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Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Page: 6724


Senator BIRMINGHAM (2:40 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. Will the minister please explain why it is that the Treasury modelling for the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme fails to model any scenario where the major emitters do not join a world carbon pollution reduction pact? Further, is it the case that the minister perhaps has the crystal ball, referred to so derisively by Mr Swan last week, which can predict the outcomes of the Copenhagen summit?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I am very pleased to answer this question because, of course, the government did release the largest economic-modelling exercise that has been undertaken in Australia’s history, which confirmed yet again that it is in Australia’s economic interests to act on climate change. It is the case that, if you look at these economic-modelling results, Australia maintains strong economic growth as well as achieving its emission reduction targets in all of the four scenarios modelled. The price that is paid is that we grow one-tenth of one per cent per year slower as a result of putting a price on emissions, whilst gross national product continues to rise. It is very clear that from 2010 to 2050 Australia’s real GNP per capita will continue to grow under the scenarios at a rate of 1.1 per cent.

What I find interesting is that Senator Birmingham, who I understood lined up with Mr Hunt in terms of the anti-sceptic, pro-sceptic position of the other side, is still running the line that Senator Minchin and others run: ‘Let’s poke here; let’s criticise here.’ The fact is this: the government modelled a range of scenarios, two of which were Professor Garnaut’s scenarios and two of which were scenarios that the government put into place to gain a good understanding of the range of options that are available to government in designing this policy. I want to emphasise to those opposite—and Senator Birmingham, who I think was very supportive of the former Treasurer, might like to know this—that this is modelling undertaken by the same department and the same team that undertook the modelling for the Intergenerational report that Mr Costello used to trumpet so much. Mr Costello, perhaps in his memoirs or in one of his other speeches, made clear it was one of his great contributions to the debate.

The fact is that we have always said that climate change is a global problem which requires a global solution. I have often said it is not a question of whether we need a global agreement; it is a question of how we get a global agreement. So, of course, what the government modelled is exactly what the government are working towards with a range of different assumptions, because we understand that this is a global problem. We need to be part of the solution here in Australia. That is what this government is determined to do.

What is interesting is the varying positions of those on the other side. We have Senator Minchin, who does not believe that climate change is real, backed by Senator Bernardi—and he knows I am about to go to him as he is nodding his head—


Senator Bernardi interjecting—


Senator WONG —I will take that nod because it shows again that even your opposition frontbench is so divided on this issue that you are unable to back your leader. Your leader, when minister for the environment, said, ‘We will have the most comprehensive emissions trading scheme in the world.’ That was Malcolm Turnbull’s position when in government, and now in opposition he has a range of individuals on his frontbench who we know are part of the reason why this nation was never able to be part of a global solution on climate change. They are part of the reason why this nation, prior to the election of the Rudd government, was never able to be part of the global solution on climate change. (Time expired)


Senator BIRMINGHAM —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I note that the minister has failed to acknowledge that any of the four modelled scenarios considered a scenario where major emitters did not sign up to a world pact on carbon pollution reduction. Will the minister confirm that the Treasury modelling for the CPRS assumes that the following countries act in concert with Australia from 2010: the United States, which currently has no emissions trading scheme and is grappling with a $1 trillion budget deficit; Canada, where Prime Minister Harper recently won an election campaign campaigning against a carbon tax; and New Zealand, where Prime Minister-elect Key has vowed to wind back Labor’s ill-considered and rushed ETS, to name just a few examples?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —Can I say that perhaps the senator should check his facts more carefully. What the senator should be aware of is this. First, in relation to emissions trading schemes, one has been in place in Europe for a number of years, as the senator would be aware.

Opposition senators interjecting—


Senator WONG —The proposition is that other countries are not active. He should also be aware that a regional trading scheme is in place in the United States, with some 27-plus states in North America engaged in that. He should be aware that an emissions trading scheme has been implemented in New Zealand, and I caution him to consider whether his question accurately reflected the position of the newly elected New Zealand Prime Minister. Japan is currently trialling a scheme, and a range of other countries are considering other mitigation mechanisms. (Time expired)