Monday, 7 December 2009

Business begs Abbott to rethink

Thursday 3/12/2009 Page: 4

KEY business groups have urged the opposition to embrace a market-based scheme to tackle climate change and deliver industry the certainty it needs to invest in energy-saving measures.

Their stance will add pressure to the Coalition to pass Labor's emissions trading bills when they are returned to parliament in February. However, after the bills were defeated by the Senate yesterday, new leader Tony Abbott vowed he would not take an emissions trading scheme to the next election, saying Nobel Prize-winning economists thought they were "rubbish policy". "We won't have an ETS as part of our policy going to the next election and we won't be having a tax as part of our policy going to the next election," Mr Abbott said.

However, the Business Council of Australia yesterday urged the Coalition to rethink that position. BCA president Graham Bradley argued that "the best way for Australia to transition to a low-emissions economy is through a market-based emissions trading scheme". Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said any departure from a market based scheme would impose higher costs on the community.

"The failure today of the Senate to pass the carbon pollution reduction scheme will prolong, if not compound, the uncertainty for business," Ms Ridout said. "While it is good to let tempers cool and allow time for clear thought, AiGroup expressed support for the amended bill and its failure to pass through the parliament leaves this important policy issue unresolved.

"Inherent in AiGroup's position is continuing support for a market-based approach to climate change as a means of reducing emissions at the lowest possible overall cost to the economy." However, other business groups, such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Minerals Council of Australia welcomed the defeat of the scheme.

ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson said: "The rejection by the Senate of the CPRS legislation provides an opportunity to iron out remaining flaws in scheme design and timing." But Mr Anderson said industry should not take its foot off the pedal in investing in new energy-saving technologies.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Mitch Hooke said Labor's scheme failed to reduce emissions or protect Australia's export industries. Mr Hooke called for a phased auctioning of carbon permits, and a "measured" transition to a low-carbon economy that was in step with action by other countries.

Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association chief executive Belinda Robinson warned the states not to step in. "The failure of the domestic emissions trading scheme legislation to pass the Senate should not be used as an excuse by any jurisdiction to implement high-cost, uncoordinated, piecemeal measures,"she said. "We want to see a price on carbon, we want to see leadership at the national level and we want to see a policy approach.., that leads to the expansion of the natural gas industry."