Climate change is the big bad bogey at the moment and we know that Peter Costello has had an emissions-trading scheme on the drawing board for five years now.

Will we see something like this on Tuesday night? It may be just a little too complicated for the punters. It might get left out in favour of more easily dimensioned and digested schemes such as rebates for energy savings measures in the home.

If you look at the balance of trade figures from last week, however, you can see why the Government needs to act. Australia’s trade shortfall more than doubled to $1.62 billion in March from $728 million in February, a bigger figure than expected.

Have a look at the analysis and comments section of the Bureau of Statistics website and you’ll see this:

In seasonally adjusted terms, goods and services debits rose $101m (1%) to $19,461m. Intermediate and other merchandise goods rose $521m (8%) and capital goods rose $13m while other goods fell $206m (29%) and consumption goods fell $203m (4%). Services debits fell $23m (1%)…

In seasonally adjusted terms, imports of intermediate and other merchandise goods rose $521m (8%) to $7,036m

The main components contributing to the rise in the seasonally adjusted estimates were:

  • fuels and lubricants, up $342m (23%), with crude oil import volumes up 21% and prices up 6%…

Imports of capital goods were flat, imports of consumption goods fell 4%, other goods by 29%, services by 1% — but oil went up 23%.

No one seemed to notice — except the oil industry itself, which,in best Australian style, went looking for a handout to ease the pain:

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief executive Belinda Robinson says Australia produced 80 to 90%  of the oil it consumed one decade ago.

She says that amount has dropped to 55%.

APPEA says there should be a more flexible licensing system in Australia to encourage exploration.

Ms Robinson says oil production in Australia is rapidly declining.