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Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Page: 6659

Carbon Pricing

Mr SYMON (Deakin) (14:31): My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Will the minister outline the consultation the government is undertaking on its proposal to introduce a carbon price that will cut pollution and drive investment in clean energy? How has this been received and what is the government's response?

Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (14:32): I thank the member for Deakin for his question. Since the government established the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, the government has undertaken extensive consultation with various community representatives, roundtables and working groups with the business community dealing with the issue of jobs and the competitiveness in the trade-exposed parts of the economy and with energy security. Working groups and roundtables have met many times on those issues. Similarly groups involving non-government organisations dealing with matters as broad as energy efficiency, household assistance and environmental issues have also met many different times. The Climate Commission has been established and conducted a number of community fora so far, as says Professor Garnaut, and the government has consulted numerous other community organisations and repres¬≠entatives. Many people have expressed views—prominent economists, religious leaders, business representatives, all supportive of carbon pricing through a market mechanism. And of course the Productivity Commission has done an extensive inquiry. So the government has engaged in extensive consultation. It has been widespread and it has been genuine.

This stands in stark contrast to the approach that has been taken and is represented by the conduct of the coalition. All we see from the Leader of the Opposition are stunts. The latest one is the proposition for a plebiscite. There is no genuine consultation or commitment to consult genuinely with anyone on the other side of the chamber, not even members of his own front bench, as we understand it. Almost as soon as this stunt was announced in the News Ltd papers, on the front page of the tabloids, the Leader of the Opposition indicated that he would ignore the outcome, he would not accept the outcome. He puts up the stunt in the News Ltd tabloids and immediately disowns a potential outcome, saying he will not pay any regard to it. The Leader of the Opposition is so addicted to misrepresentation that he now continues to misrepresent his own position. He says he wants to listen to people and then says he does not care what the result is, he would not even do that.

They cannot even get the basic details right. As the Leader of the House said a short while ago, the News Ltd papers were announcing that at 10 am yesterday this bill was going to be introduced. They just forgot one small detail—parliament was not sitting at 10 am. Nothing emerged. The House was not going to sit till 2.30. It is nothing but a stunt at taxpayers' expense that is being proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.

There might be another reason that the Leader of the Opposition is attracted to this sort of approach. At various times, as we know, the Leader of the Opposition has advocated a carbon tax, then disowned a carbon tax; he has advocated an emissions trading scheme, then disowned an emissions trading scheme; he has advocated a market mechanism, then disowned a market mechanism. He has said he respects the science and then he says that the science is absolute crap. To cover all of the positions that the Leader of the Opposition has articulated, the plebiscite would have to be multiple choice. It would have to be a ballot paper the size of the Senate ballot paper to try and cover off all the silly positions that the Leader of the Opposition has had from time to time. In fact, what would be interesting would be to see the result of a ballot on the other side of the House, because we know there are plenty over there who agree with us, who want to tackle climate change and know our proposition is the best way to do it.