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Thursday, 24 February 2011
Page: 1422

Ms SMYTH (2:21 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister outline the importance of taking action on climate change and explain how the government’s approach to introducing a carbon price will help create a clean energy nation?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I very much thank the member for La Trobe for her question. In answer to her question and to the members of the parliament assembled today, I would say that pricing carbon and the carbon mechanism we have put forward today comes down to some very simple, very logical propositions. Proposition No. 1: climate change is real and caused by human activity. On this side of the House we believe that the scientific consensus shows that that side of the House is mired in division and the Leader of the Opposition has had every position on that question it is possible for a human being to have—in favour, against, in favour, against, confused, does not know, in favour, against.

Proposition No. 2: human history tells you that when there is a wave of change it pays to be on that wave. Take the Industrial Revolution, for example. The countries that prospered absorbed the change rather than lingering behind. Take the information technology revolution. The countries and people that prospered rode that wave of change. Bill Gates did not become a wealthy man today by saying, ‘I’ll sit around for 15 or 20 years to see what happens next with information technology.’ He rode the wave of change.

Our country too, as the world moves to a lower pollution future, needs to be there moving with the rest of the world. We cannot afford to be left behind. And the world is moving. Thirty-two countries have moved, 10 US states have emissions trading schemes, and as we move and as the world moves to a lower energy future we need to price carbon. We believe on this side of the parliament that market-based mechanisms work. We do not believe that the Australian economy is a soviet command and control style economy. It is a market based economy where market based mechanisms provide the most efficient ways of changing. And so economists around the world and the government believe that a market based mechanism will transform our economy at the lowest cost, and then of course it is just axiomatic that you will drive change if you price carbon. At the moment you can emit carbon pollution for free. If you price carbon, then people will innovate and people will change. At the end of the day, it all comes down to whether or not you have got the courage to face and shape the future. Yes, it does take courage to shape and face the future. It took courage when the Hawke Labor government dealt with tariff reform in this country, and when they dealt with tariff reform what they were doing was sending a price signal to industries in this country that they would have to innovate and change.

Let us look at what happened with that tariff reform. There were all sorts of fear campaigns at the time about job losses and the end of Australian industry, but as a result of that kind of reform we are prosperous and stronger today. We will send a price signal on carbon. We will hear fear campaigns from the opposition today and people should remember that those fear campaigns end up amounting to nought. We are a creative and confident people. We will get this done.

The SPEAKER —Before calling the Leader of the Nationals, the member for Mitchell might explain to the member for Herbert what a warning is a precursor to. It is a 24-hour or one-hour possibility. The member for Herbert should be careful.