Price on carbon important for certainty, small business must be accommodated, the Opposition must change its narrative:

  • Opposition must commit to the long term stability of the economy
  • Government needs to accommodate and draw small business into the narrative
  • There must be a focus on the skills and capabilities that will be required to support economic transformation

The public policy debate has come too far for the Government to abandon any policy that sets a price on carbon and the Opposition must commit to the long term stability of the economy by not changing the design of the framework once implemented.

Matthew Tukaki, CEO and Chairman of The Sustain Group, has told a Sydney Roundtable that while there may be a disagreement on points of policy between the Government and Opposition, the fact remains, if wholesale economic reform as a result of a price on Carbon takes place, then all sides need to support the economy as it evolves. Mr Tukaki is also the Australian Representative of the UNGC, former Head of Drake Australia and Chairman of the Workwise Group.

“The debate around climate change policy has been raging in Australia for more than five years. We are now coming to a point in the cycle where business and industry, the community, require certainty. On the Government side, there is a need to not only set the benchmark price on carbon, there is also a fundamental requirement to set the timeline for an emissions trading platform.” Mr Tukaki said

Mr Tukaki also indicated that it was important to focus on ensuring the implementation timetable was structured in such a way that there would not be the problems of previous policy execution:

“When it comes to reforms as big as this, we need to ensure that everything is timed correctly and that the economy has time to adapt. When it comes to previous policy executions, on both sides, there is a tendency towards immediacy. I am confident that the Government has put a significant amount of work into this and therefore implementation should be more comprehensive,” Mr Tukaki said.

“We also need to be very clear that the cost of living issue is not only one that is solved on the home front, but also when it comes to the ability of small and medium-sized business to adapt and respond to a range of requirements that will be forced upon them not only by Government regulation, but by larger corporations. Keep in mind that the vast bulk of small and medium-sized business lie within the supply chains of the nation’s largest corporations - any changes in regulation will see change permeate the supply chain - it is imperative the Government does not forget the support the SME sector will require.” Mr Tukaki said

Responding to a question about the loss of jobs in some sectors such as steel or mining Mr Tukaki said: “We are in a high skills demand economy. As any economy changes, roles themselves change as opposed to jobs being lost and never recovered. Certainly jobs were lost during the Global Financial Crisis but that is because we had a global recession on. We need to be careful when talking about job losses in the context of a price on carbon because it could be the case that a job will be lost in one sector, but a new role is created in that same sector and therefore what support and training can we offer to ensure the person in one role transitions to the next.” Mr Tukaki said.

“Also, and this is worth pointing out, there has been discussion about a price on carbon forcing business in some sectors to forgo investment and turn their eyes elsewhere. I doubt this will be the case as anyone who runs or has run a billion dollar business knows, you re-factor your calculations and margins to accommodate a change in conditions. What you do not do is pull billions of dollars of projects off the drawing board in full because of a change in Government policy - yes, as sure as night follows day and a country in South America nationalises its industries that provides the example of where business pulls the pin - but not in this case,” Mr Tukaki said.

“In terms of those industries that will be impacted I suggest cool heads take a look at the work carried out by the Congressional Research Service in the United States about the implementation of the cap and trade provisions embedded within the H.R 2454 bill - where there will be impacts is if Australia fails to implement forms of regulation our industries may be exposed at the borders of other countries and on the export front - in the old days we would call these things trade tariffs and an extensive amount of work has been carried out under the WTO to unbundle that system - if we are not careful, we may in fact see tariffs back under another name - if it is one thing that concerns me in this debate it is that,” Mr Tukaki added.

Finally, Mr Tukaki also said that no analysis had been carried out to date on the skills required in the economy and that was equally concerning. Responding to a question on Green Jobs, Mr Tukaki said that while the term Green Jobs was used in vein to prescribe as opposed to define, he did say another lesson should be found in the 2007 Green Jobs Act from the United States:

“Like the Americans we need to ensure that our economy has the skills to support economic transformation as it begins. The Green Jobs Act is a good foundation for the Australian Government to learn from, but that is a roundtable for another day and a topic on its own.” Mr Tukaki said

“The Government is on the right track and like others who watch this debate unfold, in two years time we will look at this and say “what the?” Mr Tukaki said

About Matthew Tukaki

Matthew Tukaki is the CEO and Executive Chairman of The Sustain Group. He is also currently Australia’s Representative to the United Nations Global Compact, the worlds largest business led corporate citizenship program in partnership with the United Nations. Matthew was formerly the Head of one of Australia’s oldest corporations, Drake Australia, where he was also responsible for operations into Asia, Chairman of Workwise and Splash.

Contact for comment

Phone +61 410 481 404 or email matthew.tukaki@sustaingroup.net

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