Treasurer Jim Chalmers blasted the Greens for a decade of ‘climate inaction’ and dismissed suggestions that its key jobs summit was just a ‘feast of talk’.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers hit out at the Greens and said he hoped the party had “learned” from the “mistake” of opposing Labor’s emissions trading scheme in 2009.
In an extensive interview with Sky News Australia chief anchor Kieran Gilbert, Mr Chalmers said the Greens’ decision to reject the then Prime Minister’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Program (CPRS) Kevin Rudd, had led to a “decade of climate inaction”.
“I hope they learned from that earlier period,” he said.
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“I think this mistake is obvious, we now have a decade of climate inaction because of this decision.
“I hope they learned from this with respect, but our intention is to implement the policy that we adopted in the election.”
Labor’s plan to introduce an emissions trading scheme in 2009 was seen as the mechanism to tackle what Mr Rudd described as the ‘great moral challenge of our generation’.
But the Greens – under the leadership of Bob Brown – rejected the proposal, arguing that the policy set emissions reduction targets far too low and was “locked in failure”.
The decision to reject the CPRS has been identified as a critical moment that has led to division over climate change politics over the past decade.
The then Labor government twice failed to get the bill through the Senate – partly due to opposition from the Greens – and then dropped the proposal before the 2010 federal election.
Mr Chalmers said the Albanian government was focused on implementing its current slate of climate policies – including a target to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 – but ruled out changing its proposals.
“We want to work with everyone who shares our goals of bringing cleaner, cheaper energy into the system,” he said.
“We want to work collaboratively, but we intend to implement the policy that we carried out in the elections.”
Mr Chalmers last week warned of the “catastrophic” economic situation inherited from the Morrison government following briefings with the Finance and Treasury Departments.
Despite the budget shortfall expected to total more than $78 billion in the 2022/23 financial year, Mr Chalmers on Tuesday ruled out the introduction of a fiscal repair tax.
“We are not considering a tax on budgetary repairs. Our first port of call is to cut spending,” the treasurer told Sky News Australia.
When pressed again by Gilbert whether there would be a similar move in Labour’s first term, Mr Chalmers insisted the government was focusing on ‘cutting spending’ instead.
“No, we haven’t considered a budget repair tax,” he said.
“We’ve been looking at tax changes for multinationals, cutting spending, improving the quality of spending so we can grow the economy faster without adding to those inflationary pressures.”
Mr Chalmers also hit back at suggestions that his jobs summit was just a ‘talkfest’ leading to a ‘mothballed’ political agenda.
He said the jobs summit was a “great opportunity” to connect unions, businesses and governments to tackle rising costs of living, falling wages and record high debt.
“There is a real appetite across the country to see where we can find common ground and start addressing these big economic issues,” the treasurer said.
“We are thinking about the perfect time for that, so of course there is the summit that we want to be broad and inclusive and from which a jobs white paper will come.
“Our intention for this summit is to tap into this real appetite people have to work together.”
Mr Chalmers’ flagship proposal recalls Bob Hawke and Paul Keating’s national economic summit held just a month after the 1983 election to adopt a consensus national strategy.