Oct 31, 2006

Questions without Notice – Climate Change

Questions without Notice

Climate Change

31 October 2006

Mr ALBANESE (2.40 p.m.)—My question is to the Prime Minister and follows the answer from the industry minister to the previous question. Prime Minister, isn’t it the case that every single announcement made under the low emissions technology fund has depended upon market based renewable energy targets established by state governments, a policy approach that you have explicitly rejected? Isn’t it the case that Solar Systems themselves have said that their solar plant in Mallee, Victoria is only viable because of the Victorian renewable energy target? Is it not the case, Prime Minister, that the Stern report identifies the need for market based mechanisms in order to drive the application and commercialisation of new technology?

Mr Downer interjecting—

The SPEAKER—Order! The Minister for Foreign Affairs is warned.

Mr HOWARD—The answer to the first part of the question is no. The answer to the second part of the question is that the fundamental recommendation, observation, conclusion—call it what you will—of Stern is that you need a comprehensive international agreement and then you can have an emissions-trading system. That has been our position—

Mr Tanner—Macfarlane said he didn’t like treaties!

The SPEAKER—Order! The member for Melbourne is warned!

Ms Macklin interjecting—

Mr HOWARD—That has been our position. I know the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not like me brandishing this document—and I will handle it with care!—but if you care to have a look at it you will find that, way back a couple of years ago, when we laid down the low emissions technology fund, we explicitly allowed for the day when you would have international agreement on an emissions-trading system. But it will not work unless everybody is in.

Ms Plibersek—Why don’t you show some leadership!

The SPEAKER—Order! The member for Sydney will remove herself from the House under standing order 94(a). I call the Prime Minister.

The member for Sydney then left the chamber.

Mr HOWARD—An international emissions-trading system will not work unless you have everybody in.

Mr Albanese interjecting—

Mr HOWARD—It will not work unless you have everybody in. According to that definition, to which the member for Grayndler assented, Kyoto is not an international emissions-trading system, because everybody is not in Kyoto. In particular, the countries responsible for half the world’s emissions are not part of Kyoto.

I was interested in the reaction of those who sit opposite when I said we needed a new Kyoto. Let me say that again: we do need a new Kyoto, because the old Kyoto has failed. The old Kyoto has been a failure because the old Kyoto did not have India and it did not have China. It had India and China as sort of nominal members, but they were—what do you call it in the jargon?—annexe 2 countries. Or was it annex 1? In other words, they were signatories but they were not obligated. Therein lay, you might say, the investment death trap for Australia. If we had signed up to the failed Kyoto, what would have happened was that we would have assumed obligations. The member for Batman knows this, because the member for Batman still cares about the working men and women of Australia and he does not want their job opportunities destroyed. That is why we did not sign the old Kyoto.

We would be part of a new Kyoto if the new Kyoto embraced all of the countries of the world, put us all on a proper footing and, very particularly, included all of the world’s great emitters. If that were to happen, you could seriously talk about an emissions trading system; but, until you get that, it is manifestly against the interests of this nation to sign up to the current Kyoto because, if there is no change, all that will do is result in the export of jobs from this nation to other countries, where the obligations imposed are less than the obligations imposed on Australia.

If we are to have a sensible debate about this issue—and I assume that that is what those who sit opposite want—then we must acknowledge that the goal is to get a framework where everybody is involved in an international emissions trading system. We are prepared to be part of the international negotiations needed to bring that about, but our precondition is that everybody is in. We are not signing something that obligates Australia and does not obligate other countries, particularly given the natural advantage that providence has given us in relation to fossil fuels. What a fool this country would be to itself, having been given this enormous natural advantage, if we were to take a disproportionate share and burden and, in effect, say to the world, ‘We know that if we assume these obligations they will hobble our efficient export industries and they will not affect yours.’ I am not going to do that and nor is any member of this government. But what we are going to do is very enthusiastically be part of an endeavour to find, if you like, a new Kyoto that embraces everybody and has an effective international emissions trading system. If everybody is in that, we can actually make a bit of progress.