Thursday, 4 February 2010
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Customs) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Excise) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — General) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2010; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2010
Debate resumed from 2 February, on motion by Mr Combet:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The carbon pollution reduction scheme legislation, introduced into the House this week for a third time, does three things to the Australian public. Firstly, it establishes a tax on families of $1,100 per annum. That tax translates directly to an electricity tax which the Prime Minister, from the seat now occupied by the member for Maribyrnong today, conceded yesterday would not lead to a seven per cent electricity price rise, as he said on Tuesday, would not lead to an 11 or 12 per cent price rise, but would bring about a 19 per cent price rise. In the course of 24 hours the bill to Australian families, in electricity terms, went up almost threefold by the Prime Minister’s own words. We know this only because he was forced under questioning to reveal the fact that he had left out the second year of the price rises. Yesterday, he did not mention the third or the fourth or the fifth year of the electricity price rises. He dismissed the New South Wales government’s Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal estimates of well over 20 per cent of electricity price rises as if they did not exist, as if they were estimates just from some body. Actually, it is an independent pricing and regulatory tribunal which set the price rises for New South Wales—not hypothetical; it set the price rises for New South Wales.
I turn to the second of the things which occur in this bill, which introduces this tax on Australian families. It is more than just the $1,100; it is a cost to the economy of a $114 billion tax between now and 2020. What does that mean? In its first year, it is $4½ billion. In its second year, it is $11½ million. Over its first four years, it is $40 billion of electricity taxing, of food and grocery taxing, of taxing of heating and cooling for pensioners. These are the costs to Australia. These are the costs to Australian families. They are not hypothetical; they are factored into the price rises.
There are some very simple questions for every member of the government today. Why does your bill need to compensate Australian families? Why does your bill need to compensate pensioners? Why does your bill need to compensate mums and dads? Why doesn’t your bill compensate 750,000 small businesses? There is only one answer to why there is a large-scale compensation package—which is nevertheless wildly inadequate—and that is that this bill being introduced into this House this week will drive up the price of electricity by a minimum of 19 per cent in the first two years—through the words of the Prime Minister, extracted through gritted teeth at this table only yesterday, having said seven per cent the day before. The Prime Minister was willing to say to the Australian people, ‘A seven per cent electricity price rise,’ on Tuesday and on Wednesday it is a 19 per cent price rise. On Thursday, he might perhaps acknowledge the 300 per cent over the coming years which the Queensland government has referred to or the 62 per cent which the IPART has referred to—of which the CPRS alone is well over 20 per cent in terms of the addition to price rises.
That brings me to the third of the areas of punishment under this bill—and I will go through all of the areas in more detail. The third is the windfall to big business for doing nothing, for doing business as usual, for not cutting a single gram—not a tonne, not a hundred tonnes but a single gram—of CO2 emissions. This bill, unbeknown to the Australian public because the Prime Minister is silent on it, gives big business $40 billion straight from the pockets of pensioners, mums and dads, self-funded retirees and small businesses—$40 billion for business as usual—whereas, under the coalition’s approach of direct action to reduce emissions through real action, not a dollar goes to anybody who is not actually reducing emissions.
We have an incentives based scheme; they have a punishment scheme based on driving up electricity prices as high as possible to try to effect some change through the pressure on what is widely known to be a largely inelastic good. So it is based, at its heart, on a flawed economic assumption that, in order to change behaviour, you have to drive up the highest cost mechanism and hope that people’s behaviour will change. There are enormous costs to families, enormous costs to the economy and an enormous windfall to big business—$40 billion for business as usual coming straight from the pockets of mums and dads, pensioners, self-funded retirees, single parents, small businesses, farmers and others who are out there struggling away. These are the people who will pay for a $114 billion, great big $1,100 electricity tax on mums and dads all around Australia.
Then we see the extraordinary jobs impact of this bill. This is the fourth element of the bill. What do we see in terms of jobs? We see that job losses will occur in the Hunter Valley and in the Latrobe Valley and job losses in manufacturing all around Australia. And, if you are a small business operator, you are likely to see an extraordinary impact on your business.
That is what is real in the government’s policy. But let me go through the government’s policy in more detail before addressing some of their issues in relation to our policy and then going through the essential elements of a direct action policy, which is $3.2 billion as opposed to $40 billion, and how that will produce jobs, protect jobs and, above all else, achieve the same target as the government’s but at a dramatically lower cost to the economy and a radically lower cost to Australian mums and dads. We think direct action, irrespective of what people think about the great challenge of climate change, will have a real impact with real benefits for the environment.
We have a vision of improving our soils, with a once-in-a-century replenishment of soils, of making Australia a solar continent—of a solar sunrise fuelled with a million solar homes, over and above that which is in place, by the year 2020. That is an exciting vision and it engages people and it gives them an opportunity to be part of the solution rather than to be punished for simply opening the refrigerator door, to be punished for turning on their cooling in North Queensland or to be punished for turning on their heating—and, if you are a senior Australian in Cooma, Jindabyne, Launceston or Burnie in the dead of winter, that is what is going to occur. I want to make the point that we have two radically different visions: the lowest cost abatement model versus a model based on trying to change people’s behaviour through driving electricity prices through the ceiling.
Let me turn first to the issue of the cost to families in more detail. Mr Deputy Speaker Secker, in 2012-13 constituents in your electorate and constituents around the country will be paying $1,100 per family. The government have disputed this figure. They have said, ‘How could it be that Australian households will pay $1,100 per family?’ The answer is very simple. The government’s own figures set out a permit revenue, a tax revenue, of $11½ billion for 2012-13 alone. That money is not coming from big business; that money is being funded through increased electricity prices, increased grocery prices and increased heating and cooling prices for mums and dads, pensioners and farmers around the country. That is factored into everything the government do. How do we know this? Because they recognise that there has to be a massive but inadequate compensation package. So, in other words, their whole scheme is predicated on increasing prices—and they acknowledge it through the fact that they have to compensate people.
11:36:57 Where do we get the $1100 figure from? It is not just us. Whether it was the Daily Telegraph in November on the splash front page ‘$1100 per family the cost of Mr Rudd’s ETS’, whether it was the work of the Brotherhood of St Lawrence or whether it has been confirmed by other organisations, it comes down to simple arithmetic. The ABS lists 8.7 million Australian families. You need to multiply 8.7 million by $1,100. Multiplying 8.7 million by $1,000 gives $8.7 billion. You then add another $900 million, let us call it, and that gives you $9.6 billion. We are still $2 billion short of making up Mr Rudd’s tax. We are assuming that that component will be met off the bottom line of business, but if business passes that through it will be more than $1,100 per family. So remember this: it is the 8.7 million Australian families who are the ones that have to make up the $11½ billion. We are giving Mr Rudd the benefit of the doubt. We are saying that they will only have to make up $9.6 billion and that business will cop the other $2 billion and not pass the costs through for that, but it is likely that it will be higher than $1,100 per family. That is a very important thing.
What does that then mean for electricity prices? Let us go to the detail. In the government’s own modelling, they have a seven per cent rise in the first year. So, when I asked the Prime Minister on Tuesday what the cost of electricity price rises would be to a dry cleaner over the course of his scheme, he said, ‘Seven per cent.’ We knew immediately that he had taken the lowest figure from the first year. It was deliberately misleading. It was an intentional and deliberate withholding of some of the information that was necessary. When the next day we asked, ‘What about the next year of the scheme?’ he knew the jig was up. He knew that he had been caught withholding information from this House, and so the Prime Minister was forced to concede, ‘Ah, yes, I said seven per cent in the first year but, okay, there is another 12 per cent electricity price rise in the second year.’
That is not the end of it. That is not the end of the electricity price rises. On this day and in this place the Prime Minister must make a statement setting out the electricity price rises forecast for Australian families, for Australian pensioners, for Australian farmers and for Australian small businesses not just for one year, not just for two years, but for the entire course of the scheme up to 2020. We know that, in the first three years alone, IPART, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of New South Wales, predicts a rise of well over 20 per cent. That is for the first three years alone. What is the nine-year electricity cost, Prime Minister? That is the question we ask and we expect a statement in this House this day before the parliament rises or there will have been a derogation of duty. We are in a battle right now about being honest with the Australian public about the costs. I know, because for the first time I see hangdog looks of shame on the faces of the members of the government that they know that their scheme requires massive compensation since it will drive up prices. They also know that that massive compensation is not acceptable and is not sufficient because you cannot take $40 billion out of the pockets of mums and dads in Australia, give it back to big business and expect those mums and dads to be better off. That is a problem.
Let us go to the question of pensioners. In November, Sky News Agenda asked the Treasurer, ‘Can you guarantee that no-one will be worse off under your scheme?’ His words were, ‘I can’t guarantee that no-one will be worse off.’ I repeat what the Treasurer of Australia said: ‘I can’t guarantee that no-one will be worse off.’ Today on Sky News, the Prime Minister was forced to make a promise which he will never be able to keep: ‘I guarantee that no pensioner will be worse off.’ How can the Prime Minister guarantee to a single pensioner living in Cooma, living in Jindabyne, living in Burnie or living in Devonport that, if their electricity bill is higher than the compensation they receive, they will not be worse off?
This is the question for the Prime Minister of Australia in this House today: will you guarantee to up your compensation if any one single pensioner has a bill higher than the amount which you are returning to them? Will you guarantee to change your compensation for any pensioner who produces a bill higher than the amount of the average compensation which you will be giving to them? If you cannot guarantee that you will change your compensation package, then you have misled the Australian public in your interview today.
The Treasurer was honest when he spoke in November on Sky TV and made the point, ‘I cannot guarantee that no-one will be worse off.’ The Prime Minister today made a promise he can never keep and the test for the Prime Minister today is, firstly, whether he will release the full electricity cost of the scheme from now until 2020 for Australian families, pensioners, mums and dads, farmers and small businesses and, secondly, whether he will make it clear that if any one single pensioner produces an electricity bill in excess of the government’s compensation package he will meet the full cost of their electricity and grocery bills over and above the amount which he has indicated they will get. Either he cannot make that promise or he will have to change his compensation package.
I ask all Australians and all members of this House to focus on the simple question: why does this bill need a massive compensation package? Why would you need a compensation package if there were going to be no impact on prices? There will be a monumental impact on prices. It will be a rise of 19 per cent in electricity prices in the first two years and well over 20 per cent in the first three years, according to IPART—not us but an independent body attached to a state Labor government. It was dismissed by the Prime Minister yesterday as ‘just another organisation’. Unfortunately, it was an inconvenient organisation for him.
This brings me to the issue of the cost to the economy. I want to compare the two schemes. Our scheme sets up a cost of $3.2 billion over four years. The Labor Party scheme is about $40 billion over the first four years, and that is because it relies on driving up electricity prices to achieve a modest reduction in demand and, therefore, you have to cycle the money back—some from the pockets of mums and dads to big business and some back to the mums and dads who paid it in the first place, but not enough to cover the amount they have lost. You have created, as the Leader of the Opposition said, a great big tax, an enormous money-go-round and a massive increase in the costs facing individual pensioners, singles, self-funded retirees, mums and dads, farmers—anybody who has to pay for electricity, gas and groceries in Australia. That is the basis of what we are concerned about.
I also want to make a point about the windfall to business. The Prime Minister has been running around saying, ‘The opposition scheme is all about helping the big polluters.’ Let us be clear here: business in Australia gets not a dollar from the opposition for continuing with their ordinary practice; business under Labor’s scheme, under this bill, introduced in the dead of Tuesday night, gets $40 billion for failing to reduce emissions by a single gram. They do not have to reduce emissions by a single gram and they will get $40 billion in their pockets from the pockets of mums and dads. So let us set this up: we know that the bill itself, Mr Rudd’s scheme, is likely—and this is on the basis of research prepared by Access Economics for the state and territory governments—to cause 126,000 full-time job losses or forgone jobs. On the basis of Concept Economic’s work, there will be 23,510 fewer jobs in the mining industry by 2020. Frontier has identified 45,000 jobs lost in high-energy intensive industries. All this is from the folly of a system which would simply send this manufacturing offshore. That is the problem with the government’s system. That is the fundamental flaw in their approach.
The government has introduced overnight a dodgy document and has been hawking it around the press gallery. I caught Senator Wong’s staff hawking a confidential dodgy document around the press gallery. It is marked ‘DCC in confidence’. This is out in the press gallery. I will table this document, if the government will let me. Will you let me table this dodgy document that has been put around?
The government has refused our attempt to table the dodgy document which they were caught red-handed giving to the press gallery of Australia. The government will not allow their dodgy document to be tabled. I call on the Prime Minister to table his dodgy document before question time is out, because they will not let us do it.
Having said that, what is in it? We warned that there would be a dodgy document. It is 1½ pages, with no modelling, with no assumptions, with words that are not finished and with sentences that are not finished. It is an embarrassment and a shame. We thought there might be 20 pages; we thought there might be something of substance. I have to say that I am disappointed; I thought they would do a better job. We spoke this morning with Frontier Economics, who are amazed at the way they were misrepresented by the Prime Minister yesterday.
Our policy—as opposed to what they produced—is capped, costed and credible. It is credible because we built our policy on a very simple proposition: least cost emissions reduction, paid for through a market system which provides for the government to purchase the lowest cost emissions rather than to rely on the highest cost emissions.
I want to take this opportunity to challenge Senator Wong to a debate in the Press Club next Wednesday lunchtime. Let’s do it. There is a free space in the Press Club. There is no reason not to do it. Senator Wong has gone missing in action, and is not defending the government’s policy, is not prosecuting our policy but is sending staff scuttling about the press gallery peddling dodgy documents marked ‘in confidence’. That is what is occurring. That is a government which is running from the truth.
So what will we be doing? Our proposal is very simple. After two years, Australians do not understand this enormous, complex, new tax of $114 billion—$1,100 per family, 19 per cent over the first two years in terms of electricity costs. All they know is that it will hurt them, it will cost and it will be a windfall for speculators, derivatives traders, bonds traders—anybody who operates a financial system. So I say sorry to those guys; we are not out there to help you. But the government is. They are setting up a fantastic subprime on steroids.
After two days, Australians understand our scheme. Tony Abbott’s scheme is very simple. It is direct action to reduce our emissions. The elements are: one million solar homes by 2020; 20 million trees and the prospect of replacing the enormous overhead transmission lines and towers which cut through the heart of our cities with underground cabling—and paying for it by using the land which would be reclaimed for a mixture of parks and urban infill within our cities. Mums and dads and pensioners and seniors and singles and young people do not want these massive overhead powerlines right through the heart of their cities, right outside their backyards. We are offering that prospect. Last night the Energy Networks Association of Australia put out a release endorsing this vision. They are excited about the fact that we are looking at underground cabling. Firstly there is the electricity saving and secondly there is the prospect of prodigious change in the quality of life in our cities. So we offer quality of life, we offer a chance of doing it in a cheaper way and we offer a chance of meeting the same target but with a sense of majestic vision where each and every Australian can be part of that solution as opposed to each and every Australian being the victim of a massive new tax.
11:52:06 There is more, though, to what we are doing: $100 million for solar towns and solar schools; $50 million for the great vision of geothermal and tidal towns to use microprojects right around Australia in remote areas, and we have already had great support from people such as Dr Donald Payne for a project and a vision such as that. Over and above that, we have an emissions reduction fund which gives us the chance at a once in a century replenishment of our national soils. This vision at this moment in time is what Australian farmers need. It is about replenishing our national soils, increasing their productivity and capturing carbon in the process. It builds on the work identified by Professor Garnaut, Tim Flannery, the CSIRO, the Wentworth Group, Dr John White and many other people—including, incidentally, your own government agencies—who have identified soil carbon.
That is the vision and opportunity: we will make Australia more productive by providing incentives rather than making Australia less productive by providing a massive penalty for existence on Australian mums and dads. This is a seminal moment during the course of these three years. It is the moment where we have two choices for Australia: the government’s scheme of a massive tax on every Australian mum, dad and senior, or a direct action alternative to achieve the same outcome of a reduction of 140 million tonnes of emissions, a five per cent reduction on our 1990 targets, which is a positive thing.
But do not take our word that the million solar panels, the 20 million trees, the great vision of repairing the hearts of our cities and repairing our landscape is a good thing. Who are the supporters? The Minerals Council of Australia, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the Australian Retailers Association, the National Farmers Federation and ACCI have all said that there is great interest, and in many cases they have come out with enormous support for the coalition’s scheme.
One of Australia’s most respected business writers, Alan Kohler, writing in the Business Spectator only yesterday, endorsed, embraced and put great faith in the coalition’s system. Add to that the work of Frontier Economics and the enormous support we have from mainstream Australians who for the first time understand that that they can be part of the climate change solution. Irrespective of what you think of climate change, they can be part of improving our soils, our energy efficiency and the way Australia goes about cleaning up our oldest and least efficient power stations. It is a vision of participation in the future, rather than a vision of being a victim of a massive new tax from which they can never escape.
What we have is a choice. We have a government relying on a massive new tax of $114 billion, or $1,100 per family, and electricity price rises of 19 per cent over two years, according to the Prime Minister’s own words, while failing to address the subsequent years. These words were dragged out of him through gritted teeth yesterday after he said seven per cent the day before—almost a tripling of the price rise in 24 hours. Compare that system to the system of direct action that Tony Abbott has put forward. It will make real reductions through an emissions reduction fund which will reward only those people who make real savings, rather than the $40 billion picked from the pockets of mums and dads which will go, under Labor’s bill, only to the biggest businesses in Australia.
That is what is happening: the 750,000 small businesses will get nothing, mums and dads will pay $1,100 per year, and numerous other people will suffer. That is what will occur under the government’s system. We offer Australia a direct action alternative with real emissions reductions: a million solar homes by 2020, 20 million trees and the vision of cleaning up our cities, plus solar towns, solar schools, geothermal and tidal towns, urban forests and a re-greening of our cities. That is the choice facing Australia today and that is why we will be opposing this bill. (Time expired)
The Leader of the Opposition’s statement that he thinks climate change is absolute crap and his previous remarks where he compared the Copenhagen climate change conference with the notorious Munich accord between Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler reveal the extraordinary shallowness of his preparation for high office. Not only has he deliberately confused the purpose of the climate change conference with political blackmail by a tyrant but also he has, by implication, slandered those who attended as either villains or fools. The participants were plainly neither, yet this smear evidently serves the purpose of Leader of the Opposition and his followers in their manipulation of the deluded climate change deniers within the ranks of the Liberal-National Party coalition.
On this point, last Saturday the Sydney Morning Herald reported the extraordinary story that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, when Minister for Education, Science and Training, had arranged for Tim Johnston, the author of the something-for-nothing Firepower fuel pill scheme, to have not one but two dinners with the then Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, to discuss—of all things—climate change. The debate on climate change this week in the House has shown that the members of the former government were, and still are, happy to take advice from persons with absolutely no credentials in the field, yet when reputable scientists warn that action to reduce emissions is urgently required the Leader of the Opposition is among the first to attack any perceived error in the presentation of the data.
While the Leader of the Opposition only intends to use these issues to spread confusion and fear for his personal advantage, the evidence for the case to reduce greenhouse gas emissions grows. Contrary to the claims of the deniers, the governments of the world are no longer at the beginning of the debate about the science of global warming. They are not in the middle and undecided, as the Leader of the Opposition misleadingly contends, but at the end and in favour of action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as rapidly as possible. I would like to quickly outline the way in which the science developed until the 1950s, at which time compelling evidence for the controlling effect of carbon dioxide on climate was firmly established by a long line of eminent independent scientists. Then I will summarise some of the necessary responses.
Following the fundamental advances in physics and chemistry in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, scientists first realised that atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide cause a greenhouse effect that modifies the surface temperature of planetary bodies like the earth. For the benefit of those opposite and other deniers I digress briefly into some elementary physics that is the basis of the argument about global warming, not quantum mechanics—not Einstein’s special theory of relativity nor his general theory but basic undergraduate level physics. In 1990 the German physicist Max Planck produced a mathematical description of the law of nature by which all objects emit a mixture of electromagnetic radiation in proportions that depend on that object’s temperature. We perceive this radiation as wavelengths of infrared radiation known commonly as heat radiation or visible light, ultraviolet, microwaves, radio waves, X-rays and so forth. This law now known as Planck’s black body spectrum makes predictions that are in complete agreement with experimental results at all temperatures.
For instance—and this is the point—we can calculate using Planck’s formula, as can any undergraduate or accountant using a spreadsheet, that the sun with a surface temperature of 5,600 degrees Celsius has its brightest emission in the visible light part of the spectrum, while the earth with a mean surface temperature of about 13 degrees Celsius has its brightest emission in the infrared or heat radiation part of the spectrum. If the earth had no atmosphere or a very thin atmosphere like Mars, then the average surface temperature would be a chilly minus 70 degrees Celsius, yet it is plainly warmer. This is due to the greenhouse effect of atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide that absorb some of the infrared radiation radiated by the earth and transfer the trapped heat back to the surface. This understanding, the result of measurements begun by the Frenchman Joseph Fourier in the 1820s, shows that changes in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide could affect global temperatures. As Fourier explained 170 years ago, energy in the form of visible light from the sun easily penetrates the atmosphere to reach the surface and it heats up. But this heat cannot so easily escape back into space. These initial investigations by Fourier were undertaken as part of an attempt to understand the processes that had led to the huge climate change that had produced the preceding ice ages, then a hotly debated topic among the scientists of the day.
In 1859, the English scientist John Tyndall conducted a series of measurements on the heat-trapping properties of atmospheric gases and showed that carbon dioxide, although only present in parts per 10,000, could effectively block the transmission of heat radiation through the atmosphere. Tyndall showed that just as visible light could pass through water many metres deep and be blocked by a single sheet of dark paper, sunlight could pass through the atmosphere, equivalent to a mass of water up to 10 metres thick, while reradiated heat energy from the earth could be trapped by atmospheric carbon dioxide, currently equivalent to an opaque layer less than half a millimetre thick. In this way, a trace quantity of carbon dioxide changes the climate by altering the balance of energy that either passes through the atmosphere to space as heat radiation or is scattered back to the surface to produce global warming. This elementary explanation for the effect of carbon dioxide on climate was, as I have said, well understood before the turn of the 19th century.
In 1896, the Nobel Prize winning Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius, also investigating the origins of ice ages, calculated by hand that the effect of doubling the then concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide would be to increase average global temperatures by some five to six degrees Celsius. At the time, an average temperature a few degrees higher did not seem like a bad thing for the inhabitants of a cold northern country like Sweden. This complacent view persisted until the 1950s, along with the unsubstantiated opinion held by many non-scientific authorities that human activities could not, and were not, affecting global temperatures and that the atmosphere and oceans were a self-regulating system that would compensate for the effect of any carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere. This is a view evidently still held by the Leader of the Opposition more than 60 years later. Importantly, inaccurate early measurements that have been used to support this position appeared to show that the infrared absorption bands of water vapour and carbon dioxide overlapped, leading to the erroneous conclusion that any effect of changing carbon dioxide levels on global temperatures would have been swamped by atmospheric water vapour.
Following technical advances in World War II, the situation was completely changed by a series of measurements of the infrared properties of atmospheric gases that were funded by the United States military, more concerned about immediate weapons applications than future climate change. The more accurate postwar measurements demonstrated that, at the low pressures and temperatures found in the upper atmosphere, the infrared absorption bands of water vapour and carbon dioxide did not overlap strongly and the transmission of infrared radiation to space through the frigid upper atmosphere that holds little water vapour can be significantly affected by variations in carbon dioxide concentrations. This was a key discovery in understanding the details of the mechanism responsible for the trapping by atmospheric carbon dioxide of infrared radiation emitted by the earth.
Following that discovery, in 1956 the physicist Gilbert Plass, using the latest computer technology, calculated the transmission of infrared radiation across the infrared spectrum and layer by layer through the atmosphere and showed that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at that time could result in a surface temperature increase of three to four degrees Celsius. The work of Plass proved one central point: that it was no longer possible to use arguments based on previously inaccurate measurements of properties of the atmosphere in arguing against the effects of carbon dioxide on global warming.
Among other discredited arguments that had been invoked and are still regularly invoked by deniers was that such is the volume of air that human activity could not possibly be significantly adding to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and that, anyway, excess carbon dioxide would be quickly absorbed by the oceans. These fabrications were also demolished by other postwar discoveries. In 1955 the eminent chemist Hans Suess measured the atmospheric concentration of the short-lived radioactive isotope carbon-14, which forms by cosmic ray bombardment of nitrogen in the atmosphere, to determine the ratio of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels to carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide from fossil fuels contains no carbon-14 whereas carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere contains a proportion of that radioactive isotope. Finding a decreasing proportion of carbon-14 in the atmosphere meant only one thing: that carbon dioxide already present was being diluted by carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. Within a decade isotope measurements confirmed that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels was rapidly accumulating in the atmosphere.
That increase was further explained at the time by the work of Roger Revelle from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who showed that the chemistry of seawater returned dissolved carbon dioxide to the atmosphere before the slow circulation of the oceans could take the dissolved gas into the depths. Carbon dioxide was not then and is not now being removed from the atmosphere by dissolution in the oceans at a rate sufficient to reduce its accumulation in the atmosphere. Fifty years ago Roger Revelle wrote:
Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future.
We are now starting to see some of the results of that global experiment played out in our country, yet 50 years after clear warnings were given about the consequences we still have deluded deniers in the opposition claiming that there is no evidence of any need for action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. All that has happened since the 1950s has been the accumulation of data that further reinforces these early measurements and warnings, and nothing has since been found that contradicts these findings.
I now wish to make some points about the changes that we must face in responding to this existential threat. As of December 2008, according to the Department of Climate Change, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions currently total around 576 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum. Listing the sources according to quantities, almost exactly 50 per cent or approximately 287 million tonnes is emitted by power stations, agriculture emits 16 per cent or 90 million tonnes, transport accounts for 14 per cent or 79 million tonnes, industrial processes emit five per cent or 28 million tonnes, and land use is responsible for 11 per cent or 63 million tonnes.
A target level of a 60 per cent reduction of Australian emissions by 2050 requires average cuts of the order of 8.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide or 1.5 per cent of current levels per annum even starting from 2008 levels. That is the reduction in the consumption by our country of approximately 2½ million tonnes of oil or 2¼ million tonnes of coal each and every year up until 2050. At the very least, an end to the growth of emissions must be brought about rapidly. Now while some may say ‘it can’t be done’, and I would naturally include the opposition in this group, I have seen for myself the development of an Australian solar energy technology which could, if rapidly deployed, quickly reduce the emissions from coal fired power stations by more than 50 per cent, a major reduction from the largest single source.
Up until 2006, Professor David Mills and his group in the Department of Applied and Plasma Physics at the University of Sydney developed a low-cost solar thermal collector which can either be used to replace burning coal in existing power stations or be used to construct new, stand-alone solar thermal power stations. Professor Mills explained to me that a solar thermal collector of no more than six square kilometres could displace approximately 60 per cent of the coal burned at Liddell, a power station that supplies approximately one-quarter of the baseload electrical power consumed in New South Wales. He also explained that, if all of the existing New South Wales coal fired power stations were repowered with solar thermal collectors operating only in daylight hours, then carbon dioxide emissions from those sources could be reduced by approximately 60 per cent. This figure could be even higher with the use of simple heat storage for night-time power generation.
Of course, this option is now less available in our country since the former Howard government’s overt hostility to renewable energy in general, and to Professor Mills’s developments in particular, forced Professor Mills and his team to emigrate to the United States, where they are now busily constructing solar thermal power stations as fast as they can design them.
The transport sector is the second largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in our country and emissions from that sector grew by approximately 20 per cent over the last decade under the destructive policies of the former Howard government. Not content with tearing up railway lines and scrapping hundreds of millions of dollars of valuable rolling stock, the Howard government deliberately introduced policies that increased the number and size of heavy vehicles on our roads while reducing the safety of an industry already notorious for some of the most dangerous working conditions in our country. Energy efficiency and emissions reduction were never considered by the previous government, as was evidenced by the refusal of the former transport minister and member for Gwydir, Mr John Anderson, to answer questions that I put to him regarding concerns about health hazards arising from increases in toxic emissions from heavy vehicles that were the consequence of the introduction of the GST.
In adopting policies that abandoned rail for road freight, that government rejected expert advice about the high risks of such a policy and demonstrated a complete contempt for the lives of truck drivers and the travelling public, increasingly forced to share roads with vehicles that were known to be unsafe. This is the legacy of the Howard government: a lethal high-emissions road freight industry and a wrecked and ramshackle railway network that requires billions of dollars of spending just to enable the railways to compete on level ground with the road freight operators. In addition, having adopted policies that have led to a situation where almost 90 per cent of freight movements are by road, the former government has left us in a highly vulnerable situation where any large-scale interruption to oil imports, for instance as the result of an attack by the major powers on Iranian nuclear weapons laboratories, would lead to serious economic disruption and perhaps even food shortages in the major cities.
The neglect of our rail network is evident in the fact that Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane remain connected by a single-track railway on 19th century alignments that lack modern signalling or electrification and that take up to 21 hours to carry consignments between Sydney and Melbourne and between Sydney and Brisbane. Transferring freight and passenger transport to the energy efficient railways is a practical means of rapidly reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector because it is estimated that rail transport is at least four times as energy efficient as road transport and, if electrified, can be made entirely immune from problems with oil supplies or emissions. If the electrical energy were to be drawn from renewable generators, the railways can be made emission-free and sustainable in the long term, something that is not possible with the existing high-emission road transport system increasingly dependent on oil.
Climate change deniers are currently making much political hype about the suffering of people in the Northern Hemisphere and in Europe, in particular claiming that the recent arctic conditions there are proof that global warming is not occurring. Were these deniers prepared to investigate the matter more carefully, they would discover that the intense cold in those parts of the world is actually just another example of the kind of climate change caused by global warming that has been predicted by climate scientists.
Xiangdong Zhang of the International Arctic Research Centre in Fairbanks, Alaska has found that patterns of atmospheric circulation in the Arctic are changing rapidly as the Arctic responds to global warming. In previous times cold arctic air has mostly remained over the Arctic, trapped by strong winds spinning around the pole. This winter, perhaps because of the effects of global warming, the vortex has weakened, allowing colder air to spread further south than usual. Overall, the Northern Hemisphere’s winter temperature may be no lower than in previous years but, because of changing wind patterns this year, the cold air is distributed differently, leading to the mistaken perception of global cooling that has been inferred from local weather events. In fact, the average surface temperature for the entire planet during January 2010 may turn out to be one of the warmest on record. While Europe freezes, Australia fries, and both of these weather events are strongly linked to the effects of global warming.
In concluding, the Rudd government is taking responsible action to mitigate the effects of climate change through the introduction of a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which we are debating here today, shaped by the global scientific consensus that climate change is real. Climate change is real and it has been reiterated that Australia is one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, and we will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by its effects. I commend the bills to the House. (Time expired)
The nation expects its leaders to act on climate change, and act in good faith the coalition will—not act to export problems, not act to disadvantage our nation, not act to redistribute wealth amongst nations and not act to create an independent funding stream for any world bodies, but act against the risk that the climate is changing. As the coalition moves to act it does not do so as a single event or point in time. Indeed, the previous Howard government was one of the first to act. Notwithstanding the Kyoto protocol and notwithstanding the Howard government’s failure to sign it, we were one of only a few countries in the world that actually met our Kyoto targets, even though we had not signed the protocol. The question must be asked: what is more important—to achieve the ends of the protocol or to blindly sign it with no intention at all of achieving the targets?
The Howard government was one of the first governments in the world to establish an office of climate change when it first came into government, taking the issue seriously and beginning the process of action. Today the coalition continues to act, as we have done for the past 13 years, beginning with the Howard government. Today I rise to lend a voice to the coalition to say that we will once again vote against the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and cognate bills. This is the third time I have spoken against this legislation and the third time I will vote against it. Voting against this legislation does not mean that we are voting not to act. It simply means that we believe the government’s scheme is fatally and utterly flawed.
We believe the nation deserves a choice. The nation deserves to choose which approach they believe will actually achieve the ends we need. It is a choice between direct action, measures that are simple and understandable, or a great big tax on everything. The choice could not be more stark, and as we go to an election year that choice will be full and frank before the Australian people: direct action to achieve environmental aims and to address the risk of climate change or a big fat new tax.
The coalition’s direct action is an incentive based approach. It is affordable, it is practical and it has widespread benefits that will help reduce environmental degradation as well as carbon emissions. We believe that a sound policy in this space should encompass more than just dealing with the issue of the risk of climate change. It should also deal with the issues that have been plaguing our environment for some time. So I agree we need to act. If we move forward on a sensible path that leads to a cleaner environment, to cleaner air and to greater organic content of soils that produce greater yields; if we end up with a result of greener cities, of zero reliance on Middle Eastern oil, of greater use of renewables and of less reliance on fossil fuels; if we achieve all of this and in 30 years time for whatever reason the science of climate change is proved incorrect, we still will have produced an outstanding result for the people of this nation. I would rather we went for direct action with no regrets rather than a big fat tax on everything. The government’s proposed emissions trading scheme, reintroduced again, remains flawed in its current form. It will cost Australian jobs, it will cost Australian investment and it will simply export rather than reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
Indeed to see the hypocrisy of this government you need look no further than at the issue of the export of uranium to India. Right now India’s High Commissioner to Australia, Her Excellency Mrs Singh, is en route back to India because of the issues that this government has caused in our diplomatic relations. There is no question that India is seeking to address its climate change footprint. Currently three per cent of its energy is generated by nuclear power. The Indian government has a vision of 25 per cent of its energy being generated by nuclear power. Yet Australia will not sell uranium to India. Australia is holding back India from achieving some of its environmental outcomes and seeking to reduce its climate footprint on the planet. At the same time, the Prime Minister comes in here and lectures Australians about what should occur. Canada of course has picked up the slack with respect to exporting uranium to India. If this Prime Minister is serious about addressing climate change then he needs to be serious about looking at things like exporting uranium to India. We know that there is no sound reason not to do it apart from the pathetic public spat within the Labor Party itself.
Right now we are facing a range of price increases across the nation. If we look at the year to December 2009, the December quarter just passed, we see that in the last year the price of electricity has risen by 15.7 per cent across the nation, water and sewerage by 14 per cent, gas by eight per cent, running a motor vehicle by six per cent, and preschool and early school by 7.5 per cent. That is not a bad record for a government that came in, in 2007, promising to reduce the cost of living. Of course, we are used to schemes like Fuelwatch being littered across the floor of the House, and GroceryWatch, another failed attempt to look at the issue of the rising cost of living. The ABS data that came out yesterday shows that in the last three months alone the cost of a basket of groceries in Sydney went up by $10. That is for the last three months alone. There is no evidence that this government has attempted or achieved any reduction in the cost of living or the price of groceries. Indeed all of the evidence points to these prices going up. Core inflation in the December quarter was 3.4 per cent, which is indicative perhaps of reckless and wilful spending.
So the question the Australian people face is which choice to go with—direct action on climate change or a great big new tax? It is a stark choice, and it is a choice which deserves attention here in the House of Representatives whilst we look at the government’s great big new tax bill. The coalition’s policy of direct action centres around an emissions reduction fund—a $2.5 billion fund through to the out years, starting in mid-2011 and going out for four years—to invest an annual amount of $1.2 billion to provide incentives for businesses to reach the target of reducing carbon emissions by five per cent by 2020. That is the target which has bipartisan support within the parliament. The coalition will look at tendering for projects that will reduce carbon emissions and that will deliver practical environmental benefits that all Australians understand and can enjoy. More importantly, the intent is not to result in price increases to consumers, not to result in job losses and not to proceed without fund assistance. The coalition is committed to keeping the emissions reduction fund at $1.2 billion out to 2020 to achieve that end state.
Likewise the coalition believe that we should actually be embracing the core parts of our nation like the sun and the soil. We have an opportunity for a once-in-a-generation replenishment of soils. Australia has over seven million square kilometres of land. Allan Yeoman, who wrote Priority One, believes we could pull out all of the carbon dioxide we have put into the atmosphere through increasing the level of organic material in our soil. He writes:
Soil humus and soil organic matter is mainly decomposed plant life and is 58% carbon. The only source of carbon life on the planet is the carbon dioxide in the air. We have to turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into humus as cheaply and as efficiently as possible. We are then recreating soil fertility, a process that has been happening for years. We just help the process instead of hindering it.
It is simple and easy to increase the organic matter content of soil and so sequestrate carbon dioxide from the air. Our world’s agricultural land areas are more than ample to return atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to normal. We have to raise the organic matter content of the world’s soil we cultivate and manage by 1.6% and the greenhouse problems now destabilising world climates and weather systems will vanish.
He also writes that, if just the US grain belt somehow managed throughout the next decade to recreate deep soil with a 20 per cent organic matter content, the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere of the entire world would be returned to a safe pre-industrial era level. He is a world-leading expert on soil carbon, on keyline farming and on the use of equipment and ploughs for keyline tillage. He makes it very clear that improving soil carbon increases farm productivity, increases water efficiency and, more importantly, is fundamental to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. We have a once-in-a-century opportunity right now to invest time, money and technology in improving the organic content of our soils—to replenish the organic matter in our soils, to increase the humus content in our soils and thus sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
We also have an opportunity to use one of our other great endowments: the sun. We believe the coalition’s policy can open up a new ‘solar sunrise’ for our great nation. We have a vision of a million solar panels on roofs across the country—one million by 2020 with either solar power or solar hot water. To achieve that we will look at providing an incentive to people. Rather than walking around with a mighty big stick to punish the nation through a great big new tax we will actually provide an extra $1,000 rebate on top of what already exists to encourage Australians to be part of the solution, to empower Australians to look after their environment and to answer the great question that Australians ask: what can I do? Australians can do a lot, and providing incentives to put solar panels on roofs will do an enormous amount.
We will look at solar towns and solar schools initiatives to create a competitive tendering process for towns and non-capital cities to access direct solar energy. We will look at geothermal and tidal towns, again accessing $50 million from the geothermal and tidal towns initiative to support additional renewable energy opportunities. We know Australian towns and Australian people are inventive—they are creative. They have built their towns and sustained them through some of the most dreadful climatic conditions in our nation’s history, in pre- and post-industrial times. We know that Australians have the ingenuity, the creativity, the wherewithal and the courage to find solutions to these problems. We will also be looking at a study of high-voltage underground cabling to put cables under the ground and reuse the land underneath those high-voltage powerlines for trees and other things.
Importantly, we believe in green corridors and urban forests. We will facilitate the planting of a minimum of 20 million trees by 2020, mobilising Tony Abbott’s green army to get trees planted. But this is a minimum. I can envisage a nation empowered by direct action, a nation that can answer that great question: what can I do? I can put a solar panel on a roof. I can look at using low-voltage lights. I can turn off TVs at the power point. I can use low-water appliances. And I can get out there and plant a tree or two for every member of my family. Imagine if a nation of 21 million people decided to plant a tree or two trees for each person, families taking responsibility for their backyards. This is what the coalition’s direct action is all about—not only addressing the risk of climate change but also providing incentives for great environmental outcomes at exactly the same time. We believe Australians have the capacity, the courage and the wherewithal to join the coalition in taking direct action for our nation.
We do not believe in a big government approach. We do not believe that government is the answer to all of our questions. As opposed to Mr Rudd, we do not believe that government should be at the centre of the economy. We believe that individual people within individual homes in their communities, rising up to take individual responsibility in concert with assistance from government can make the difference we need. We have a stark choice this year: direct action to address the risk of climate change and to achieve environmental outcomes versus a great big new tax. Therefore we will be voting against the bill. It is clearly not supportable. It is not in the best interests of the nation. I look forward to our nation rising up to understand and to accept that direct action is the way forward.
I speak in support of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and cognate bills, bills that are necessary to put in place a legal and regulatory framework around the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—a scheme that in my analysis is based on three key elements. The first one is that big polluters pay, and we understand that. The second one is that low- and middle-income families right across Australia will be looked after by the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme fund and by having the big polluters pay. The third key element is that a limit will be put on harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
In his second reading speech, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change articulated the five foundation principles that give strength to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the legislative and regulatory framework. I would like to restate the principles for the record. First, the scheme reflects the scientific consensus accepted by governments around the world that climate change is real, it is happening now and it will inflict severe costs on this country. Second, the government’s target for emissions reduction is both responsible and achievable and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the best mechanism to achieve those targets. Third, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the lowest cost way to reduce emissions for Australian households. Fourth, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the most globally responsible approach to the threat of climate change. It ensures Australia meets its emission reduction targets. Fifth, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme reflects a consistent policy of the government that formed a key element of our 2007 election platform, which was supported by the Australian people.
I would like to turn to those five principles and make a comment. There is scientific consensus despite some of the pseudoscience and innuendo being peddled about that at the moment. There is a clear scientific consensus. We only have to read what the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, our own respected and well-regarded institutions, have to say about the science and climate change. That is who we are listening to and that is who we should be listening to. It does not mean that we do not question—that is our job as elected members of parliament and representatives of our communities. We have to question, but we also have to recognise that there is good science, and we as responsible parliamentarians and policymakers have to act on that. That is what the Rudd government is doing.
It is very clear in reading the literature and the Garnaut report that if we do not act, and if we do not act sooner rather than later, the cost that the Australian community, households and people will have to bear will be more and it will be more extreme. That is why responsible action is needed now and that is why the government is taking responsible and decisive action.
The second of the five points is that the government’s target for emissions reductions is both responsible and achievable and that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the best mechanism to achieve those targets. Yes, there is a debate about it. In my seat of Page there are some people who say that they want 350 parts per million and not 450 parts per million, and I understand where they are coming from with that. They want to reduce emissions as quickly as possible to the lowest level possible. But, when introducing a major economic reform which has to protect both the economy and the environment at the same time to protect jobs but lead us to a low-emissions future, as the government is, we have to have a responsible and achievable target. That is what the government is committed to.
The third point is that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the lowest cost way to reduce emissions. That is what this is about; it is about reducing emissions. It is quite simple. People say it is complex; they can dress it up in what they like but it is really very simple. We are emitting too much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. It is causing problems—it is causing the climate change that we talk about. We know that climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon, that the impacts of it can cause damage to our environment and that it has been accelerated exponentially by human activity and by industry. Again, that is all in the science. But this scheme is the lowest cost way to reduce emissions. It means the big polluters pay and the households do not pay. The households can be involved in doing their bit, and they are, and there are other measures to help bring emissions down.
The fourth point is that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the most globally responsible approach to the threat of climate change. Yes, we might be a great big island and a continent, but we are not in this alone. We cannot quarantine Australia from the rest of the world in this debate. We do have to work with other nations to try to encourage them to bring their emissions down. That is why it is important, at that level, to be part of the international debate and work together. One of the things that I saw come out of Copenhagen—and it was a big thing that people will do in a variety of ways—was a commitment to keep the rise in temperature to under two degrees. It was important that there was that commitment. Yes, it is always better if that is in a legislative commitment and is in some sort of treaty, but those nations committed to it and it is a positive way forward.
Fifth, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme reflects a consistent policy of the government that formed a key element of our election platform. That is absolutely correct. There is nothing new about it; it was out there in 2007 and it was something about which the community said: ‘Yes, we want you to do it. We want you to take this action on climate change.’ That was important.
The Leader of the Opposition says, first of all, that climate change is ‘absolute crap’, but then he released a policy on climate change. You cannot have it both ways. It is either absolute crap, meaning that you do not believe in climate change, or you release a policy on it. That is confusing; it confuses me and I am sure it confuses the community, including the community in Page, where I live. ‘Absolute crap but, yes, we’ve got a policy on it.’ When you look at the policy, there are clearly three fundamental flaws in the policy, apart from the fact of not believing in it. First, the coalition policy slugs taxpayers instead of big polluters. I cannot see how that is popular. One of my constituents sent me an email about that last night. He said, ‘Janelle, that is the only question.’ When you put it to the community that big polluters will not pay but taxpayers will, he said, ‘I think the proof is in the pudding.’ It is there and it is answered. People can see that they get it. That is the first flaw.
Second, it is unfunded, meaning that there will be higher taxes. It is totally unfunded and it is not costed. I heard the shadow minister for finance talking about some ways in which it could be funded, and they really were within the realms of fantasy. Senator Joyce spoke about the way it could be funded. He was talking about the Henry tax review. It is a review. He was saying that it could be funded out of that. I do not know how anything could be funded out of a review. It is a document—it is paper. How could you fund it? It is not a budget; it is a review. There were a few other gems as well but I do not want to waste my time on them. The third fundamental flaw in the policy is that it does not require anything of the big polluters, so there will be no lowering of emissions. I just do not see how it can work.
The 2007 consensus of the Australian public was that climate change is a critical issue and it is one that the government has to tackle. We are in 2010 and the consensus now of the Australian public is that climate change is still a critical issue that the government has to tackle. This is despite the reckless and irresponsible fear and smear campaign that is run by the coalition. But it is worse than that, because a lot of it is based on lies, lies and more lies. I have to ask: how could a mob that presents itself as an alternative government have a leader who says climate change is ‘absolute crap’ and then produces a policy on it? How can they say they are credible on this? The Leader of the Opposition truly is not fair dinkum and he is being duplicitous and dishonest with the Australian public.
12:44:40 But I know that the Australian public wants us to take action, and the Rudd government is taking action on climate change. That is exactly what the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is about. The federal Labor Party in the 2007 election went to the people with a 10-point plan to tackle climate change and that has been implemented since we have been in government. There are also some extras that came with the stimulus: the insulation package, for a start, with 2.3 million homes across Australia, many of them in my electorate of Page, being insulated. That is a great initiative and I have heard the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, say that that is equivalent to taking about one million cars off the road in terms of what it means for lowering emissions.
But there are more initiatives. There are actually about 80 initiatives that the government has taken to tackle climate change and that will lead us into a lower emissions future. I will speak about just a few of them: there is the Advanced Electricity Storage Technologies program; Australia’s Farming Future, which I will come back to; the Australian Carbon Trust; the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy; the Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System; the Bilateral Climate Change Partnership Program; the enhancement of the Bureau of Meteorology’s capacity to monitor and deal with climate change; the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program; and the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum. Just on the latter issue, at Southern Cross University in my area there is a lot of work being done about capturing carbon into the soil and plants—not just soil, but into plant stones. The member for New England and I jointly held a forum on this particular issue at which we had farming and industry leaders present. Other initiatives include Caring for our Coasts, the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, the Clean Business Australia initiative and the Clean Energy Initiative. There will be a Climate Change Action Fund and there is a Climate Change Adaptation Program. These are just some of the 80 initiatives. Some of them are being implemented now and some of them will be implemented as part of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme that we are discussing today.
I said I would come back to farming and I now do so. The Australia’s Farming Future initiative comprises a number of elements: there is the Climate Change Research Program providing funding for research projects and on-farm demonstration activities; there is FarmReady, helping industry and primary producers develop skills and strategies to help them deal with the impacts of climate change; and there is the Climate Change Adjustment Program to assist farmers who are facing financial difficulty in managing the impacts of climate change. There is farm business analysis and financial assessments, professional advice and training—which is individually tailored to the particular farmer—and transitional income support. There are also community networks and capacity building activities. So it addresses lots of issues around farmers.
I just want to say one thing about farming that is really important, because farmers are a big part of the thinking and the policy initiative of the government in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. When you have a look at the initiatives, and when you look at the government’s policy and at the coalition’s policy, it is clear that farmers will get less for the actions that they take on their farm under the coalition’s policy than they will under the government’s policy. In fact, they will get three or four times less. Also, with the coalition policy, the emissions will be about 13 per cent higher. It will not be lower. So I don’t see how this sort of mythical figure of five per cent that they are talking about will be reached in any capacity.
I would like to turn to the economic credentials of the government and then look at the economic credentials of the coalition, and to set that against the issue of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. I think it will be very clearly seen who is to be trusted in this area. The Rudd government has performed superbly in the face of the worst global financial crisis since the Depression. The world went into recession, although it seems at times like the coalition just conveniently ignores that fact. We, Australia, did not, and that was not good luck or happenstance; it was good policy and good management on the part of the Rudd government. I would particularly like to acknowledge the team: Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard and Lindsay Tanner, or, as I should say, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. That is big. Can you imagine where we would be today if the Prime Minister had not ‘gone early and gone hard’, as he put it, and ‘gone households’? That saved us. It saved well over 200,000 jobs. It saved our local regional economies. In areas like mine it saved some small businesses. I know we are not out of the woods yet but we are not in recession. The jobs were saved, small businesses protected and households looked after at the same time as the budget delivered tax cuts to working families.
The coalition, on the other hand, voted against every stimulus measure that has kept us out of recession and has saved jobs and small businesses. If we had followed the economic policies of the coalition, we would be down the drain, and it is no different with the coalition policy on climate change. It is economically irresponsible and reckless. It will slug taxpayers, not big polluters. It is unfunded. It does not limit greenhouse gas emissions. It will see a rise in greenhouse gas emissions of 13 per cent. It will give less to farmers. It is committing us to being run over by our neighbours, by some of our important trading partners, and it will give less to farmers for the actions that they want to take.
The shadow minister for finance, Senator Joyce, really has lost the plot on this. I reiterate that he said that they would fund it from the Henry tax review. It is just astounding that someone in that position could say that. Whereas, if you look at the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, you will see that it is funded, it is economically responsible and it is a major economic reform that will protect both our economy and our environment. It will lead us into the future that we need to be led into. But it is not a future that we can say is five or 10 years out there down the road; it is here now, and that is why we have to take that action now. This Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme of the Rudd government is the one that will do that, protecting our economy and protecting our environment.
I describe myself not as a sceptic but as an ‘anti’. When I say that, I do not say it lightly. I would like to think that every decision I make and position I espouse in this place is backed up by very extensive research—and I will go into that in a moment. I have tried to find a formula of words. If you were to cover your house with chicken wire and then say, ‘My house will now be warm in winter,’ or, ‘It will be cool in summer,’ how ridiculous that would be. Do you think chicken wire is going to make any difference to the heat of your house? Of course it is not. And that is 400 parts per million. You do not have to be a genius here to figure out that that is the equivalent of putting chicken wire over your house. I do not care if I am the only person in the place saying this—it would not be the first time—but I know who is going to be proved accurate in the long run.
The leading proponent of global warming—the leading scientist—in Great Britain let the cat out of the bag when his papers got into the public arena. He said that it was a shame that an Australian died because he was one of the few people who was working on proving the link between global warming and CO2. Even if you say that the world is warming—and the jury is probably out on that too—then you have to prove why. As I have said previously in this place, if a photon is being reflected from the surface of the earth, the idea that it is going to hit one of those 400 parts per million and bounce back to earth is fairly extraordinary. I have thrown a lot of stones in my time—literally, not metaphorically—and I have never noticed one of them coming back to me. If you throw them at a rock or a tree they will be deflected, but they will be deflected forward not backwards. On the odd occasion they might come back but that would be very rare indeed. There is a deflection but it goes in the same direction.
Obviously I am oversimplifying. When I come to this place I do not want to be saying things that are not fully and substantially researched. There is a problem that arises in the oceans—and I pay great tribute to Dr Katharina Fabricius, at the Institute of Marine Science, which is one of very few intellectual institutions in Australia that has maintained its integrity. I wish I could say the same thing about CSIRO. It has been a great tragedy for Australia that that organisation has impugned its intellectual integrity on a number of occasions now. The Institute of Marine Science, very much to its credit, has maintained—to quote one of the leading scientists in this field, Katharina Fabricius—that, if we put large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, it will be absorbed into the ocean proportionately. This tends to make the ocean acidic, which tends to create problems for calcium carbonate—that is, for bivalves, which are probably the lowest on the food chain in the oceans.
So there is a much more serious problem that can arise, a much more immediate problem. I am not saying that the problem is there at the present moment. They carried out tests on about 24 creatures of the sea, bubbled CO2 through the salt water and found that about 21 of them decreased their growth and three increased their growth. I thought: ‘Yes, they’ve proved their point scientifically. This is not like global warming; this is something that has very hard science behind it.’ A person such as me who is not a sceptic but an ‘anti’ can say, ‘Yes, I think we should take a bit of a pull on the reins here.’
Having said that, the coalition has come forward—and I praise the Leader of the Opposition for his phrase ‘direct action’. He said, ‘We’re into direct action; we’re going to do physical things that will answer this call.’ Wilson Tuckey has said that on many occasions in this place and has been eminently sensible in this area.
The honourable member for Leichhardt is here, and he will back me up when I say that in Northern Australia we are wonderfully endowed with water. We are wonderfully endowed with sunshine. We can provide renewable energy to you in spades. Having praised the Leader of the Opposition for his movement towards direct action rather than the macro approach being advocated by the government, I say that, in sharp contrast, it is the government that has gone into the specifics and has gone a long way to delivering. In this case the cheque has not been in the mail; we have got a lot of commitment but we have not seen the colour of the government’s money yet.
We praise the honourable Minister for Resources and Energy, Mr Ferguson, for the wonderful work that he has done in advocating the connection of the Pilbara and Olympic Dam. But it is vitally important that in the richest mineral province on earth, the north-west mineral province, which has 500 million tonnes of iron ore, none of it has been touched at all, and we have not even looked for it—but we know there are 500 million tonnes out there.
It has four per cent of the world’s known uranium reserves—none of it touched; it is completely untapped. The biggest vanadium reserves in the world are at Julia Creek. It, of course, is famous because it is the biggest copper, silver, lead and zinc province on Earth, with some of the biggest mines on Earth, such as Mount Isa, operating in the area. Cannington was for a long time the most profitable mine in the stable of BHP, the biggest mining company in the world. It was the most profitable mine and—please, God—when they double production it will be again. So this is the richest mineral province on Earth. We have 24 phosphate deposits in the world; four of the 24 are in north-west Queensland. Only one of those has been touched.
To tap that wonderful resource we need energy. We need cheap power. I have to say this in harsh judgment upon the government. Please, Mr Government of Australia—and Mr Opposition of Australia, because the other side has been just as bad when they have been in government—understand that all you sell to the rest of the world is coal, aluminium and, to a lesser extent, iron ore. Coal and aluminium comprise over 30 per cent of what you sell to the rest of the world. All of Australia’s production put together does not amount to coal and aluminium. And what is aluminium? Aluminium is congealed electricity. Where does electricity come from? Electricity comes from coal. And if you say that electricity should not come from coal, God help you, because you will not have an aluminium industry.
Let me be very specific. I was minister for mines and energy in Queensland—and, if I say so myself, a very successful one. In fact, my department won the science prize for Australia for our solar energy in the Torres Straits. It was overturned by an incoming socialist government, I might add, but we will leave that out of the way!
Yes, and in addressing the bill you must understand that if you increase the price of electricity you shut down the aluminium industry. The price of coal is $38 a megawatt. The price of nuclear generated power is $60 a megawatt. If you want to go to renewables you are talking about $100-plus. So forget about our aluminium industry. Also forget about your mineral-processing industry; a very large proportion of our copper, silver, lead and zinc is processed in Australia, and it will be completely non-competitive. In fairness to the government I have to say they have acknowledged that and excluded these industries, but there are grave dangers that that policy can be switched back. I have watched the work of Mr Rudd over many, many years, both in Queensland and now down here. He is very sensible. The bigger picture has been his history, and we hope it remains so. But who knows what happens in a change of leadership or a change of government? All I can say is that if the government or the opposition back off on that principle then God help Australia, because 30 to 40 per cent of our income depends upon cheap electricity, and that equals coal.
Having said all of those things, we give the government very great praise for their national energy grid concept. The first project there is to take power from the national grid out to the great mineral province of north-west Queensland, the richest mineral province on Earth by a fair margin. We have a very old power station. It is 50 years old and has tiny units. It is very outdated. It has to operate on gas which has to be brought from Surat, 2,000 kilometres away. It is enormously expensive, and we cannot keep operating like that, so we are very appreciative of the actions of the federal government in stating that they are going to move into this national energy grid. The honourable member for O’Connor, Mr Tuckey, has advocated that national grid on many occasions, and I think it only fair that he pay some tribute to the current government for the grid which he failed to get out of his government.
Let me move now to the transmission line that will take the power. The north Australia clean energy corridor is proposed by Minister Ferguson, the Treasurer, Minister Burke and Minister Albanese, and I must emphasise that the government needs to act if it is to claim credit for it. To date they have talked, and that is excellent—we thank them most sincerely—but there has to be action from the government on this clean energy corridor. When I say, ‘It is not a transmission line now; it is a clean energy corridor,’ it is because a wonderful company called PhytoFuel has come to the magnificent conclusion, God bless them, that there are six million hectares of dirty prickly acacia tree infestation that has wiped out our native flora and fauna. They are going to take those prickly trees and burn them. They are going to create electricity out of the steam they generate from burning them and they are going to replace them with biofuel trees. What a wonderful project for Australia to give future generations of Australians.
They need a little bit of help at this stage. They will deliver to you 100 megawatts of permanent energy from their projects in north-west Queensland, but they have to get some assistance at this stage. The PhytoFuel project is from Julia Creek to Hughenden, all along the transmission line from Townsville to Mount Isa. At Hughenden, the Kennedy wind farm is from the same people who built the biggest wind farm in Australia, at Ravenshoe. Once again, the member for Leichhardt, like myself, has been up there many times, admiring the wonderful—and lyrical and poetic; it is a great tourist attraction apart from any other consideration—wind farm they built. They built the biggest wind farm in Australia; now they are going to build one of the biggest in the world at Hughenden. God bless them. They have about 15 or 18 months to finish their full assessment work. What wonderful Australians. The government has to help and support these people.
Finally, most important of all is the solar-biofuels project at Pentland. During the daytime, the power station will run on solar units. For the other 15 or 16 hours a day, those same units will be run by sugarcane fibre—the residue after we take the sugar out and convert it into ethanol—a wonderful reducer of CO2. Sugarcane ethanol is the par excellence reducer of CO2 in the world, but we burn the sugarcane fibre to get rid of it. At the present moment we do not burn it to generate electricity. In fact only a quarter of our bagasse—what we call sugarcane fibre residue—is burned to produce electricity. All our sugar mills are net exporters of electricity but they should be very big net exporters and they can be.
This project at Pentland with solar during the day and biofuels during the night will produce 500 megawatts of electricity and the million of us that live in North Queensland use about 1,000 megawatts, so half the northern grid or all of the north-west Queensland mineral province grid will be carried by this one proposal and that is not including the wind farm or the PhytoFuels project. Further north—and again member for Leichhardt will back me up here—on the Gilbert river we can double that project.
The honourable member for Leichhardt and I share the great Mitchell River which has as much water in it as the whole of the Murray-Darling put together and it has rolling flat plains almost all the way from Mareeba to Kowanyama. It is a magnificent area for agricultural production. People say, ‘What about the trees?’ Not many trees grow where you only get rainfall for three months of the year. We get a hell of a lot rainfall in that three months, but it is only for that period of time. But we have ample resources there. We can produce a project three times the size on the Mitchell River that we can produce at Pentland off the Burdekin River, which I might add is the third-biggest river in Australia. There is the Murray-Darling, the Mitchell is next and the Burdekin is the third-biggest river in Australia and Pentland is off the Burdekin.
That is 2,000 megawatts of clean electricity forever. In 100 years time the Burdekin will still be running, a little bit of water from it will be diverted, it will be spread out and it will be growing sugarcane—200 years time, if you like—and it will not cost much more than it costs now, because it is a waste product that currently we would burn to get rid of. We put CO2 up into the atmosphere of no value to the Australian people or to the planet. If the rest of the sugar mills in Australia converted over, that would be another 2,000 megawatts of electricity, so what you have done is to reduce your 40,000 megawatts of electricity consumption in Australia by 4,000 megawatts. One-tenth of Australia’s entire electricity supply will be coming from renewables that are not putting CO2 into the atmosphere. In actual fact they will reduce the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere through sugar, which is a huge absorber of CO2, at 73 tonnes per hectare.
I have not canvassed ethanol and it is a great regret that my country cannot produce a government that could mandate ethanol. What a sad, sad fact of life. I had never been overseas but I broke my duck to do a quick trip to Brazil and the United States ethanol belt. I filled my car up at 84c a litre in Minnesota in the United States. The price here at that time was 134c a litre. I filled up in Sao Paulo in Brazil at 74c a litre. Why are we paying 134c a litre? It is because we do not have a government that has the guts to stand up to the big corporations—that is why. That is the only reason why this country has not moved down a pathway that would probably save 1,000 lives a year—because petrol is carcinogenic whereas ethanol is the most clean and pure form of alcohol. In fact, believe it or not, both Brazil and America moved to ethanol not originally to help sugarcane farmers or their corn farmers, but to clean up the pollution in their major cities. That was the reason they did it. It was originally legislated in places like California, where they had a dreadful problem with pollution and people were dying everywhere of lung cancer.
I had the great privilege and honour of serving as the Minister for Mines and Energy in the Queensland government. I had effectively four major power stations producing about 1,000 megawatts—I am oversimplifying, but I will just say it that way—and I was in a situation where I had to build a fifth. I was most reluctant. It was going to cost us $1,000 million. We had the cheapest electricity in the world at that stage and I did not want to be remembered as the minister that produced a regime that was not the cheapest in the world, so I cast around for ways to avoid having to build a power station. We went to all the authorities in Australia and the solution was simply solar hot water systems. There was argument on this, but I had no doubt in my mind that I could postpone having to build another power station for nine years if we instituted proper solar hot water systems.
I refer to the work of Professor Szokolay, the leading world authority in this area, which says that 40 per cent of domestic consumption of electricity goes to the heating of water. Solar hot water systems would have enabled us to avoid having to build that power station. And there was no cost imposition. The reduction in electricity costs for the homeowner—we were not going to pay for those hot water systems; the homeowner was going to pay—would offset the price. Ethanol will reduce dramatically the carbon footprint of Australia. Finally, there is the carbon in soil—and I praise both the government and the opposition for getting onto this. Australian soils contain only one-fifth of the carbon that they should contain, and we pay great tribute to the universities that have done this work, but there is no doubt in my mind that this is true. All I can say is that in the banana industry—(Time expired)
I rise today to support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and related legislation. Australia’s emissions trading scheme is an important part of our response to climate change. Emissions trading schemes are recognised around the world as being the right way to tackle climate change. They establish a cap on carbon emissions, and if we are serious about tackling climate change then we need to implement caps. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, our ETS, makes the big polluters pay and that is important. It stands in stark contrast to the opposition’s policy, which is all about making the taxpayers pay. Billions of dollars are going to go to the big polluters from the taxpayers of this country.
Importantly, as part of our bill there is real compensation to households. The impacts of our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme are that, overall, the average cost of living is expected to increase by about 1.1 per cent in the first two years of the scheme. Under the CPRS a total of 8.1 million households, or 90 per cent of all households, will receive assistance. On average those households will receive around $660 of assistance in 2013.
So we put a cap on carbon pollution; we make the big polluters, not taxpayers, pay; and we provide compensation to those who are really in need in the community, those on low to middle incomes—in particular, people like pensioners and working families. The shadow minister was interjecting before, a bit upset about this, because I think this is the really stark difference between our policy and their policy. We are about making the big polluters pay the cost of their emissions and providing a market based framework that will see business, innovation and research implement ways to reduce carbon pollution, and their approach is to regulate and then use taxpayers’ money to fund big polluters who may, in appropriate circumstances, reduce carbon emissions—starkly different approaches.
It is no wonder that an emissions trading scheme was agreed to by the former Howard government and by many of those opposite in statements made in public over an extended period of time. The shadow minister has even done a thesis on this, I understand, and is quoted as saying that our market based system is the right way to tackle climate change. But they have moved away from that. There are no other countries around the world adopting policies like the opposition’s. Thirty-five countries either have implemented or are committed to implementing emissions trading schemes, including many European countries and the United States of America.
Climate change is a problem here—it is a problem in my electorate of Leichhardt, and I am going to come to that—but it is also a global problem, and we need a global solution. We need to adopt climate change policies that tackle the unique challenges Australia faces as a result of climate change, but this needs to be part of a global solution if we are to make real progress on climate change. That is why the government has an unconditional target of five per cent by 2020 but will increase the target to 15 per cent or 25 per cent depending on the international community’s response.
The opposition is supposed to agree with these targets, but it has no plans to reach them. If you are going to be responsible in this debate and establish a target, you have to have a plan to actually achieve that target. We do and the opposition does not. We have to have a framework that allows us to take action in this country, but this is a global problem, so we need to have a framework that also enables us to work with the international community. The businesses in this country—many of them are export or import businesses—operate in a global environment, and we need a response to climate change that also works within a global framework. An emissions trading scheme does. That is why countries all around the world are adopting or committing to adopting it—as I have said, European countries, the United States of America and many others.
Until late last year there was bipartisan support for action on climate change. The legislation that we are presenting today represents negotiations in good faith between the Rudd government and the Liberal opposition last year. It was supported by the coalition caucus late last year, before the climate change sceptics took control of the Liberal Party and anointed Mr Abbott as leader. I know there are many in the Liberal Party who still want to see Australia adopt an ETS, with Liberal senators crossing the floor last year when this legislation was brought to the Senate. It will be interesting to see who joins the former Leader of the Opposition, Mr Turnbull, who I understand is reported to be going to cross the floor and support this legislation, because it was negotiated in good faith.
The Liberals that I hear talking publicly are always banging on about individualism and free thought in the Liberal Party. Well, it will be interesting to see how many of them are prepared to stand up to the conservative faction in their own party that has taken control of it and anointed Mr Abbott as opposition leader. That is the real challenge for them: will other responsible members of the Liberal Party who want to see action on climate change stand up to the conservative leaders in their party and cross the floor on this legislation? We negotiated in good faith with their shadow minister, Ian Macfarlane, and the leadership at that time of the Liberal Party. We negotiated in good faith, and this legislation represents that, because the Australian people want the Liberal Party, the Labor Party—this parliament—to come together and take action on climate change. That is what this legislation represents. It represents an agreement between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party prior to the conservative forces in the Liberal Party taking control of that party. We can look at that. We know that.
The current Leader of the Opposition—these are not my words but his own words—has described the science on climate change as ‘crap’. It is not the way that I describe it; he has described it as ‘crap’. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Nick Minchin, is on the record as saying on a Four Corners program that he does not believe that human beings are responsible for climate change. Their finance spokesman, Senator Joyce, whom we have seen this week making some unbelievable comments in public about how they might fund their con job policy, was out last year publicly campaigning against action on climate change and against an ETS.
The Rudd government sat down with the Liberal Party last year and worked out what we believe is an emissions trading scheme in the national interest that will work within a global framework, and we did that in good faith. It will be very interesting to see how those members opposite who really want to take action and be serious about this issue vote on this legislation, because Tony Abbott is quoted as saying he thinks it is ‘crap’; their leader in the Senate, Senator Minchin, has said that he does not believe humans are a part of the reason we are suffering from climate change; and they have appointed a finance spokesman who is an active campaigner against any action.
We need to look at their policy. I have already mentioned that it is going to cost $1.2 billion a year, and I gather that over 10 years that is $10 billion through to 2019-20. It is a hell of a lot of money—a lot of schools, hospitals and programs that can be implemented to actually tackle climate change in a serious way. We have had, not from us—the government—but from the Department of Climate Change, an analysis of this policy released earlier this week. As I said, it is not an emissions trading scheme; it does not put a cap on carbon pollution. Over there they are supposed to have committed to a five per cent target.
What does the Department of Climate Change say on this? Their brief shows that emissions will actually increase under Mr Abbott’s policy to be 30 per cent above 2000 levels by 2020 rather than the five per cent reduction he promises. Why would you expect the opposition to bring forward a policy that takes action on climate change? Mr Abbott is quoted as saying it is ‘crap’. The leader in the Senate does not believe it is happening. They have a finance spokesman in the Senate in their economic team who has actually campaigned against it. Why would we expect them to bring forward a policy that was about taking action? It is a climate change con and no wonder the shadow spokesman is upset, because he is on the record with his thesis as saying ‘a market based system’—which is what we have introduced in this legislation—is the right way to tackle this issue.
What the government is bringing forward is legislation that not only fits with the best interests of this country—as negotiated between the Labor and Liberal parties last year—but also works internationally. It makes sense to me. The world’s population has increased to over six billion people. Over the last 100 years we have seen the world’s population increase significantly. We have seen the industrialisation of the world. This is a good thing in that our standards of living have been increasing. We in the First World have a wonderful standard of living. People in China and India and around the world also want to live like that. It is no wonder then that emissions are increasing and that we face a significant challenge in tackling climate change. It is no wonder then that we need a global solution, but First World countries like Australia need to be taking action.
The IPCC, which has been much maligned by sceptics and critics, has made it clear that the science recognises that there is a real threat of climate change and it will impact on icons like the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics rainforests and the Murray-Darling. There are real threats to tourism operators, to people’s livelihoods—whether they are farmers or small business owners—and to people’s ways of life such as those living in coastal communities in Cairns or in the Torres Strait and other parts of the country.
Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2007 were nearly 40 per cent higher than they were in 1990. As I said, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, said in their 2007 report that the world has already warmed as a result of human emissions of carbon pollution. The IPCC has already recognised that humans are having an impact. The key findings of the IPCC include: average surface temperatures have risen 0.74 degrees in the last 100 years; globally 14 of the 15 warmest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2009; and projected global average surface warming in 2100 is around 1.1 to 6.4 degrees. It is a significant range but, because it is a long way off, we can take action and make a difference, and that is what this legislation is about. I know that the sceptics say that there is some grand conspiracy within the IPCC on this issue.
Let us look at what has been said recently by groups like the Australian Bureau of Meteorology which, I know, is a very well-respected organisation. In my electorate of Leichhardt it provides forecasts on cyclones and droughts. I come from a farming background and the bureau is very well respected in the farming community. The bureau found that the last decade was one of the warmest on record. I will quote from an interview on the ABC with Bureau of Meteorology climatologist David Jones:
… each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the previous one.
And he has warned that this year is set to be even hotter, with temperatures likely to be between 0.5 and one degrees above average.
“There’s no doubt about global warming, the planet’s been warming now for most of the last century,”
“Occasionally it takes a breather, during La Nina events for example.
“But we’re getting these increasingly warm temperatures—not just for Australia but globally—and climate change, global warming is clearly continuing.
“We’re in the latter stages of an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean and what that means for Australian and global temperatures is that 2010 is likely to be another very warm year—perhaps even the warmest on record.”
The Bureau of Meteorology, that great bastion of global conspiracy, is saying that climate change is happening and is real. In my electorate of Leichhardt we also have the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, which is a great organisation that I strongly support. Their briefing outlines some of the potential threats that impact on the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics rainforests and places like the Torres Strait. Last weekend we saw king tides in the Torres Strait and we were very lucky that the weather conditions were calm and that houses were not damaged and people’s lives were not lost as a result of those king tides. Combining storms and bad weather with those king tides is extremely dangerous. I recognise that we need to take action on climate change for the longer term, but there are things that we also need to do to mitigate climate change. The government has a whole range of direct action policies that it is implementing to do that.
I want to talk a little bit about the Torres Strait. We have committed $300,000 to do some digital elevation modelling to gain a better understanding of the real threats of climate change, particularly sea level rises in that part of the world. There is a real need to look at creating and building new infrastructure such as, for example, sea walls in the short term. We need to look at the longer term scenarios about what is the long-term future of some of the populations of those islands. People want to stay living there and I would like to see them stay there but we need to look at the scenarios.
One of the scenarios is that the global community takes action; that governments like ours are enabled to implement our emissions trading scheme, join with the United States, India, China and other members of the international community and take real action on climate change to reduce the risk of global warming and a sea level rise. That is a real scenario, a scenario that we are debating today in this House, and if we get the agreement that we negotiated in good faith with the opposition through we will be demonstrating global leadership.
That is a real thing that we can do for people in the Torres Strait, because in the long term that can make a difference. If we do not take action, and if we get stuck with the con job that the opposition has brought forward, then it is likely that sea levels will rise higher than they should and the islands in the Torres Strait will suffer a situation where people may have to move. That would be very sad, and that is not what I want to happen. We need to start working with those communities to make sure we plan for the longer term. That is what I am committed to do. Legislation like this today is very much about ensuring that the longer term gives a scenario where those people can stay living where they are, which is what I want to happen. But we need to take action, and it is very important that we start doing that today.
As I said, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre has made a number of predictions. The latest climate change projections generated under the MTSRF program that funds that are: by 2030 the regional average annual temperature will increase by between 0.6 of a degree and 1.2 degrees, and after 2030 the rate of increase is highly dependent on emission levels. So after 2030 it is dependent on what we do. They go on to talk about average annual rainfall: it will be smaller and we will be drier. Transitional seasons will become drier and wet seasons will become slightly wetter. Cyclones are likely to be stronger and to create greater damage, not only to infrastructure like houses in Cairns and coastal communities—rising sea levels and higher impact cyclones are a real threat to those houses—but also to forests and those environmental assets that we all depend on in terms of our local economy.
It is critically important that we take action. The IPCC has made it clear that humans are impacting on the rate of climate change. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has made it clear that we are doing that, and local research organisations like the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre have made it clear that climate change is happening.
I understand that there are sceptics out there who could be concerned about the extent of some of the claims. The reality is that it is prudent to take action. That is why the opposition, prior to the conservative faction in the Liberal Party taking control, wanted to work with us in good faith and support an emissions trading scheme. We are now left in a situation where the real conservatives in the Liberal Party are running the show. Mr Abbott said recently that a four-degree rise in temperatures would not be significant and would not be a real concern. The reality is tourism operators, farmers and people living in the Torres Strait or in coastal communities will suffer the real impact of rising sea levels, higher cyclones, droughts and floods and the like. It is prudent to take action.
That is what this legislation is about; it is about action, and it is part of an overall plan that we have that also includes our 20 per cent renewable energy target and a lot of direct action programs, whether they are ceiling insulation or packages for small- and medium-sized business to fit energy efficiency measures. There is the work we are doing with farming communities. In my own electorate there is the natural resource management group, Terrain, which is looking at how we can make soil carbon part of the solution for climate change.
I support this legislation strongly. (Time expired)
As always, it is a pleasure to speak on important matters before the House, and this is of course the third occasion in seven months that I have had the opportunity to talk about the government’s ETS, in effect—or the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the spin name put to it instead of the ETS. I presume they think it is more palatable.
Just to pick up on a couple of points from the member for Leichhardt: I think he encapsulates perfectly the arguments put in this place by those on the other side in that they never actually address the legislation. It is really interesting; they never actually talk about the emissions trading scheme. They talk about climate change and whether it is real or not, and the effects it may have if it comes to pass, the dangers that are presented by it and so forth. Some of those points are valid and some are overstated, as per usual in this debate. But you never hear them actually talk about how the emissions trading scheme will work, how it will be implemented and what the legislation actually talks about doing.
I think it is largely because they do not really understand it. They do not really understand that it is going to put a massive new cost on ordinary working Australians, whom I know some members on the other side have had a long association of representing and do care very much about how those people keep their jobs, particularly in the mining industry and the agricultural sector. Those who represent semi-rural seats particularly know that, as do new fathers, as the parliamentary secretary at the table is. We congratulate him very warmly on the recent addition to his family.
They understand that any policy change which puts on a new tax or a new cost to industry means that it will be passed on to consumers and it will have an impact on those workers and industries. That is why I think that those on the other side do not ever talk about the specifics of the emissions trading scheme. They will talk about everything else. You heard the member for Leichhardt talk about king tides, which presumably have never occurred before, and you will hear him talk about the Great Barrier Reef. You will hear other members talk about temperature rises, the IPCC and great conservative conspiracies—apparently in Australia these days you are not allowed to have a different view from the government. If you do, they will censor that on the internet.
You never actually hear the Labor Party address the specifics of the emissions trading scheme. You hear the Prime Minister in question time dodge, weave and duck when it comes to the issue of power prices and the cost increases that will come through the scheme—rather than be honest with people and take them with the government on the journey with respect to this massive economic change. It is a massive economic change, whether you agree with emissions trading or not, and it will change the structure of our economy and increase the costs in our economy enormously. They never take people with them on that; they try to avoid the detail and the specifics and talk about the overall issue of climate change, the effects of climate change, the science of climate change and the great conservative conspiracies—so they claim—against it.
If you look back in this country’s history on the big debates that have changed the economy, whichever side you agreed with, the Prime Minister and the government of the day took the Australian people into their confidence. How the GST would work was explained fully before it was taken to an election. The Labor Party ran holus-bolus against it. It was their right in a democracy to do so, but there was a debate. The government of the day took the people with them. They told them why they wanted to reform the tax system. In 2005, when significant workplace relations reform was introduced into the parliament, the Prime Minister of the day explained the legislation at the dispatch box in this place. It was vehemently disagreed with by those on the other side. They fought tooth and nail against it, as was their right, but they argued their case.
The problem with the Labor Party in this debate is that they have never told the Australian people what this emissions trading scheme will do. They have talked about climate change, the effects of climate change and why we need to address it. They talk about all of the big-picture issues to do with climate change and say, ‘We need to take action, and this is action.’ But they never actually say what the action is. They never actually say, ‘To reduce the threat of climate change we need to put a cost on carbon, which means there needs to be an impact on the households of Australia of $120 billion over 10 years.’ That is a significant change to our economy, but the unfortunate bit for the Labor Party is they currently do not have the gumption to explain that to people. They want to slip and slide it through, all on the overall basis of, ‘We’re for action; they’re against action.’
The problem is that people have started to work this out, and all credit to the shadow minister for climate action, who is at the table, for his work on this. If you really want to lose a couple of hours of your time, go and take him on about the details of direct action on climate change. There are very few people who know as much about this issue as the shadow minister. Some would argue that he knows too much about it, and the conversation on the detail can become a little tiresome after a while. He does know too much about soil carbon in my view. No-one should know that much about that sort of thing! But he does know it, and that is why we have such a good, solid policy foundation. He has convinced the Leader of the Opposition, who is absolutely sure that direct action is the best way to address this significant issue.
There are people on our side of politics who question the science of climate change, and I say they are entitled to have a perspective and to argue their perspective. I believe that it is in our best interests to make some adjustments to the way that we operate, because the benefit of the doubt should be given to the planet. I tend to agree with the Rupert Murdoch approach to this: we should give the planet the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, we should look at addressing, where we can, improvements to the way that we power and sustain our world. We do have a big challenge going forward, with increasing populations and the amount of development in formerly rural and agricultural areas, where we have taken more than we should have, like in the Murray-Darling Basin. We do need to become more sustainable, we do have an impact on the planet and we should do things, where appropriate, about that. There is no question about that.
However, you also have to look at the most effective way to address the question of sustainability and the question of climate change. Some would argue, with some passion, that an emissions trading scheme, or a price on carbon, is the most effective way to go. My view is, in an international context with the big emitters as part of the picture, an emissions trading scheme has a lot of merit. However, Australia doing it on its own, outside of an international agreement and binding targets, would be to tie an anvil around our own economic ankle and jump into the water. If you were serious about addressing climate change, you would realise that all that will do is push the dirty industries to other countries which do not have these regulations and requirements. You will have the same, if not more, emissions through emissions leakage, because those industries will be less efficient and use less effective technologies than they would if they continued to operate in Australia. Doing that would destroy thousands of jobs and the opportunity of thousands of people for a better life. So we do have a responsibility in this place to look at the detail of proposals that have been put forward by the government.
At no point have the government ever given a detailed explanation in this place about how their scheme will work and what effect it will have. If you were to listen to the debate presented by those opposite, in particular the Prime Minister, you would think there was to be no impact on households, jobs or industry—which is completely untrue. Of course there is an impact. We have identified our impact on the Australian budget at just over $3 billion. We have said we would fund that with our direct action. Seriously, it is time in this debate—and it is now the third time we have had to debate this legislation in the parliament—for the government to come in and explain how it will work, to come in and take people into their confidence and to come in and explain why they think an emissions trading scheme, absent action by the rest of the world, is the best way to address it, compared to the direct action approach that the shadow minister and the Leader of the Opposition have proposed, the well-thought-through, detailed, documented approach that we have proposed this week.
The question about international action is one that is extremely pertinent to this debate. The previous debates we have had on this legislation took place prior to the Copenhagen conference. I checked back on my contributions to those debates last year, and in June, when I made a point about the Copenhagen conference, I commented that I thought that the political capital of President Obama would probably ensure that there was a successful outcome at the Copenhagen conference. Unfortunately that did not come to pass. The Copenhagen conference was, in anyone’s view, a complete failure. In fact, I think it set action on this issue back quite some way. There are reasons for that, and some of them are very good, in particular the attitude of the Chinese and some of the developing nations to what they see as policies which will restrict their growth at a time they do not want to be pursuing policies which restrict their growth.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to hear Condoleezza Rice, the former US Secretary of State, speak and she made the comment about China’s growth that to understand what China will do in these international negotiations you just have to look at what they want domestically. They need to continue to grow domestically because they have all these internal pressures and leverages like 200 million people a year looking to move from very poor rural arrangements to the lower middle class in the cities, so they need to create 200 million new jobs. They need to continue to grow at eight or nine per cent just to keep the social cohesion, for what it is worth, in that country. That is what the government is constantly very aware of. Are they going to do anything which risks that domestic growth? No way. They are not going to sign up to something which is going to put at risk that domestic growth. They cannot afford to do that.
So how are we going to get this international agreement to move forward? I do not think there is any doubt that it is a very difficult road. It really does underline why we need to be very careful with the steps that we take. If we jump ahead of the world and we implement a whole big new tax on our industry and our consumers before China, India and the United States do, we will create a massive rod for our own back. The Waxman-Markey bill, which members will be familiar with and which is before the US Senate, faces a very difficult road this year with the change in the political landscape in the United States in recent days. Comments made as recently as today, I understand, indicate that given the difficulties this bill will face the President is now looking at direct action, which is exactly what the shadow minister has proposed.
You are starting to see a picture here, which is that this ETS has been rushed. It has been rushed through without detail being given to the Australian people. It has been rushed through without the impacts it will have outside of world action being thought through well enough. Even if you do believe in Australia taking action—and I am one who does believe that we should take action—you have to think about the most effective and best action that you can take. What we have been able to do is to present a package of proposals through the shadow minister and the Leader of the Opposition that directly addresses this issue. What we see from the other side is a game of politics being played where they want to talk about us versus them and what we believe and they don’t because it suited their political agenda for some time.
The issue here is simple. The Leader of the Opposition, in his own robust typical fashion, is being very open and honest with the Australian people. We will spend just over $3 billion a year on addressing this challenge of climate change. The government intends to put a massive new cost structure into the economy without actually telling people how that will work or without being honest that it will have a genuine effect on their lives or without being honest with people that it will not achieve the environmental outcomes that they expect. Those on the other side talk about the fact that we are not putting a restriction on emissions. Nor does the government’s ETS. It puts a price on carbon, but it is not restricting the amount of emissions. So it is a false debate which is being run by those on the other side because it is about politics.
Finally, I think today—this is the third opportunity I have had to speak on this bill—we will be defeated if those who represent workers in semirural electorates do not cross the floor and do the right thing by their workers. But, presuming those members do not cross the floor and the legislation passes along party lines, it most probably will be defeated in the Senate again. I do not think we will see it again this year because I think that the Prime Minister has worked out that his approach on this issue has been wrong. We heard him say the other day that he has not taken people with him. He is right about that. The question will be: is he honest enough to come in today and talk about how much power prices will rise and what impact it will have on the cost of food, Australian jobs and emissions? That will be the question rather than the overall ‘we believe and you don’t’ debate that we have had time after time in this place. We might actually finally see some honest debate about a very significant issue. I congratulate the shadow minister at the table for the work he has done on this issue and also the Leader of the Opposition. I just hope the government, rather than continuing to push for this piece of legislation, is able to actually sit down and put some real measures in to address this serious issue.
It is my pleasure to rise to speak in support of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and cognate bills. In doing that I think it is important to reflect on why we are reintroducing these bills. We are reintroducing them primarily because we have a mandate from the Australian people to introduce an emissions carbon trading scheme. That is what we went to the Australian people with prior to the election and that is what we promised the Australian people that we would deliver. We know that those on the other side, the former government, under Prime Minister Howard had the same policy. They believed that an emissions trading scheme was the best solution to deal with climate change and the overwhelming science is saying that climate change is caused by carbon pollution and carbon in our atmosphere and the way to deal with it is to put a price on carbon.
All the countries around the world are implementing carbon pollution reduction schemes. We have 30 countries—including those in Europe, Japan and New Zealand—that either have introduced or are introducing a carbon pollution reduction scheme. The reason they are doing that is that overwhelmingly everybody agrees the best way to deal with it is to put a price on carbon. But that is not what we have seen from those opposite with their proposal. As we know, their proposal is some magic potion that obviously nobody else in the world has thought of other than Tony Abbott. He is the only one who has this great brilliant idea about another way to reduce carbon emissions. If it is so brilliant, why didn’t anybody other than Tony Abbott come up with it? It is just farcical to come into this place and say that their solution is going to reduce carbon and meet the target of five per cent—our target which they have agreed is a consensus target of a five per cent reduction in emissions over that time. As I said, there is clearly scientific consensus that climate change is happening and caused by carbon in our atmosphere and we need to reduce it. It has been accepted by the majority of scientists and it is accepted by the majority of governments.
We have set our target and the CPRS and an emissions trading scheme is clearly the best way to achieve that. That is why we are reintroducing this bill. But we have been upfront with the Australian people, unlike what the previous speaker, the member for Mayo, was trying to indicate. We have said that, yes, you cannot reduce carbon, you cannot move to a low-carbon economy, without a cost, and the sooner you introduce legislation, the sooner you provide a surety for people about how you are going to do that, the less cost to the economy there will be. You have got to act now and the sooner you act the less cost there will be down the track. So we all know that that is why we are doing this, why we are reintroducing this bill.
I have spoken on this bill before and I have spoken about the impacts in my electorate of Franklin in southern Tasmania. It has a lot of coastal areas. Specifically in my last speech I referred to a report that has been done and I want to revisit that because I think it is really quite significant. It is on the climate change impacts on Clarence coastal areas. Clarence City Council is a municipality in my electorate which has a lot of coastline, and it has had a report done that has been funded by the Australian Department of Climate Change and the state government’s emergency service. It reveals quite a compelling argument for action on climate change. It says that we need to act now because we are already having issues with the coastal areas in the electorate. We have 191 kilometres of coastline, much of which is low-lying, and major floods and storms are raising a number a concerns particularly for residents of Lauderdale and Roches Beach. I would have thought that most people in this place who have coastal areas in their electorates would be very concerned about the need to act on climate change and the need to act now. That is why we are reintroducing this legislation, because we want to provide some surety for people. We want to put a price on carbon because most governments around the world understand that that is the best way that you can reduce carbon pollution in the atmosphere.
I want to go back to Tony Abbott’s plan. We all know about the plan he has dreamt up, this magic potion, in the last six weeks that nobody else in the world has thought of before. He is always going on about this. We have heard the confession from the member for Mayo that there are people opposite who do not believe in climate change. I thank the member for Mayo for being so upfront that there are people on his side of the chamber who do not believe in climate change. And of course we have heard Tony Abbott himself say that he thinks climate change is ‘absolute crap’. What is really interesting about those on the other side and the confession from the member for Mayo is that the member for Mayo even went so far as to say that he thinks an emissions trading scheme has some merit. I call on those on the other side who do believe in climate change and who do believe that an emissions trading scheme has some merit to come over here and vote with us for an emissions trading scheme that will actually reduce carbon in the atmosphere because we are going to put a price on it. That is how you actually reduce it. I think it is important that those on the other side think very carefully about their position on this, and I am looking forward to Malcolm Turnbull’s contribution when he gets to speak on the bill, because he has made it very clear that he still supports an emissions trading scheme. That is why we had that in good faith negotiation and discussion last year when we introduced this bill before. We had a mandate from the Australian people and we wanted to provide certainty for businesses and the economy on this issue. That is why we had those discussions, because we know that a lot of those opposite really believe that an emissions trading scheme is the way to go, and specifically that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the way to go.
The Leader of the Opposition has also quite clearly been on the record, which is interesting, saying that polluters going about their usual business will not be affected. How can you say to big, heavy polluters that it is still okay to pollute, when you accept the need to do something on climate change? I do not get that. I am sure there are plenty of people around here who are prepared to put some spin on how that would work, but I do not get it. The best way is to make big polluters pay and to support working families as the adjustments in the economy are being made. We have been upfront that there are going to be costs to the economy. We have costed our policy and, more importantly, we have funded it; we have worked out how we are going to pay for our CPRS. We still have to hear from the opposition, although we have had a few leaks here and there, about how they might actually fund their $10 billion over 10 years. They really are struggling to work out how they are going to pay for this. It is unfunded at the moment. We have heard some discussions and there have been a few slips of the tongue about some of the things they might do to pay for this, things like stopping overseas aid, sacking a few public servants. We have even heard a rumour that they have a secret tax agenda, and goodness only knows what is in that. So I look forward to that coming out. The only way they can pay for their policy realistically is to introduce new taxes or to cut existing services. Either of those will impact on the working people of this country. We at least have a plan to support working people while the adjustments to the economy are made under our plan. They have not given any thought to the working families of this country, they just want to slug them an extra tax and cut services to pay for their brilliant plan that nobody else in the world came up with except Tony Abbott in six weeks. Of the 30 nations across the world that are introducing an emissions trading scheme or are looking towards it, who realise that an emissions trading scheme is the solution, no-one else has come up with Tony Abbott’s brilliant plan—and I wonder why that is. I think it might be because it is not that great a plan.
The current Leader of the Opposition is now in the chamber and I am glad to address him directly. We all know that he has had so many different positions on the CPRS. He supported it when he was a government minister. As I said before, he said it was absolute crap. He then said that the Liberals should support a CPRS unamended. Then he demanded amendments. Now he opposes it totally. Why does he oppose it totally? Because he thinks it might be politically popular for a short-term gain. He is not thinking about the working families that we have thought about in our policy, where we are going to assist them with the adjustments to the economy that are going to occur as we adjust to a low-carbon economy. They are not thinking about working families; they want to slug them with an extra tax or cut services. That is the only way they can fund their policy.
I call on those opposite who have admitted that they believe in climate change, and even those like the member for Mayo, who said he thinks an emissions trading scheme might have some merit, to come over here and vote with us and to tell us what they really think. He said there is plenty of room in the Liberal Party for broad thought, for people to say what they think. Well, I would like them to put it on the record. I would like them to come into this place and to vote for what they believe in.