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Carbon Tax—Climate Change, Minister's Statements

Thursday 9 November 2006 Hansard source (external site)

Smith2. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) Link to this
to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues

How does he reconcile his statement last year, that “The Government has decided not to implement a carbon tax, or any other broad-based tax, in the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.”, with his statement in this morning’s New Zealand Herald that a State-imposed carbon tax could end plans for a coal-fired Marsden B power station?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) Link to this

Easily.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Why did the Government announce a carbon tax in 2004, saying it was the right approach; then in 2005 drop it, saying it would not work; yet now in 2006 it is again saying the carbon tax is a good idea; and with such flip-flops is it any wonder there is complete confusion about the Government’s climate change policies?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

That member obviously should clean out his ears.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Please be seated. We are not having the sort of editorialising that goes on. We ask questions and we give answers.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

The member should know that I said, in December last year, and have repeatedly stated since, that the Government is considering pricing emissions in the electricity sector through emissions trading, a narrower carbon tax, or other measures. Unlike the National Party, we have been consistent in pursuit of climate change policies.

BEYERGeorgina Beyer Link to this

Has he received any further reports about consistency in climate change policy?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

I have received reports the Government has been consistent in pursuit of climate change policy. The Permanent Forest Sink Initiative is but one example, which now has widespread support in the House. National opposed it on the first reading of the bill. National opposed it at the select committee. John Key said, at the first reading: “I rise on behalf of the National Party to give the good news to the people of New Zealand—that is, the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill is a load of rubbish and the National Party will not be supporting it, for very, very good reasons indeed.” Talk about inconsistency, Dr Smith!

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

How does he reconcile the statement made by the Prime Minister at Labour’s conference—that the Government did not proceed with the carbon tax because it could not get a parliamentary majority to put it in place—with his statement made on Morning Report on 22 December: “We haven’t even endeavoured to find a parliamentary majority for the carbon tax, because we don’t think it’s appropriate.”, and his press release made at the time that: “A carbon tax would not cut emissions enough to justify its introduction.”; and who is telling the truth, himself or the Prime Minister?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

As was said at the time, it was clear in terms of parliamentary majorities that National, United Future, New Zealand First, and the Māori Party during the election had said they would not support the carbon tax. That means we did not have a parliamentary majority. It is also true that at the time the whole-of-Government review into climate change policy indicated there might be better ways to design a carbon tax, and for both of those reasons we have done that.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Does he agree with the statement made by the Minister of Revenue, Peter Dunne, on this Monday on Climate Rescue Radio, that a carbon tax would not make a lick of difference and would not proceed; if so, why did he yesterday tell the New Zealand Herald the opposite; and whom do we believe—the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues, or the Minister of Revenue?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

There is no doubt that introducing a price for carbon emissions at the margin for new electricity generation does affect emissions, because it changes the relative profitability or the relative economics of different sorts of generation. If the House wants confirmation of that from other than me, I quote from the same article that Dr Smith quoted from earlier, in respect of comments made by Mr Williams about Mighty River’s proposal at Marsden B: “Whether it’s built will depend on other things such as whether a carbon tax is imposed. If a carbon tax is imposed, it makes the project relatively less attractive. The bigger the tax, the less attractive it becomes.” So I wouldn’t disagree with the Minister’s statement.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Why did the Minister say on Climate Rescue Radio: “You ask me what date would New Zealand be carbon neutral. We haven’t picked a date yet. You’ll find it becomes clear in 6 months.”, when the truth is that the Prime Minister’s carbon-neutral promise is a fantasy, and his Government has no intention of ever setting a date by which it will be achieved?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

It is not a fantasy to aspire to be carbon neutral.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Will the Minister now tell the House when the Government will meet this objective of the Prime Minister of being carbon neutral, or will he at least tell us when the Government will set a date for that goal to be achieved?

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Has the Minister seen the advice from Treasury that there is no realistic policy by which his Government can achieve the Kyoto targets by 2012; and what sense does it make to not be able to meet that very modest target, when the Prime Minister proposed the unbelievable target of New Zealand being carbon neutral?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

That shows the difference between National and Labour on climate change. We think it is appropriate to aspire to be carbon neutral in the longer term—we did not say in the shorter term; we said in the longer term. National is beset with indifference on this issue, because its own leader even now cannot unconditionally agree that climate change is a problem. I seek leave to table the transcript of an interview with Dr Brash on the regional farming show, when he said: “The National Party, I have to say, isn’t convinced that the science on climate change is finally settled.”

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

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