The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, uses Question Time in the Senate to ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment about the leap in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions from electricity following the repeal of our price on pollution. Senator Milne asks if Abbott will list this as an achievement of his Government.
Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:19): My question is to Senator Cormann, the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment. National Electricity Market data has just shown that electricity emissions have leapt in the two months since the carbon price was abolished by an annualised rate of one million tonnes. Is achieving the largest leap in greenhouse gas emissions in eight years something the government will proudly list in its anti-environment achievements of its first year in government?
Senator CORMANN (Western Australia-Minister for Finance) (14:20): I thank Senator Milne for that question. When we came into government, we inherited an economy growing below trend and below expectations. Do you know what the result is of an economy that grows less? It emits less. And do you know what we have been working on? We have been working on growing the economy more strongly. And do you know what happens when you grow the economy more strongly? You emit more. And you know what? We can actually stop emissions altogether if we all just sit here quietly and do nothing, but on this side of the chamber we think it is good to have a strong economy. We think it is good to have a stronger, more prosperous economy and create more jobs.
We actually know that our businesses here in Australia are by and large more efficient than many of our competitors in other parts of the world. You know what has happened with the Labor-Greens carbon tax, which I am sure you would like to introduce? It helped make businesses in other parts of the world-manufacturing businesses that were higher emitting-more competitive than businesses here in Australia. As we were losing market share to China and other parts of the world, guess what. Not only did the jobs go overseas, not only did the economic activity go overseas; the emissions went overseas as well and, for the same amount of economic output, their emissions were actually higher. So you might have been reducing emissions in Australia a little on the back of shrinking our economic growth potential, but you actually increased the economic growth potential in the rest of the world and increased emissions beyond that. You are actually helping to boost global greenhouse gas emissions on the back of the completely destructive carbon tax that you and the Labor Party imposed on the Australian people.
Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:22): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for being honest enough to brag about increasing greenhouse gas emissions, but I now ask: as a result of this great leap in greenhouse gas emissions, can the government now confirm that coal is displacing gas, wind and hydro in the National Electricity Market and leading to higher profits for Liberal National Party donors in the coalmining and coal generation industries?
Senator CORMANN (Western Australia-Minister for Finance) (14:22): Senator Abetz just handed me this article that appeared in The Mercury in Hobart in 1991, where a gentleman by the name of Dr Bob Brown-do you remember him?-made some statements on what would be good for the environment. This is what it says: 'Coal fired power, best option.' Did you know Dr Brown back in 1991? Were you chaining yourself to the trees with Dr Brown back in 1991? Guess what? On this side of the chamber we want to continue to grow the economy strongly. We want to continue to create opportunity for people to get ahead. We want to ensure that across Australia we can have affordable and reliable access to competitive energy sources and, of course, coal will continue to play an important role, as will gas, as will renewable energy sources, but we need to ensure that it does not undermine our capacity to be competitive with other countries around the world. (Time expired)
Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:23): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I note that it was former Labor Senator Ray who wanted to build a nuclear power station on Flinders Island at the time. My question is, will the government be listing within its achievements-
Government senators interjecting-
The PRESIDENT: Just a moment Senator Milne. Order on my right! Order! You too Senator Williams. Senator Milne, you have the call.
Senator MILNE: Mr President, will the government be listing in its year one achievement that it has deliberately increased the risk of more intense and frequent bushfires, floods and crippling droughts across our country? Is that something you are proud of?
Senator CORMANN (Western Australia-Minister for Finance) (14:24): As much as I would like to take that question seriously, I just wonder whether I should just say that we will have to agree to disagree. If you go into the community and say, 'Because we want to grow a stronger economy, that's why we are causing bushfires,' and we say, 'We want to build a stronger economy because we want the young people of Australia to have an opportunity to get ahead,' you can get whoever you can convince to vote for you and we will get whoever we can convince to vote for us. Why don't we just leave it at that? The truth is that your policy, the policy that you and the Labor Party put in place in the last period of government, actually made the global emissions problem worse. In the context of 'a continuing demand for certain products and services', you shifted the supply, you shifted the manufacture, you shifted the creation of those products and services into areas around the world, along with the jobs that go with it, to where the emissions intensity was higher than it would have been here in Australia.
The PRESIDENT: Before I call the next question, I remind senators when asking questions or answering questions that they address their remarks to the chair and not to individual senators. Senator Ketter.