainability initiatives that will reduce our energy costs and mitigate the impact of any scheme.

I would draw that statement to the honourable member’s attention. I would also draw to his attention the fact that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme white paper was upfront about the projected impacts in terms of household costs. You cannot inject a new cost for carbon and pretend that it will not flow through to the general economy. It will. The key question is: how do you then compensate households in their dealing with that? That is why the government, through its regime, has proposed a way in which it compensates low-income earners, how it compensates middle-income earners and how it also assists motorists on the way through. That is a responsible course of action.

A responsible course of action is also to clearly outline what your industry assistance packages are in terms of how you seek to transition businesses, particularly emissions-intensive trade-exposed sectors of the economy, the coal sector and other critical sectors of the economy, from a higher carbon environment to a lower carbon environment. That is a responsible, balanced systematic approach to how you bring about this sort of fundamental policy change.

Can I suggest to the honourable member, as he represents the National Party, who are in fact the ultimate denizens of climate change denial in this place, together with certain well-known members of the Liberal Party who probably should be in the National Party when it comes to climate change, that what the nation requires of us is to put aside our partisan differences on this and begin to work together on climate change for the future, climate change on a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. I note for those opposite that, in the debate which unfolded last week, after they released the Frontier Economics report, which they then disowned, they did not advance a single amendment. I think the Leader of the Opposition asked last week, ‘Why is the government not negotiating with us on the CPRS?’ I say to those opposite: how is it possible to negotiate if not a single amendment is advanced in the Senate? Not a single amendment. I could say to those opposite that the nation’s interests, economic and environmental, require a different posture on the part of those opposite both for this the renewable energy target and for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, because business needs certainty and we need to do our bit to bring down greenhouse gas emissions for the future.