The Government has called the opposition's climate change strategy 'racist' because it doesn't allow businesses to buy international pollution permits to offset their domestic emissions.
Source:
AAP
23 Aug 2011 - 5:29 PM  UPDATED 26 Aug 2013 - 9:20 AM

The federal government has compared the opposition's climate change strategy to the 'White Australia' policy because it doesn't allow businesses to buy international pollution permits to offset their domestic emissions.

Polluters will be able to purchase overseas abatement under Labor's emissions trading scheme (ETS), but the coalition's "direct action" policy focuses instead on storing carbon in Australia's vegetation and soil.

"The opposition's prohibition on trading carbon permits with other countries is economic xenophobia," Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told the National Press Club on Tuesday.

"It sends the signal that it's somehow dubious to trade with foreigners."

Mr Combet said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was engaging in dog-whistle politics and trashing a formerly bipartisan commitment to economic liberalisation and open trade.

"It is in effect a 'white carbon policy', designed to harvest some more votes, no matter what the cost," he said.

The Gillard government argues an internationally-linked ETS is essential so that pollution can be cut at the lowest cost wherever it can be achieved.

If permits couldn't be purchased overseas, the proposed carbon price of $23 a tonne would have to double, Mr Combet said on Tuesday.

In a further attack on the opposition, he said the public debate over pricing carbon had featured some of the "most absurd, inane, puerile and self-serving tripe" that he could remember.

Mr Abbott's contribution had been to "engender fear, to dumb down politics and to frighten people with deceit, misrepresentation and distortion".

Labor wants a carbon tax up and running by mid-2012. It will then convert it into an ETS with a floating price three years later, in mid-2015.

The government plans to push its package through parliament by Christmas.

Mr Combet said on Tuesday the government appreciated stakeholder feedback on its draft legislation, but the policy wouldn't be altered.

"We'll take all of the comments very seriously," the Climate Change Minister said.

"(But) we won't be changing the policy settings."

However, Mr Combet said Labor would amend the bills if that was needed "to ensure that we're implementing the policy in an appropriate way".

The White Australia policy describes Australia's approach to immigration, from federation until 1973, which favoured English-speaking Europeans.