House of Representatives Speech- Carbon Tax 2011

It is appropriate that we have heard just now a reference from the member for Paterson to the bipartisan target of five per cent reduction in emissions below 2000 levels by 2020. The only problem is that those opposite have no plan that will enable our country to reach that target. The only thing they have put forward is a plan which will cost billions and billions of dollars of taxpayers' money. Under their plan, Australia will not reach that emissions reduction target or anything like it by 2020. If we proceed down the path that the coalition is proceeding on, it will commit Australia to purchasing international permits at a cost of billions and billions of dollars to the taxpayers of this country.

It is appropriate that we have heard just now a reference from the member for Paterson to the bipartisan target of five per cent reduction in emissions below 2000 levels by 2020. The only problem is that those opposite have no plan that will enable our country to reach that target. The only thing they have put forward is a plan which will cost billions and billions of dollars of taxpayers' money. Under their plan, Australia will not reach that emissions reduction target or anything like it by 2020. If we proceed down the path that the coalition is proceeding on, it will commit Australia to purchasing international permits at a cost of billions and billions of dollars to the taxpayers of this country.

We also just heard the member for Paterson read out a long list of electorates. He asserts that the members of those electorates should explain their position on action on climate change or action on pricing carbon to the people of their electorates. I would call on all members opposite to explain to the constituents in their electorates why they have adopted no effective policy on climate change and why they have embarked on a script—and they have all got a script; we heard it today from the Leader of the Nationals and from the member for Paterson—which is basically about instilling fear in the people of Australia and deceiving the people of Australia. Those opposite have been engaging in dumb stunts all over the country, and in no sense have they been engaging in the kind of debate that we need to be having.

Having said that there is a bipartisan target of five per cent cuts of 2000 levels by 2020, we could then go to the fact that those opposite went to the 2007 election committed to an emissions trading scheme. The Howard government, of which the present Leader of the Opposition was part of the cabinet—he has got a bit of explaining to do—adopted an emissions trading scheme as the policy of the coalition before the 2007 election. Until four days before the second time on which the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was voted on in 2009, it was the policy of the coalition that there should be an emissions trading scheme in this country, as some of those opposite now listening to me know only too well.

The other comment that I would make on the contributions we heard from the Leader of the Nationals and the member for Paterson in this discussion is that entirely absent from anything they have said is any reference to why we are engaging in this policy and why we have adopted as a bipartisan target a cut in Australia's emissions. Of course, the reason is that we on this side of the House care about the future of our children. We care about the future of our children's children. We care about the future of the planet. We know the best target that we can now get to is the stabilisation of world temperatures at around two degrees by 2050 and, to do so, we have to immediately start cutting global emissions, which includes cutting Australia's emissions.

This is said to be a matter of public importance that raises consequences for rural and regional Australia. Of course it is the case that rural and regional Australia will be hit at least as hard, if not harder, as any other part of Australia by climate change. In particular, farming activities and other agricultural activities across our country are going to be hit by dangerous climate change. People in rural and regional Australia understand that only too well, because in many rural areas of Australia they are already experiencing the effects of dangerous climate change. That is why our government is embarking on a carbon price mechanism for Australia, the details of which are going to be announced this Sunday by the Prime Minister.

You would not think that the details were going to be announced if you listened to either of the contributions we heard today from the Leader of the Nationals or the member for Paterson. They were doing what the coalition has been doing for at least the past four months, which is going around and making stuff up—in other words, just invent­ing details about our carbon price scheme before any announcement of its detail. This is part of their scare campaign and misleading of the Australian people. Indeed, it would include attacking anyone who does not agree with what the Leader of the Opposition or members of the coalition might say. We have had month after month of this scare campaign by the opposition and month after month of them making stuff up. The recent attack that the Leader of the Opposition made on economists was someth­ing to behold. It is hard to believe that any responsible national leader in our country could have made the kinds of comments that the Leader of the Opposition made last Friday about economists. But you can perhaps understand why the Leader of the Opposition made the comments if you take a single example. A group of exceptionally eminent economists wrote an open letter on 2 June this year explaining their view about putting a price on carbon pollution. I will read one of their key conclusions and then explain who they are. They said:

We are all of the view that the introduction of an emissions trading scheme is a necessary and desirable structural reform of the Australian economy, designed to change relative prices in a way that provides an effective incentive to consumers and producers to shift over time to more low carbon energy efficient patterns of consumption and production.

It is incredibly clear. They also said:

… a price on carbon pollution, preferably an emissions trading scheme, is the best way to reduce carbon emissions over time …

The signatories to this letter, who have all signed in an individual capacity, included Paul Brennan, the head of economics at Citigroup Global Markets; Chris Caton, chief economist at the BT Financial Group; Besa Deda, chief economist at St George; Saul Eslake from the Grattan Institute and former chief economist at the ANZ Bank; Bill Evans, the chief economist at Westpac; Joshua Gans, Professor of Management at Melbourne Business School; Richard Gibbs, the global head of economics at Macquarie Bank; Stephen Grenville at the Lowy Institute for International Policy; Stephen Halmarick, Chairman, Australian Business Economists; John Hewson, known eminent economist and of course former leader of the Liberal Party; Raja Junankar, professorial visiting fellow at the School of Economics and Finance at the University of New South Wales; Geoff Weir, Director of Financial Sector Services; and Glenn Withers, the chief executive of Universities Australia. They are all eminent economists.

What was the response of the Leader of the Opposition not only to what those economists had to say but to what a whole range of other economists have had to say and, indeed, what Australian business leaders have had to say for months now? This is what the Leader of the Opposition said on 1 July: 'It may well be that most Australian economists think that a carbon tax is the way to go. Maybe that is a comment on the quality of our economists rather than on the merits of the argument.' What a cheap shot! What a disgraceful thing to say! But it is typical of the Leader of the Opposition, who, whenever anybody does not agree with him or the coalition's supposed policies, thinks that the appropriate response is simply to attack them personally.

There was an extraordinary statement made today by the Leader of the Opposition, who at a doorstop criticised the government for going to talk to the Australian people, which he described as—and this is pretty rich coming from the Leader of the Opposi­tion—'carefully choreographing photo opp­ortunities'. Think for a moment about who said that, Mr Deputy Speaker. That was the present Leader of the Opposition. What hypocrisy! The Leader of the Opposition never does anything other than carefully choreograph photo opportunities. All we have had for the last four months, since the Prime Minister's announcement of the broad framework of the scheme, is such carefully choreographed photo opportunities. He refuses to be interviewed, refuses to do anything other than hand out slogans.

I would have thought that today, in this debate raised by the Leader of the Nationals, we might have heard something about the government's Carbon Farming Initiative, which provides opportunities for revenue and jobs in rural and regional Australia, arising from people in the land sector, farmers across Australia, participating in reducing Australia's emissions and, in doing so, to earn income. It is supported by the National Farmers Federation, but of course the National Party in this place and their colleagues in the Liberal Party have decided to oppose this opportunity for farmers across Australia to participate in reducing Aust­ralia's emissions and, for that matter, to earn revenue for themselves. We have had months of them talking down the Australian economy, talking down our skills. We are a clever, creative nation, and it is about time those opposite recognised that and assisted us in designing an appropriate carbon price for Australia.