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Climate Change Issues, Minister—Long-term Estimates

Tuesday 24 November 2009 Hansard source (external site)

Chauvel8. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) Link to this
to the Minister for Climate Change Issues

Does he stand by his statement that “I have always said that figures out beyond a decade are very uncertain”?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues) Link to this

Yes, I do. There is uncertainty about the international rules, about the price of carbon, and, in the long term, about what technologies and growth rates there will be. I recall a previous Government promising a $1 billion surplus from Kyoto, and only 2 years later having to accept that it was a $1 billion debt.

ChauvelCharles Chauvel Link to this

If figures beyond a decade are “very uncertain”, is he confident that the Government will be able to meet its “50 percent by 2050” emissions reduction target 40 years into the future; if so, how can he be confident in a target for emissions reductions in 2050 but dismiss Treasury predictions for the same year as “nonsense”?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

I am a lot more confident that this Government will meet its “50 by 2050” target than I am in believing the claims of carbon neutrality from the previous Government, when in every single year it was in Government, emissions went up, and went up faster than emissions in any other developed country. How the Opposition does not like the truth about its record!

BennettDavid Bennett Link to this

What is the Government’s long-term policy on the 1.3 percent per year phase-out rate, noting that the Act provides for it to be reviewed every 5 years?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

These allocations are being provided because sectors are emissions intensive and they are trade exposed. The 1.3 percent phase-out rate is similar to schemes in both the European Union and Australia. We are not rigidly fixed to the 1.3 percent rate in the long term, but we want to keep it roughly in line with our trade competitors, so as not to disadvantage industries that may simply move offshore and cost Kiwis jobs.

ChauvelCharles Chauvel Link to this

Why did the Minister tell the House, and the Prime Minister tell Federated Farmers, that Treasury estimates the cost of the emissions trading scheme by 2030 to each farmer at $3,000 per year, if they both believe Treasury to be so unreliable, and figures beyond a decade to be “so uncertain”?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

Because it is certainly true that for the farming sector the 8 percent phase-out rate in the current law would put very large costs on to the farming industry. If members opposite want to talk about large losses of revenue to the Crown from our changes, they should also be honest with farmers and say that they will impose very large costs on them.

BennettDavid Bennett Link to this

Has the Minister read any commentary from Charles Chauvel that says it is foolish to align the New Zealand scheme—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I am not sure how the Minister can possibly be responsible for any comment by Charles Chauvel. The member might like to reword his question, but I do not see how the Minister is responsible for that.

HideHon Rodney Hide Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understood that the member asked the Minister whether he had read the comments. That is a reasonable question.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

What troubles me about the question is where it is clearly leading. I would find it totally unacceptable if the Minister were to launch into a criticism of an Opposition spokesperson, because that is not his responsibility, unless the Opposition spokesperson asked a question that provokes such an answer. I think it is stretching the Standing Orders a fair distance to ask the Minister about comments that another member of the House has made. I am sure the member can reword his question and make it more reasonable.

HideHon Rodney Hide Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think your ruling is not consistent, because we have had questions such as whether the Minister has seen the comments by well-noted, marvellous reporter Brian Fallow, or the glorious Rod Oram, etc., all afternoon. If we can ask questions about the comments of these highly intelligent and insightful commentators, surely we can ask whether they have seen the comments of Charles Chauvel.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I hear the point the member is making. I will reverse my objection to the question. But I want to be clear that I do not want it to be used as an excuse to abuse another member of this House. I accept the point the Hon Rodney Hide has made, but if I allow this question I do not want to regret it in a few minutes’ time.

BennettDavid Bennett Link to this

Has the Minister read any commentary from Charles Chauvel that it is foolish to align the New Zealand scheme with Australia’s, as it will never get through its Senate; if so, has he received any updated reports on progress across the Tasman?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

Mr Chauvel, again, is wrong. An announcement has been made today that an agreement has been reached to enable the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation to be passed through the Senate this week. I note that the amendments have only just been tabled today by the Australian Labor Government. Its intention is to pass it through the Senate this week.

ChauvelCharles Chauvel Link to this

Does the Minister understand the difference between the shadow Cabinet of the Liberal Party of Australia agreeing in principle to some amendments proposed by the Australian Labor Party, and the difficulty that the Liberal Party will still face in getting those amendments through the party room and through the Senate?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

Yes, there are some differences of view within the Liberal Party of Australia, in the same way that I have noted here. I have heard one member from Labour saying that the agreement with the Māori Party is a sell-out by Māori, and another spokesperson from the Labour Party said exactly the opposite—

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

Would the member like me to table the statements from the various members?

ChauvelCharles Chauvel Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that the question was a relatively confined one relating to the Minister’s understanding of the Australian political environment. The answer seems to have strayed very wide of the mark.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

That was a point of order, and one would never know that from the noise in the House. But I think that is a reflection of the fact that the House is not too impressed by the member’s point of order. The question was an awfully long way from the primary question, so I do not think that too precise an answer can be expected.

ChauvelCharles Chauvel Link to this

If Treasury’s projections should be disregarded, in part because allocation decisions are to be reviewed every 5 years, why should New Zealanders have any confidence that any review of allocations done under this Minister will not simply do what his amendment does, which is to heavily favour polluters and circumvent public opinion?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

I do not think it does. If I look at my emails, there are some people who are emailing me very heavily saying that this scheme does not go far enough to protect the environment. I receive a large number of other emails and commentary saying that it is too hard on the economy. I think this Government has the balance right. [ Interruption] I say to the members opposite that for 9 years they made no progress on climate change. This Government will.

I seek leave of the House to table the papers released in Australia this afternoon outlining the agreement and the changes to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme on that side of the Tasman.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

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

ChauvelCharles Chauvel Link to this

I seek leave to table a document that you may feel comes close to a ruling that you made earlier. But I think it is in the public interest to seek leave to table a report from the Sydney Morning Herald online from about an hour and a half ago indicating that the changes to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in Australia are by no means a done deal as far as the Liberal Party of Australia is concerned.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

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

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