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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 2941

Carbon Pricing

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (14:51): My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Wong. Does the government acknowledge and accept the conclusions of the Victorian report entitled The regional effects of pricing carbon emissions: an adjustment strategy for the Latrobe Valley, which states that every Latrobe Valley power industry job supports four or five other jobs in that regional economy?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:52): I am advised the government is working with the Victorian government, Latrobe Valley local authorities as well as business and union representatives as we introduce the carbon price. I am very conscious of not allowing a repeat of what took place when the valley's power stations were privatised under the Kennett government. As the senator would know, we are providing significant assistance to industry. For example, the Energy Security Fund will provide $5.5 billion targeted to emissions-intensive generators, many of which are located in the Latrobe Valley. Latrobe workers and families will also benefit from household assistance and tax cuts, and pension and other benefit increases will assist nine out of 10 households in meeting the carbon price's modest impacts.

I am also advised that the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee was established under a cooperative agreement between the Australian and Victorian governments late last year. This is facilitating a coordinated and strategic approach to support the economic, environmental and social wellbeing of the regions which are undergoing structural economic change as they respond to global competition and a strong Australian dollar. I understand the committee is undertaking a formal submission process in the development of the Latrobe Valley transition discussion paper until—the date I have is today.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator WONG: I should sit down so they can talk to each other.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Continue, Minister.

Senator WONG: I would also indicate that the government's modelling demonstrated that we can continue to grow the economy with the carbon price.

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (14:54): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the government have any response to the announcement by Industrial Energy's general manager that the HRL Energy Brix power station and briquette factory in Morwell will be unsustainable and therefore face closure this year in response to the carbon tax, with the direct loss of more than 200 jobs?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:54): The government is committed to assisting business as we move to a clean energy economy. The government has announced that under the Energy Security Fund cash payments, $27.7 million will be provided this financial year for the generation complex. The Clean Energy Regulator is currently assessing applications for further assistance for energy generators in the form of free carbon units. That could result in additional assistance for the Energy Brix generation complex. I am advised the government will continue to work with HRL and its customers to help them manage a transition to a more sustainable energy supply. We also recognise that there are some regions and communities which may face more significant impacts than others and the senator may recall that the government set aside $200 million under the Regional Structural Adjustment Assistance Program in recognition of that fact. For identified regions assistance will be delivered through arrangements which engage the three levels of government—state, territory and local—as well as community groups and unions.

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (14:55): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Apart from the recent statement by the Minister for Resources and Energy that the Latrobe Valley could become Australia's next Pilbara, what firm commitments has the government made in the 2012-13 budget to create 200 like-for-like jobs in Morwell and so in turn safeguard another 800 to 1,000 jobs in the Latrobe Valley's regional economy?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:56): The clean energy future plan which the government announced contains some of the most significant industry and innovation policies seen. We will be investing over $15 billion in creating not only the jobs of tomorrow but also jobs in manufacturing. The various programs the government has put in place include a Jobs and Competitive­ness Program, the Clean Technology program, the Clean Energy Finance Corpora­tion and of course the Steel Transformation Plan. As I said in answer to the senator second's question, we do recognise that there are some regions and communities which will face potentially more significant impacts than others from reforms and the $200 million structural adjustment package has been set aside for that purpose.