Abbott’s 10 tough election questions

Tony Abbott has largely been dodging climate policy questions for the past term of government. So where does he really stand, is he a bigger liar than Julia Gillard and just how affordable is Direct Action?

The election is now officially on. Yesterday, we provided 10 tough questions for Kevin Rudd to answer on climate change policy and now it’s Tony Abbott's turn. 

Are you a bigger liar than Julia Gillard?

1) You have suggested that Gillard was ‘seriously ethically challenged’, because she broke her no carbon tax pledge. 

Yet since you’ve assumed the Liberal leadership, you and your colleagues have made a range of claims about the impact of the carbon price that haven’t come close to true. 

You told people that the carbon price would “clean out your wallet and it will wipe out jobs big time”, and that it would be like a “wrecking ball through the economy”. You also told them, "the hit on Australians' cost of living is almost unimaginable".

As some specifics, you suggested the price of Weet-Bix and other food would rise considerably, and Barnaby Joyce claimed a Sunday roast dinner would cost $100. You also tried to suggest recent 70 per cent and 80 per cent rises in electricity bills were largely due to the carbon price.

Yet 12 months on:

-- The consumer price index has risen by less than the 0.7 per cent estimated by Treasury.
-- Unemployment is at levels similar to those under the Howard government, in spite of anaemic economic conditions in Europe and the United States.
-- All Liberal state government energy regulators agree the carbon price has increased power prices by about 10 per cent.
-- The price of Weet-Bix has not changed; Coles and Woolworths have contained the impact of the carbon price on grocery prices, and even Barnaby Joyce has admitted his $100 roast claim was “hyperbole”.

Why are you any less dishonest and ethically challenged than Julia Gillard, given how misleading your statements to the Australian people have proven to be?  

Or did you and your colleagues simply not understand the basics of the economy such that you were so easily misled by vested business interests and a pensioner who couldn’t read her power bill properly?

Why the sudden concern for climate change?

2) In 2009, you said to the ABC 7.30 Report, “I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called 'settled science' on climate change”. Also the Pyrenees Advocate reported that you said at a community meeting in 2009 that “The argument [on the science of climate change] is absolute crap”.  

What did you specifically learn that led you to change your mind within a few short months?

How can we take you seriously on your emission reduction commitments?

3) You have stated you are committed to the same 5-25 per cent emission reduction target as Labor.

But your colleague Ron Boswell put out a press release just a few days ago stating that a 15 per cent emission reduction target would “render Australia virtually uninhabitable by non-hippies”.  A range of other Liberal-National MPs repeatedly make public statements – such as Cory Bernardi and Dennis Jensen – that argue there is little or no need for Australia to reduce carbon emissions. What’s more, they seem free to do this without any public rebuke from you.   

In addition you were appointed leader of the Liberal Party as a result of a revolt against Malcolm Turnbull led by a number of MPs who don’t believe in global warming.

Given this, what can you say that might reassure those concerned about climate change that your emission reduction target will not become a 'non-core' promise once you are elected?

4) According to your Direct Action policy statement of 2010 you claim you’ll acquire 140 million tonnes of CO2 abatement necessary in 2020 to achieve the minimum 5 per cent target with about $1.2 billion in funding. This equates to a cost of $8.57 per tonne of abatement.

Can you please explain why we could possibly trust that you’ll reach the 5 per cent target, when a range of experts and abatement providers suggest the cost is likely to be at least three times that amount, and the costing table in your own policy document doesn’t support it?

In explaining this can you also account for the fact that the 80 million tonnes you expected to get from soil carbon has been shown to be physically implausible and is disputed by those Shadow Climate Minister Greg Hunt has cited in support of your soil carbon claims (such as Ross Garnaut and the CSIRO).

5) It has been reported that the Climate Change Authority has concluded that, because other jurisdictions such as the US, China, and Europe are taking significant steps to reduce their emissions, Australia should up its emission reduction target to a 15 per cent cut by 2020. 

What would be the precise impact on the budget of achieving the 15 per cent reduction target via Direct Action?

Why is taxing pollution so horrible but taxing income and profits is fine?

6) You label carbon trading as a “great big new tax on everything” that is a “dumb” way to reduce emissions. But your own policy will require billions of dollars of revenue raised by taxes, mainly on people’s incomes and businesses’ profits. Even if you make savings in other areas of expenditure to pay for Direct Action, these savings could otherwise have been returned to people via tax cuts, rather than given to polluters. 

Why is taxing people’s incomes and businesses’ profits so much better than placing a tax on pollution which directly acts to discourage pollution, while allowing other taxes to be reduced on things we want to encourage like working hard and generating wealth? 

Are you secretly planning to cut the Renewable Energy Target?

7) You have suggested that your ministerial team is “ready to govern” because many have experience in the prior Howard government, such as Ian Macfarlane. So why is your team unable to reach a decision before you are elected that the level of the 41,000 GWh Renewable Energy Target will not be revised?

8) Can you provide some specific examples of precisely what it is that the Climate Change Authority missed in its review of the Renewable Energy Target, or that you disagree with, that means you need to review the scheme at considerable cost barely 12 months after the CCA completed an extensive review?

If energy demand is inelastic then why not regulate energy efficiency?

9) The two members of your team with the greatest expertise on reducing carbon pollution, Greg Hunt and Malcolm Turnbull, have criticised the carbon price as too blunt in some respects because demand for electricity and petrol is inelastic. They’ve suggested that we should also make use of energy efficiency regulatory standards to improve the efficiency of appliances and motor vehicles.

Do you dispute this view? If not, can you explain what regulatory standards you intend to implement on motor vehicles and other energy consuming equipment?

Will Greg Hunt stick around?

10) Can you give a commitment that Greg Hunt will be the minister responsible for carbon reduction policy during the first term of an Abbott government?