House of Representatives Speech- Carbon Pricing 2011

What the member for North Sydney, the member for Wide Bay and all those opposite seem to fail completely and utterly to realise is that the reform of the government's carbon price package is about creating new jobs for Australians and attracting investment in the clean technology industries of the future. Led by the weathervane Leader of the Opposition, whose idea of long term appears to be 12 hours after the 24-hour news cycle, those opposite cannot recognise anything long term and they cannot recognise—and we have just heard this again in the speech from the Leader of the National Party—that this is a global problem. They cannot recognise that this is a problem that Australia needs to make a contribution to solving.

What the member for North Sydney, the member for Wide Bay and all those opposite seem to fail completely and utterly to realise is that the reform of the government's carbon price package is about creating new jobs for Australians and attracting investment in the clean technology industries of the future. Led by the weathervane Leader of the Opposition, whose idea of long term appears to be 12 hours after the 24-hour news cycle, those opposite cannot recognise anything long term and they cannot recognise—and we have just heard this again in the speech from the Leader of the National Party—that this is a global problem. They cannot recognise that this is a problem that Australia needs to make a contribution to solving.

Previous speakers from the opposition also seem to have forgotten that the coalition says—and I say that advisedly—that it shares the government's target of a five per cent reduction in Australia's carbon emissions by 2020. The reason I have to say 'says' is that nothing about the coalition's conduct and nothing about the way the coalition has approached the carbon price suggests that in any way the opposition takes this seriously. Instead what we have had, today and yesterday and for many months now, is mindless negativity. Those opposite have effectively been talking down our economy, talking down our businesses, talking down our workers, because that is the approach that they have taken.

The best thing that we can do for Australian businesses and for Australian families is to put in place a carbon price that will be part of the fundamentals, going forward into the 21st century, of a modern and competitive economy powered by clean energy. That is a realisation that countries around the world, particularly those in western Europe and, more close at hand, New Zealand, have already come to. The reality is that if we wish Australia to prosper in the 21st century, if we wish Australians to prosper in the first-rate economy that Australia is entitled to be into the future, then it cannot be with anything other than a clean energy economy. All of the credible analysis, including the report by Sir Nicholas Stern in the United Kingdom and the reports that have been done for us by Ross Garnaut here in our country, shows that we can make big cuts in carbon pollution in our country while the economy continues to grow strongly. That, of course, is the path that those in western Europe have already embarked on. It is the path that across the Tasman the government of New Zealand, with bipartisan agreement, has already embarked on. And it is the path that we will start on when the government's clean energy package passes through the House of Representatives tomorrow.

We had Treasury modelling that shows that under a carbon price starting at $20 the economy grows strongly, with average growth in gross national income per capita of 1.1 per cent a year, down from 1.2 per cent a year. The Treasury modelling shows that average incomes continue to grow strongly, rising by about $9,000 per person by 2020 in real terms. The Treasury modelling shows that jobs will continue to grow strongly, with 1.6 million additional jobs by 2020. And the Treasury modelling shows that, while this growth is occurring, carbon pollution will fall by 160 million tonnes per year in 2020. We also know that the longer we wait, the greater the costs will be. The costs will increase the longer we delay and a failure to act now will only undermine our future competitiveness—and that will be so, of course, if we delay as is proposed by those opposite with their amendment to the legislation to put off the start of the carbon price scheme.

There is a clear economic consensus that we need a carbon price for future jobs and we need a carbon price for future growth, although you would not have known it from the way the member for North Sydney spoke earlier and the references he made to the recent work of the International Monetary Fund with its report on Australia. Last week in that report the International Monetary Fund endorsed our carbon price policy, saying that they:

… support the proposed introduction of a carbon price as … a transition to a permit is trading system to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

In the same report the IMF congratulated the Australian government on the firm action that we took during the global financial crisis and on the policies that we have put in place since that time.

We know from the work of the Productivity Commission, reported to this parliament in May this year, that the costs to the economy will be much higher under the policies of those opposite. Of course, the time is coming when the spotlight will now turn to the policies of the coalition, the so-called direct action policy, which will lead directly to higher prices and higher taxes over time. That is a policy of paying polluters, which is in fact what is proposed by those opposite.

The reason I say that the spotlight will turn to those opposite is that once this legislation passes through the House of Representatives and then, within weeks, passes through the Senate and becomes law we will have increasing hysteria, as the Prime Minister said earlier today, from those opposite as they continue to assert that they are going to repeal our carbon price mechanism. If that is to be believed—and I do not think for a moment that it is, but if that is to be believed—the opposition will need to demonstrate what they will replace the carbon price mechanism with. At the moment it is the pathetic fig leaf of a policy that was produced in February 2010 by the opposition, which has not been updated or altered in any way. It is a plan under which polluters will be paid by the government to reduce pollution. The opposition's policy is, in effect, to tax the people to give money to polluters. Under our plan, polluters will pay for their pollution by paying the carbon price on every tonne of pollution that they produce.

I will mention a few more differences. Under the government's plan, markets pick the most effective ways to reduce pollution; under the opposition's approach, the government would pick winners. Under the government's plan, business will have long-term investment certainty; under the opposition's approach, there would be no investment certainty. Under the government's plan, we will continue with Labor's great tradition of long-term reform of the economy; under the opposition's approach, there would be no more than a stopgap political solution. In fact, as was revealed very clearly in a debate that the member for Flinders conducted with me last week in Melbourne, the opposition has no plan after 2020. That was the answer of the member for Flinders when asked what the opposition was going to do if it were to be in government after 2020. His answer, and he is the opposition's spokesman on climate change matters, was to say, 'We'll be reviewing things in 2015.' If you examine the pathetic fig leaf of a policy that the opposition has put forward, the so-called direct action plan, that is the answer that one reads because there is nothing after 2020—there is no plan; there is no trajectory of falling emissions, as there is under the government's plan; there is no certainty; there is no long-term predictability. Under the government's carbon price plan, nine in 10 Australian households will receive assistance; under the opposition's approach, there would be no assistance for households. Under the government's plan Australia will meet the emissions targets. We are told by those opposite that they are bipartisan targets, that those opposite agree with them, but on no view could those targets be met under the opposition's approach. Those opposite know this. That is why they do not want to talk about their own plan. They do not want to talk about what they would replace the government's carbon price mechanism with. Those opposite know that the government's plan is the most effective, fairest and most affordable way of transforming our economy, but they cannot admit it because to do so would require the coalition to reflect on the complete ineffectiveness of their own policy. Instead, we have those opposite scratching around for any excuse to delay the action that needs to be started now in order to begin Australia on the task of reducing our national emissions. They make any excuse to delay anything and avoid taking action.