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Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Page: 822


Senator BIRMINGHAM (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. Will the minister guarantee that all Australian export and trade exposed industries will be compensated for, and protected against, additional costs imposed by the new Labor-Green carbon tax?


Senator WONG (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —I can certainly guarantee we will take the more considered and sensible approach choice than some of the moderates, such as Senator Birmingham, who used to support sensible policy in this area and are now lined up behind a bloke who thinks climate change is ‘absolute crap’, which were his words.

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Wong, you will have to resume your seat. Because of the noise I cannot hear any response.


Senator WONG —As I said, it has been interesting, hasn’t it, over the last few years in this chamber to watch those who call themselves moderates on that side, who used to have a sensible approach on climate change, who used to have a sensible approach to multiculturalism and immigration?


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Wong, I draw your attention to the question.


Senator WONG —They are lining up behind a bunch of shadow ministers who have extreme views on this issue without speaking out. We on this side are a Labor government. We will always apply the values of a Labor government to the design of this policy just as we—

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! It becomes very difficult to hear what is going on in the chamber from here when conversations are taking place across the chamber.


Senator WONG —As I said, we are a Labor government and we will apply Labor values.

Opposition senators interjecting—


Senator WONG —While those opposite want to relive the election campaign over and over again, we will get on with the job of doing what is right for the country and that is what we are seeking to do. We are a Labor government and—


Senator Brandis —You keep this patronising tone up, Penny.


Senator WONG —When Senator Brandis has finished braying at me I might continue.

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Interjections from both sides do not help.


Senator WONG —As I said, we are a Labor government and as the Prime Minister has said we will apply Labor values to this policy area as we do to all policy areas. We are conscious of the range of difficult policy decisions, including the ones Senator Birmingham references, that will have to be made, which is why the government are working sensibly and methodically through the multiparty committee to deal with a whole range of issues. They include coverage, they include the price level and they include what sort of assistance should be provided and how that transition should occur, and we will continue to do that work.


Senator BIRMINGHAM —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the minister provided no guarantee, will she ensure that the Greens, and Senator Milne in particular, do not get their way and that no Australian export or trade exposed industry will be left significantly worse off, jeopardising billions in exports and thousands of jobs?


Senator WONG (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —We are working through the development of this policy through the multiparty committee. That involves not just the Greens but, as you know, other members of the crossbench. It would be better on this issue, which is important to the future of the nation, if the opposition were prepared to deal constructively with it but we are very clear that under their this leader, Mr Abbott, there will be no constructive engagement.

Government senators interjecting—


Senator WONG —Of course, yes, we know that Mr Turnbull was prepared to constructively engage and we know what happened there.

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Wong, I have to ask you to resume your seat.


Senator WONG —As I was saying, the opposition have chosen not only to deal themselves out of this discussion but to simply position themselves as entirely negative, entirely obstructionist and simply focused on wrecking this policy area. That is what you have chosen to do. (Time expired)


Senator BIRMINGHAM —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the Prime Minister has been so happy and cavalier in breaking her promises to the Australian people—


Senator Bob Brown —Mr President, I rise on a point of order and ask you to look at the last question, and take into account that the Greens have always maintained that the issue of trade exposed industries should be taken account of, to see whether or not it is consistent with—


Senator Cormann interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Cormann, Senator Brown is on his feet for a point of order.


Senator Bob Brown —standing order 73.


The PRESIDENT —Senator Brown, I do not believe that you have a point of order but I will go away and look at the question. If there is a need to come back to the chamber at a later stage I will. I am just giving you my early advice. Senator Birmingham, start again.


Senator BIRMINGHAM —Thank you, Mr President. Given the Prime Minister has been so happy and cavalier in breaking her promises to the Australian people and Australian industry about having a carbon tax just to keep the Greens happy, how can they trust these people, who keep claiming to be a Labor government, not to let the Greens get their way and decimate Australia’s export and trade exposed industries?


Senator Bob Brown —Mr President, I rise on a point of order and also ask that you take into account that question in considering standing order 73.


The PRESIDENT —Senator Brown, I will look at both questions and if I feel the need to come back to the chamber, as I said to you, I will. I will allow the question to stand at this stage and I ask Senator Wong to respond to that part of the question which she has representational responsibility for.


Senator WONG (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —I think Senator Birmingham’s question is in fact a re-run of the first or the second question, which I responded to. Again I say: these are part of the range of complex decisions that have to be made to put this reform in place. We will work through those issues with industry, with other stakeholders and, through the multiparty committee, with other members of this parliament. But, because it is in the national interest to do so, we will do so. It is regrettable that we are faced not with constructive dialogue with the opposition, or engagement, but with the sort of fearmongering that is implicit, or explicit, in your question and an opposition which simply is looking to what it believes is short-term political interest, not the long-term interests of the nation. (Time expired)