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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8346

Climate Change

Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Will the minister update the House on support for jobs and competitiveness in the government's clean energy future plan. How has this been received and what is the government's response?

Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (14:29): I would like to thank the member for Petrie for her question. The clean energy future plan that the government announced on 10 July contains very significant support for jobs in key industries. The jobs and competitiveness program in particular provides very significant support for, and assistance to, industries in the trade-exposed and emissions-intensive sectors of the economy. This assistance, just in the first three years of the carbon price mechanism, represents $9.2 billion of assistance for those industries and, of course, it is an ongoing program.

This program will be extremely important for the competitiveness of industries such as alumina refining, aluminium smelting, steel making and cement manufacturing. Industries under the Jobs and competitiveness program will be entitled to assistance in the form of free permits at the rates of 94½ per cent for the most emissions-intensive industries and 66 per cent for the moderately emissions-intensive industries. This will underpin the competitiveness of these industries by significantly offsetting their carbon liability. It will support the jobs of those employed in those industries and still, of course, maintain an incentive to reduce pollution and to invest in clean technology.

The package also contains a number of other very important measures: an $800 million Clean Technology Investment Program for manufacturing businesses, a $200 million clean technology program for manufacturing businesses specifically in the metal-forging and food-processing industries and a $200 million Clean Technology Innovation Program to support business investment in low-emissions research and development in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency. In relation to small business there will be an increased small business instant asset write-off, which has been increased to $6,500 for depreciating assets.

These are just some of the important programs announced by the government to support jobs and competitiveness. It is important that they are also appropriately represented in the debate. There are other measures, including approximately $1.3 billion to support jobs in the most methane-intensive coal mines and a $300 million Steel Transformation Plan.

But, of course, none of these measures will deter the Leader of the Opposition, it seems, from his campaign of fear and misrepresentation. He has run around the country trying to terrify people in a completely unprincipled, opportunistic and irresponsible manner. He has declared repeatedly that entire industries will be destroyed and that towns and regions will be wiped off the map. It is disreputable to undermine people's job security in this way, and it is disreputable to damage consumer sentiment in our economy with these claims.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister's slagging and bagging of the opposition could not possibly be directly relevant to the question he was asked, and I ask you to draw him back to the question or sit him down.

Mr Albanese: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I noticed, reading today's papers, that the Leader of the Opposition was speaking against exactly that sort of behaviour in the opposition party room yesterday—exactly that sort of behaviour. In the guise of a point of order, the Manager of Opposition Business is repeating a term that in the past you have ruled is unruly and you have asked him to desist from using it.

The SPEAKER: The expression used was one that I have indicated has been something that people listening to the proceedings of the House have expressed some concern about. I have counselled the member for Sturt about its use and on at least one occasion I have asked him to withdraw it. This is an occasion where I would hope that those observers from outside would see that the person using it is the person using it, and that in general there is some concern in this chamber.

On the point of order: the last part of this question was, 'How has the government's policy been received, and what is the government's response?' Without marking people's homework, that is code for the type of answer that we are now seeing. If there were no debate allowed in responses there would not be a problem. But that is not something that the House has addressed at this stage. I will listen carefully to the minister's concluding remarks, and I know that he knows he is required to relate his material directly to the question.

Mr COMBET: The fundamental problem here in the debate is that the Leader of the Opposition will say anything to anyone as long as it suits him at the time.

The SPEAKER: The minister must relate his material—

Mr COMBET: He will tell one audience that he is committed to the five per cent bipartisan target and on the very same day turn around and tell a seniors group that it is crazy; one thing to one person and another to another. He calls for a people's revolt and then counsels his own party for measured debate.

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister is now debating widely.

Mr COMBET: The Leader of the Opposition's word is worthless.