1 Dec 2015

Govt defends PM's comments in Paris

6:59 pm on 1 December 2015

Ministers have been questioned about their record on climate change after the Prime Minister's speech at the UN summit in Paris overnight.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key delivers a speech during the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), on November 30, 2015 at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of the French capital Paris.

Prime Minister John Key delivers a speech during the opening of the UN COP21 climate change talks in Paris. Photo: AFP

New Zealand is one of 40 nations arguing for a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, which are estimated to be worth more than $750 billion worldwide.

More on the UN's Paris climate talks

Prime Minister John Key told the summit research indicated axing these could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 10 percent.

Back in Wellington, the Prime Minister's deputy Bill English was defending the stance taken in Paris.

During parliamentary question time, Labour leader Andew Little began by asking Mr English about comments previously made by Mr Key about climate change.

"Does he stand by his statement that 'New Zealand shouldn't be a leader in climate change', given that New Zealand was awarded the Fossil of the Day Award following his speech on the first day of the Paris climate talks?"

Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little challenged the Prime Minister's record on climate change. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Speaking on behalf of Mr Key, Mr English told the House that he did.

"New Zealand is committed to doing its fair share on climate change but the cost of a further reduction in carbon emissions is more expensive for New Zealand, than for any other developed country."

Mr Little then asked how Mr Key's performance in Paris reflected on New Zealand.

'Why is he embarrassing New Zealand on the world stage by saying we should reduce per person emissions only a quarter as quickly as Europe?"

Mr English told Parliament there was no embarrassment to New Zealand whatsoever.

"New Zealand has been a long time participant in the global discussions about climate change, we have credible targets..."

Metiria Turei responds to Budget 2015.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei is calling for more information on tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei then asked Revenue Minister Todd McClay how much the petroleum and mining sector had received in tax breaks for oil and gas exploration and prospecting since 2013.

"And how much revenue has the government foregone in tax deductions in this period?"

Mr McClay said Inland Revenue did not collect data on revenue on tax deductions for petroleum, mining, or any other industry.

But he said he could confirm that industry was treated exactly the same as other industries for the purposes of tax deductions.

Ms Turei then asked Mr McClay why he could not provide that information for recent years, when the previous minister had released a figure of $36 million in 2012.

"Why is it that his department is not now calculating how much the government is losing in tax breaks to oil companies, when the previous Minister of Revenue, Peter Dunne, could?"

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Revenue Minister Todd McClay said the oil and gas industry was treated the same as any other for tax deductions. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr McClay told Parliament he wasn't sure where Ms Turei had got her figures from, nor whether she was making a reasonable or fair comparison.

"Inland Revenue does not collect information on deductions. There are no special deductions for the industry she's raised, or any other industry in New Zealand.

"All companies are treated the same, we expect everyone to pay their fair share of tax, we expect them, where there is a deduction that's allowable under law, they may use that - on their profits they must also pay tax."