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Thursday, 9 February 2012
Page: 605

Carbon Tax

Mr ABBOTT ( Warringah Leader of the Opposition ) ( 14:00 ): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer her to the comments of Mr John Hannagan, the Australian chair of the world's largest aluminium producer, Rusal, employing nearly 1,500 people in this country:

The carbon tax is based on the very flawed assumption that our competitors are going to have similar carbon or energy policies.

I ask: does she agree with Mr Hannagan? Won't the world's biggest carbon tax erode our international competitiveness, cost Australian jobs and ultimately close down the Australian aluminium industry?

Ms GILLARD ( Lalor Prime Minister ) ( 14:00 ): I am aware of those comments and, as the Leader of the Opposition ought to be aware, our Jobs and Competitiveness Program is expected to provide over $3.5 billion of assistance to the aluminium and alumina industries over the next three years to support their competitiveness and to improve their efficiency. The Rusal comments also go to the fact that there are existing policies in China already imposing an effective carbon price, and that is before you take into account the fact that China is in the process of taking further action on climate change and to limit carbon pollution, including agreeing at the international conference in Durban to be part of a global emissions reduction regime which is to be developed for both developed and developing countries and would be agreed by 2015. China has also announced that in 2013 it will introduce pilot emissions trading schemes across major cities and regions covering over 200 million people and China aims to scale this up to a nationwide scheme.

What I would say to the Leader of the Opposition is that we know that the opposition has been out there for a long period of time now trying to sell fear about carbon pricing. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition has taken one step back today from playing direct politics with announced job losses and is not maintaining his false assertions from yesterday. But the Leader of the Opposition is still in the fear business. What the Leader of the Opposition should be recognising—

Mr Abbott: Mr Speaker, won't her carbon tax ultimately close down the Australian aluminium industry?

The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has not finished answering the question. There are opportunities for the Leader of the Opposition to ask a supplementary question. He sought the call. I gave it to him on the basis that he was about to make a point of order. I now call the Leader of the Opposition on the basis that he is taking a point of order.

Mr Abbott: Yes, Mr Speaker, and I do thank you for your courtesy to me. On direct relevance, won't the carbon tax close down the Australian aluminium industry?

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat, as will the Leader of the House. The Prime Minister has the call and she will be directly relevant to the question under consideration.

Ms GILLARD: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. My answer to that direct question is that it is more of the fear that we have seen from the opposition. Let us go through the claims they have made to date. The first claim was that the coal industry would close down—proven to be absolute nonsense. Then the Leader of the Opposition was out saying Whyalla would be wiped off the map—absolute nonsense. Then he was out claiming that the government's statements that there would be benefits to nine out of 10 households was untrue. The only untruth in that was coming out of the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition when he tried to declare that those benefits would not be going through to pensioners and to working families. And now the Leader of the Opposition, against that track record of always getting it wrong, of always preferring fear over facts, is going back to the same well and inviting people to believe fear over facts again. The truth is that this is a tough time for the aluminium industry, as has been made clear by Alcoa. The pressures on them include the pressures of the Australian dollar. That is why we are working to support jobs today and will continue doing it tomorrow. The opposition, of course, have got absolutely no plans for jobs. (Time expired)