Thursday, 3 March 2011
Alp Governments’ Delivery of Commitments
You see: Parliamentary Secretary McLucas laughs, because she does not understand that point either. I dwell on it because it is the crux of the public policy debate when it comes to the so-called objective of this government: to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Penny Wong did not understand it and clearly Senator McLucas does not understand it either. It might well be in the world’s best interests for Australia to increase its emissions if it means that as a result we can reduce emissions by more in the world overall—and that is what the net impact of what we do in Australia is all about. For every tonne of additional emissions increasing LNG production in Australia we can reduce emissions in China by five to nine tonnes if it displaces coal. We can reduce emissions in Japan by about four tonnes if it displaces coal. That is a net beneficial impact for the world.
If you look at the emissions trading scheme model, it was a model that gave some compensation, but not 100 per cent. So there was going to be an additional cost for the LNG industry, an additional cost for the uranium mining industry and an additional cost to other industries that can actually help reduce emissions in the world. This government says, ‘We want to make it harder for you to do that. We want to make it more difficult for you to attract investment, to increase production of energy.’ It says this even though if we increase production of energy in Australia not only will we have reduced emissions in the world so there is an environmental benefit, it will also be good for our economy, good for jobs and good for small business, which can benefit from downstream contracts from these industries.
But what does this government say? It says, ‘No, we want to put on a tax.’ It is so obsessed with reducing emissions in Australia domestically, whether it is five per cent or whatever the target is that the government agrees with that it says, ‘We don’t care what the flow-on consequences are in other parts of the world. We don’t care whether there is a global environmental benefit. We don’t care whether people have to make a sacrifice. We want people to make a sacrifice so that we can say we are reducing emissions in Australia by a certain percentage point, irrespective of what the impact is in terms of global emissions reduction.’ That is the fundamental problem that this government has.
The reason that then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pulled back from the ETS—as we understand it, on advice from the Treasurer and the then Deputy Prime Minister—is that after Copenhagen even the government realised that that was the case. Even the government realised that in the absence of an appropriately comprehensive global framework an emissions trading scheme as it was put forward—a carbon tax—is nothing more than a tax, which does not actually help to address the problem that this is supposed to be all about. Why would we put a tax on business, put a tax on jobs, put a tax on everything and impose sacrifices if it does not actually help to achieve any beneficial outcome?
The reason I asked Senator Wong the question I did today was that I had hoped, given that that was part of the debate two or three years ago, by now she would have had an answer. The broken promise by the Prime Minister last week is not really telling us anything new. They got the photo opportunity: the Prime Minister and Senator Bob Brown. And when you look at him in the chamber here, you can sense the feeling of power; he is getting quite bolshie and is feeling very strong right now because he knows that he has got this government on the run. This government is jumping to the tune of the Greens, irrespective of whether it is good public policy or not.
What was actually announced last week? The only thing we got was a date. We already knew that the Prime Minister wanted to break her emphatic re-election commitment that there would be no carbon tax. We already knew she was going to do that but she gave us a date, 1 July 2012. Did she give us anything else? No, she did not. There was no price, although we can look at what was on the table before, given that this is just a carbon copy of what then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd put forth.