Greg Hunt Says Carbon Tax Set To Be Abolished But Government Will Negotiate With Palmer

The Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, says the carbon tax is now set to be abolished but the government is willing to negotiate with Clive Palmer over savings guarantees for consumers.

Hunt

Hunt held a press conference at 6.45pm tonight, an hour after Clive Palmer announced that the Palmer United Party (PUP) would support the immediate abolition of the carbon tax.

However, in response to Palmer’s call for a zero-rated emissions trading scheme, Hunt reiterated the coalition’s position. He said: “An ETS is not our policy but we haven’t seen the amendments yet. It has not been and is not our policy.”

Hunt said: “What we have seen today is vindication for the government… our plan to deliver genuine savings is set to be passed by the Senate… the people voted for this change, we stood on this change…”

Hunt said the legislation already provided guarantees for full cost savings to be passed through but said: “We are prepared to work with Mr. Palmer and the PUP on further guarantees… our purpose and our goal is to give families full relief.” He said the government would be “happy for Mr. Palmer and the Prime Minister to meet on this”.

“The signature announcement this evening is that the carbon tax will be repealed,” Hunt said. He would not be drawn on what the government will do if PUP says abolition of the carbon tax is contingent upon an ETS.

Hunt said he hadn’t spoken with Al Gore. He said the government wasn’t aware Gore would be here.

The ALP said in a statement the ball is now in Tony Abbott’s court. “He’s the Prime Minister and it’s his responsibility to tell Australians whether he intends on doing a deal with Clive Palmer.”

The Greens said they were “celebrating” the PUP decisions on retaining the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Renewable Energy Target and the Climate Change Authority. However, they were “extremely sceptical about Mr. Palmer’s vague support for an emissions trading scheme”.

  • Listen to Hunt’s press conference (13m – transcript below)

Statement from the Australian Labor Party.

Climate change is a serious issue that demands a serious and effective response, not a stunt.

It’s now time for Tony Abbott to finally acknowledge the flaws in his expensive, inefficient and ineffective Direct Action policy.

Labor’s position on climate change has not changed. We will not support the repeal of the carbon tax unless there is a credible alternative that will deliver meaningful action to tackle climate change.

Labor has already voted to abolish the carbon tax in the Senate and replace it with an emissions trading scheme – and we’ll do so again tomorrow.

Whether or not Clive Palmer’s proposal delivers an effective scheme remains to be seen.

The ball is in Tony Abbott’s court – he’s the Prime Minister and it’s his responsibility to tell Australians whether he intends on doing a deal with Clive Palmer.

Doing nothing on climate change isn’t an option – the Prime Minister needs to understand that.

Media release from the Australian Greens.

Mr Palmer must clarify vague global warming policy – Greens

The Greens are celebrating the fact that Greens, Labor and Mr. Palmer will use the Senate to block the repeal of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Renewable Energy Target and Climate Change Authority, but are extremely sceptical about Mr. Palmer’s vague support for an emissions trading scheme.

“It is fantastic that the Senate will save the renewable energy institutions that the Greens established in the last Parliament. These critical institutions are reducing pollution, saving the government money and creating jobs in new industries,” Greens Leader Christine Milne said.

“When it comes pricing pollution, Mr. Palmer appears to be having it both ways. The fact is, we already have an emissions trading scheme.

“Mr. Palmer’s proposal is extremely vague. I’m not sure if that is intentional or if he doesn’t understand that we already have an emissions trading scheme.

“We need to clarify whether Mr. Palmer doesn’t understand our current emissions trading scheme or whether he is delaying sincere action on global warming.

“The price on pollution that is already legislated, is working and already linked to the European Union. It is the cheapest and most effective global warming policy we could have, and we should keep it.

“A cynical interpretation would be that Mr. Palmer is wanting to push out any effective action until after the next election, because the Abbott government will not act to strengthen any scheme like Mr. Palmer’s proposal would require.”

Transcript of press conference by Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

HUNT: The news that the Senate will now support repeal of the carbon tax is unambiguously good news for Australian families. It is the policy we took to the last election. It is a policy which will deliver real savings now in the middle of winter for family electricity bills, family gas bills and general family cost of living.

The announcement this evening means that the Senate will be following the Coalition’s plan. It’s a plan we took to the last election. And that plan will deliver Australian families on average a saving of $550 a year.

More than that, it’s to ensure that we do not see a continuous rise according to the previous Government’s modelling of a price from the current $24.15 to $25.40 next year and then onto $38 by 2020 and then, on the work of the previous, Government up to $350 a tonne by the end of 2050.

So in other words, what we have seen today is vindication for the Government because our plan to deliver families genuine savings by abolishing a policy which is fundamentally failing is set to be passed by the Senate.

The Australian people voted for this change. We stood on this change and now we see that the Senate is set to accept this change. This is unambiguously good news for Australian families.

In terms of the question as to whether or not the full cost savings will be passed through to families, there are already guarantees in the legislation. However, we are willing to provide additional guarantees and to work with Mr Palmer and the Palmer United Party on any further legislative amendments.

The whole reason, the whole purpose of repealing the carbon tax is firstly, it’s failing to do its job. And secondly, it is hurting families. Our purpose and our goal is to give them full relief.

So those protections are there but we are happy to go further and in fact we have met with the ACCC today to discuss options and we will be happy for the Prime Minister and Mr Palmer to agree on any further options which may be necessary.

However, the full guarantees are already there but if more certainty is required, we will deliver that.

I would note this – that the ALP said these electricity price savings would never flow through. What we’ve seen to date is regulators do precisely the opposite.

In Queensland, the Competition Authority has already said that there will be savings of over 8 per cent on average for family electricity bills.

In NSW, the Independent Regulator has decreed up to a 9 per cent saving on gas bills.

In the ACT, it’s 11.6 per cent savings on electricity bills.

In Tasmania, it is over a 7.5 per cent saving on electricity bills and in the unregulated States and Territories, what we see is that AGL, Origin, Energy Australia and Alinta have already said they will pass on the full cost savings.

At the end of the day, repeal of the carbon tax is repealing a system which doesn’t work, which didn’t have a mandate and which is costing families $550 a year.

I am happy to take any questions. I understand many of you will be close to deadline.

JOURNALIST: Mr Palmer says that all of this is all contingent on you accepting his amendment which would establish an emissions trading scheme in reserve essentially with a price, a carbon price at zero, only to be activated when our major trading partners move to a carbon trading scheme. Will you accept that?

HUNT: An Emissions Trading Scheme is not our policy but we have not seen the amendments and the Prime Minister will be speaking with Mr Palmer tomorrow and there may well be ongoing discussions but let me reiterate – it’s not our policy. We do, however, want to see any amendments and if amendments appear then we will consider them.

But let me say this – it has not been and it is not our policy and that remains the position of the Government.

JOURNALIST: It has been your policy, Minister. It was your view at one time.

HUNT: Well, I think we were very clear that we went to the last election and to this election with a categorical position.

JOURNALIST: Have you or the Prime Minister or anyone spoken to Mr Gore and what did you make of his appearance alongside Mr Palmer tonight in making that announcement?

HUNT: I haven’t spoken to Mr Gore and I’m not aware that the Prime Minister has. To the best of my knowledge, the Government was not aware that he would be here. It is entirely a matter for Mr Gore.

JOURNALIST: Minister, what do you make of the retention of the Climate Change Authority, the CEFC and other climate change infrastructure? Is that something you will negotiate on, or would you prefer to see them abolished?

HUNT: Our policy is clear and our policy remains but the Prime Minister will have discussions. The Government, however, is absolutely clear that the signature announcement this evening is that the carbon tax will be repealed. That’s what’s actually happening and what that means is lower electricity prices, lower gas prices and family savings of $550.

JOURNALIST: What more could be done to ensure price cuts are passed through? And is it possible to legislate a quantum of price reduction in the Federal legislation given the nature of the system?

HUNT: Sure. We already have in the legislation an ACCC power and responsibility to ensure that the full electricity and gas savings are passed through to consumers.

Today, we have met with the senior executive of the ACCC to ensure that is occurring. Importantly, not just the regulators, not just the private operators but the industry body in the last few days has also voted to ensure the pass through. And in addition to that, there are other legislative options which I won’t, I respectfully won’t pre-empt this evening.

You can understand that discussions will be had. But in good faith, we are willing to provide additional legislative support through the Parliament to ensure that the costs are passed through. They were already going to be passed through but we will provide any additional support.

JOURNALIST: Can you dictate in legislation electricity will go down by this much and gas will go down by this much given that some States are regulated and some aren’t and that there’s different companies and different pricing. Can you actually set a price reduction?

HUNT: What is possible to do is to ensure that the full cost of the carbon tax is removed and returned to consumers, relative to the different States. What we’ve seen from the regulators of course is that there are different rates in different States.

The ACCC is under no doubt whatsoever that it is possible to ensure that all costs are returned and that’s the whole reason we’ve been doing this. We have always said that we would ensure that the full costs are returned. We have empowered the ACCC not just with legislative capacity but also with $10 million to enforce ruthlessly the implementation of this measure.

JOURNALIST: Is your opposition to an ETS a deal breaker? If Clive Palmer insists on an Emissions Trading Scheme, you won’t accept his amendment?

HUNT: Look, I am not being drawn on those issues. I’m just making clear this evening we welcome the fact that the carbon tax will be repealed…

JOURNALIST: What if you don’t agree to an ETS?

HUNT: …That is the unambiguous message from tonight. The carbon tax will be repealed.

JOURNALIST: But it won’t be repealed if you don’t agree to his terms.

HUNT: Secondly, the Prime Minister will also be discussing matters with Mr Palmer and I obviously won’t pre-empt them.

Thirdly, of course, it is not our policy but let’s be clear – the Senate on every indication will now vote in the first two weeks of July to repeal the carbon tax.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t that pre-emptive though, because it sounds like you’re actually saying ‘yes Clive we’ll agree to whatever you want’? You’ve come out tonight and said it is a fait accompli. He’s put up an amendment but you still have to negotiate how that will work in practice.

HUNT: I won’t speak for Mr Palmer but I can speak for the Government. We have met and concluded that this will be the end of the carbon tax. And we take him at his word. He has said that his party room will vote to end the carbon tax.

He has also said that his Senators will vote to amend the Climate Change Authority Act. These are two different matters. But let me make it clear – every indication, every certainty is that the carbon tax will now be repealed.

JOURNALIST: His press release says that he’s going to vote against the abolition of the Climate Change Authority.

HUNT: That’s a matter for Mr Palmer. But he is voting for the abolition of the carbon tax, not just on the basis of the release, on the basis of what he said both prior to the Federal election and the West Australian election and on the basis of what he said this evening and we take him at his word. We welcome it.

It is the Government’s plan which now appears set to be adopted by the Senate and that means lower electricity and gas prices for families.

JOURNALIST: How are you coping with Clive Palmer throwing all of these curve balls at you? Are you bamboozled?

HUNT: No, I couldn’t be more relaxed. I think the important thing is just to be calm and to be focussed. We were told at various times that we would never be able to repeal the tax. We were told that electricity prices would not come down. The tax is going and prices are coming down.

The decisions of State and Territory regulators are clear and categorical evidence of that. The decisions of private sector firms are clear and categorical evidence that electricity and gas prices will see the full cost of the carbon tax removed and the decision of the industry to collectively agree to removal of the full price of the carbon tax from electricity prices is also clear and categorical.

JOURNALIST: Minister, during the election you were categorical ruling out an ETS. Now you’re open to discussions on someone who wants to put forward an ETS. Is that a change of position?

HUNT: No, our position has not changed. And let me just reiterate that clearly and absolutely.

JOURNALIST: The negotiating positions of Clive Palmer is a zero rated ETS – and you’re willing to talk to him about that.

HUNT: What we see now is this – firstly, a categorical statement from Mr Palmer that the Palmer United Party will support the Government’s legislation to abolish the carbon tax.

Secondly, he may choose to bring forward other amendments. We haven’t seen them.

Our policy hasn’t changed but he has every right to bring forward those amendments and I simply would not speculate other than to make the point – our policy is clear, it has not changed and at the end of the day, Australians will have lower electricity prices and the carbon tax will be repealed. Thank you. I understand you’re all on deadline. Last question.

JOURNALIST: Given his ETS wouldn’t come into effect until the rest of the world or our major trading partners move on this, should people take it seriously?

HUNT: I will allow Mr Palmer to describe his own proposal. Thank you very much.

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