Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill [No. 2] - Amendments - 10/07/2014 In Committee


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:26): I actually want to ask the minister some questions, but before I do I just want to explain to those who might be listening to the debate what the committee stage of a bill is—which is what we are dealing with now. This stage gives senators the opportunity to ask either the minister or whoever has moved the amendment questions on particular information in the bill or the amendment.

I mention in passing that we have had all these pious pleas from senators over the last couple of days about not having enough time for debate, and yet we had the first speaker for the opposition this morning spend 15 minutes on a rhetorical address—something that she and her colleagues have said many times over—to the Senate and not ask a serious question, except for: 'Why doesn't the Liberal Party support market schemes?' This has nothing to do with the bill before the chamber. There is the hypocrisy of senators claiming a shortage of time to ask questions when it is wasted on a 15-minute speech that we have all heard time and time again.

I have to say to Senator Milne that at least she did start off by asking some questions about the matter before the chair, but then she could not help herself and got into the rhetoric of the big end of town. I think Senator Singh also mentioned those conservative groups. No doubt they are both talking about Lord Deben—a retired United Kingdom politician, who is now 'His Lordship' and a member of the unelected upper house in the United Kingdom and who has very significant business interests in the biggest wind farming conglomerate in Europe. He is also a consultant for a sustainability consultancy company. One might ask Lord Deben when he comes to interfere in Australian politics just what his interest in wind farms and alternative energies is. I have said in the media that matters relating to Australian policy and Australian government are matters for Australian politicians, not for retired British politicians now serving in the unelected House of Lords. If he wants to take part in the debate, perhaps he could just indicate to us what his financial interest is in ensuring that sustainable renewable energy continues in Europe and in the United Kingdom.

As I said, I do want to ask some questions about the bill before the chamber. I will try to do that quickly, because I acknowledge that, although we have had these debates ad infinitum over many years, there is a limit on the time today and I do not want to take up the time of other senators who want to put forward genuine questions. But I might say to the Labor Party that, if all they are going to do is to get up and give 15-minute political addresses about what we have heard time and time again, that is not what the committee stage is about. If that is going to be abused I would urge other senators to take note of the hypocrisy of the Labor Party in not using the time to ask questions but simply giving boringly repetitive speeches that we have heard many times before.

Minister, you have been asked by Senator Milne about the job losses that might occur in Tasmania if something happens, but I would like to ask the minister a similar question. Minister, do you have any reliable statistics on the job losses in Australia that have happened as a result of the imposition by the Labor-Greens alliance of a carbon tax? I know we can look at Toyota and Holden; we can look at the coalmines of Central Queensland, up where I come from; we see reports of the numbers of jobs that have been lost; we see increasingly Australian manufacturing organisations moving overseas because of the high cost of energy and the carbon tax. So I ask the minister whether he does have any statistics about that. That is one question.

I also want to ask the minister: is it correct that Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's carbon emissions? The great friend of the Labor Party, Lord Deben, is indicating that the United Kingdom climate is part and parcel of the Australian climate. That is a self-evident statement, I would think. Of course, the globe's climate is one and the same thing. But he and the Labor Party and the Greens seem to think that, because Australia—which emits less than 1.4 per cent of the carbon emissions in the world—is getting rid of this carbon tax, that it is going to affect the climate of the United Kingdom and everywhere else in the world. I am sure the minister will be able to assist me as well on just what percentage of the world's carbon emissions come from Europe, from China and from North America. If that is readily available I would appreciate the minister's answer, because I just want to put it in perspective. Australia emits, I think—I seek confirmation—less than 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions of carbon. The Labor scheme was meant to reduce that 1.4 per cent by five per cent. According to Senator Milne and Lord Deben, all these cyclones would stop, all the floods would stop and all the coral bleaching would stop if Australia were to reduce its 1.4 per cent of emissions by five per cent. I simply ask the question, Minister: is it correct that Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent?

I also want to ask the minister to remind me, if he has this information, what the Labor government's forward trajectory of carbon emissions in Australia was under their scheme. I seem to recall that, rather than reducing carbon emissions, the Labor scheme actually quite substantially increased carbon output through to 2020. I seek the minister's advice on that.

Finally, I suspect the minister may have answered this question yesterday when I was not in the chamber—I think Senator Xenophon may have raised it—but perhaps the minister could explain briefly why the government did not accept the amendment of Senator Xenophon. Senators might recall that I actually voted against my government and in favour of Senator Xenophon's motion because, having seen it only very quickly in the previous division and having less than 60 seconds to make up my mind, it did seem to be quite a fair second reading amendment that sought to look at a couple of other aspects—besides the carbon tax, that is—of the increases in electricity.

The CHAIRMAN: Senator Macdonald, I draw your attention to the fact that that amendment was dealt with yesterday and is not part of the question before the committee.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Okay. I apologise for that. That was a second reading amendment, but I understand that Senator Xenophon did ask yesterday in the same way that I am asking today. The chairman at the time did not stop Senator Xenophon. I am just interested, not in dealing with the second reading amendment, but I will remove that from my questions for the minister, unless he should be desperate to answer it. I will leave my questions to those that I have raised.

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