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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 63

Senator PARRY (3:28 PM) —I have been champing at the bit to retort to some of these Labor Party mischief-making comments. Despite the compliments we are given by Senator Arbib, they are very false. He was really stacking for time. He was struggling a little today, you could just tell by the way he did not get into the topic very early. I want to talk about some real issues about the Nyrstar media release, one of the best releases I have seen from an industry in some time. You get concerned when you see large industry in Australia issuing media releases condemning the government of the day and their decisions. The dire situation with Nyrstar will be that 3,250 people potentially could lose their jobs. Senator Arbib and Senator Moore talked about the workers, saying that they were only focusing on workers.

If we were focusing only on workers, I do not think that would be a bad thing. But we are not; we are also focusing on the environment. If Nyrstar closes and moves to another country—in particular, China—that country could pick up Australia’s slack. Australia is heavily regulated. China’s zinc smelters emit, on average, 6.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide. In Australia, it is 2.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That is a huge difference. The simple equation is this: we get rid of all our workers; we close down an industry; and then what do we do? We contribute worse carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. It does not make sense. It does not add up from a logical point of view or from an economical or environmental perspective. Why doesn’t the government see this? Why won’t the government listen?

The next thing we were told today is that the government is listening and consulting. If that is the case, why has Labor Premier Bartlett consulted with the Prime Minister and not got a response? I can quote the Tasmanian Hansard. This is what Mr Bartlett said in response to excellent questioning by the leader of the state Liberal opposition, Mr Will Hodgman:

The Leader of the Opposition clearly was not listening. I met one on one with Kevin Rudd. I raised it around the COAG table when it was not even on the agenda. I have subsequently written twice to the Prime Minister on these issues, and I will be raising them again at the next COAG meeting directly with the Prime Minister.

Mr Bartlett cannot get an answer out of a so-called Prime Minister, a Labor colleague. He is not able to get a response on these important issues. This is in relation to the Nyrstar debate in Tasmania. It is a serious issue for us. Fourteen hundred people could potentially lose their jobs because of an ill-conceived, rushed emissions trading program which is not going to save the planet in any way, shape or form. It is not going to assist. It will add further to pollution by sending carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. If we are serious about this, we will be finding solutions within Australia to keep jobs here and looking at further research into emissions rather than just saying: ‘It is all too hard. Make it go away. We will just penalise industry and they will close.’ That is great for a Labor party to have industries closing on the pretext of assisting the environment when, in fact, all they are going to do is damage the environment.

I just want to mention some other comments that Nyrstar mentioned in their media release of yesterday. Again, I commend Nyrstar for the fact that they have brought this to everyone’s attention in such a public way. They should not have had to, I might add. They should have been able to rely on the federal government to do this for them. But I will certainly commend them on doing this. They are urging the federal government to make substantive changes to the design of the emissions trading scheme, particularly to the method for determining eligibility for transitional assistance for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries. That is a reasonable consideration. I hope the government are going to take this on board. If they do not, they are certainly going to lose not just industries like Nyrstar but also others.

The other thing I want to point out is the inconsistency in this government’s approach in having a catch-all. Every industry is different. Every state is different. Power generation is different in every state. Nyrstar, apart from operating in a lower reduction emission country, relies predominantly on hydroelectricity in Tasmania. What a farce it is if we are going to penalise a company that is using the greenest energy possible. The government clearly has to get on top of this, listen to industry, listen to their state premiers and listen to people around this country who know far more about it than the government does. If the government does not listen, the government is going to have a crisis bigger than the one we currently have.

Question agreed to.