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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7845


Mr ROBB (3:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change. Given that the Minister for Resources and Energy has now conceded that the legislation is flawed in expecting Australian coal producers to pay for emissions not only in Australia but also in Japan, will the minister now disclose to the parliament the government’s own planned changes to its emissions trading scheme?


Mr COMBET (Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change) —I thank the shadow minister for the question, and I think I can immediately refute his interpretation of the earlier answer by my colleague the Minister for Resources and Energy. The government has had a very clear position in relation to the coal industry from the outset in the development of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. There is a wide variation across the industry in methane emissions, fugitive emissions, on a mine-by-mine basis for geological reasons. To take the sort of proposition that is suggested in the Frontier Economics report that somehow you can have some best practice baseline—


Mr Robb —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order on relevance. The minister is answering yesterday’s question. It is a totally different question.


The SPEAKER —The member for Goldstein will resume his seat. The minister is responding to the question.


Mr COMBET —To take, as is suggested in the Frontier Economics report—which, of course, is not coalition policy, we understand, but which has been vigorously advocated by the shadow minister and the Leader of the Opposition—the approach that there is some best practice baseline in the coal industry by which assistance can be allocated to coalmines in relation to their fugitive emissions is thoroughly erroneous. The government for that reason has taken the approach of targeting the assistance specifically at those mines which will incur under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme the most substantive carbon liability.


Mr Turnbull —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order on relevance. The minister is valiantly making an answer that bears no relation to the question he was asked.


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The minister prefaced the start of the answer to the comments about the referred answer by the Minister for Resources and Energy.


Mr COMBET —For this reason the government have been targeting the assistance that we have on the table, which is of a quantum of $750 million, to those mines that have the most significant fugitive emissions liability. If the coalition had some view, had a policy position, that was capable of adoption in their own party room, the opportunity has been available to them to articulate it and put it forward for months and months and months. And not one single amendment, not one single policy position, has come from those opposite.


Mr Hunt —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The question was about Australians paying for Japanese emissions.


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Flinders will resume his seat. The minister will resume his seat. It is not for me to make commentary about the questions and answers, but I think that the member for Flinders may like to review the question, because that was not the question.

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —No. You asked, on the basis of referring to the answer from the minister for energy, whether there were any proposed changes.


Mr Robb —Mr Speaker—


The SPEAKER —The member for Goldstein will resume his seat. You have had three points of order in two minutes.

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Well, if I was wrong, I am still saying that in the preliminary parts—

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Again I stress, as my predecessors have stressed, that when there are preamble comments it has been permissible, on relevance, that the answer can go to those points. And, in fact, there was a lot of preamble to the question.


Mr Robb interjecting


The SPEAKER —No. I think if the honourable member for Goldstein would reflect—

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —If he refers to the question to the minister for energy and then asks about whether there are plans for government changes, that broadens the question beyond the specificity in the final point.


Mr Pyne —It might just assist the House and the chair if I read the preamble to the question which was not a preamble of rhetoric but actually a specific reference: It reads: ‘The energy minister has now conceded that the legislation is flawed in expecting Australian coal producers to pay for emissions not only in Australia but also in Japan.’ The point is that we are seeking an answer about the emissions to be paid for in Japan, not an answer about $750 million of assistance to the coal industry.


The SPEAKER —I do not think that really assisted. When there are expressions used such as ‘flawed’ perhaps we should have a discussion about whether the argument that is in these questions could be ruled out because it is the argument that then opens the possibility of answers—for example, when you talk about the energy minister’s admission of flawed legislation.


Mr COMBET —The simple fact remains that if there is a concern on the opposition’s part about the treatment of the coal industry under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a policy position could have been discussed and adopted in the coalition party room. It could have been put forward in the form of an amendment. The amendment could have been discussed in the context of the Senate considerations or at an earlier stage. But the fact is that they are disunited. They cannot agree on a single policy issue and today they have stood up in the Senate and voted against a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which is the only mechanism by which we are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this country, and they will be held to account for it.