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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8614

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (15:45): This must be a very exciting day for the member for Wide Bay. It is a chance for him to relive his moment in the sun while the Leader of the Opposition was away on holiday last week, when we had commentary from the member for Wide Bay, the Leader of the National Party, on Australia's economic prospects. We had a little bit more today from the member for Wide Bay on his ideas about Australia's economic prospects.

We have just heard from the Leader of the National Party exactly the same lines as he was using when he was the acting Leader of the Opposition last week, when he and the shadow Treasurer tag-teamed in their hyperbolic rhetoric to try and convince the Australian public that Australia's economy is like that of Greece. That is right; that is what the Leader of the National Party would have had us believe last week. We are like Greece, where the economic situation is so dire that it has shocked the world. Greece is a country that was so deeply in debt that it was at risk of immediate default—a country that the International Monetary Fund and the European Union had to step in to bail out. It is a country that has had widespread rioting in the streets as a result of budget cuts their government put in place to scale back the debt.

That was what we heard from the Leader of the National Party last week. He compared our country to Greece, showing that he is only too happy to talk down the Australian economy and only too happy to talk down our prospects into the future. He is only too happy to falsely raise alarm and concern, and undermine the confidence in the Australian economy. Today we have again witnessed the spectacle of the no, no, no campaign, which is what we hear constantly from the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party, as they use the Australian parliament to again talk the Australian economy down. I am more than happy, however, to talk about the impact that the government's carbon price package will have on the Australian economy. It is a major reform that will prepare our economy for a clean energy future.

First, however, I wish to correct the Leader of the National Party on one small point: his suggestion that the Prime Minister has done anything other than criss-cross the country to go to every state and territory to explain the carbon price. He seems to have forgotten that the Prime Minister, just to name a few places, was in Townsville talking about our carbon price package, in the Latrobe Valley talking to workers—indeed the Prime Minister mentioned this in question time, earlier, when she spoke about the contract for closure, which is part of the carbon price package—and just last week in Esperance, Perth and other locations in Western Australia before returning from the winter recess, which she, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, has spent talking to the Australian people about the carbon price package.

It is also a bit ironic that we have had, just a couple of days after the Leader of the Opposition reportedly and somewhat laughably said that we needed to keep the political debate civil—you would have to laugh at this Leader of the Opposition saying that the political debate needs to be kept civil—the member for Indi, a frontbencher for the opposition, going to tell a group of protesters to maintain the rage. Far from keeping the debate calm, what we have seen today from the Leader of the National Party is anything but calm. We have heard from him nothing that in any way touched on the reason for a carbon price policy—nothing that touched on the reason for taking action on climate change at all. Instead we have had more misrepresentation, more whipping up of fear and more of the same no, no, no type of campaign—and not a word about the need for effective policy.

We say that climate change is a global problem. It is a problem of the most severe kind—an environmental problem confronting not only Australia but the planet. It is one that needs to be grappled with by cutting carbon emissions. Although one would not know it from listening to the Leader of the National Party here today or listening to the member for Flinders, the shadow spokesman on climate change, the Liberal Party and the National Party in this parliament have a bipartisan agreement with the government, which is to cut Australia's carbon emissions by five per cent from 2000 levels by 2020.

I see some of the climate change deniers sitting on the other side of the chamber, including the member for Dawson, who actually does not want to take any action on climate change. That is part of the problem that the Liberal and National parties have—they have among their number those who do not even agree with the pathetic inaction policy that the Liberal and National parties are presently supporting. Nothing at all is ever said by those opposite about why we are dealing with this problem and why they, at least on paper, agree that there is a need for action. I will repeat it: the policy of the Liberal Party and the policy of the National Party is to cut Australia's emissions by five per cent of 2000 levels by 2020. In doing so Australia will be at least going some way down the track towards doing our fair share to deal with this global problem.

The Liberal and National parties are turning their backs on the future. They are turning their backs on the opportunities that are presented to Australia, opportunities that have been grasped by other countries around the world, opportunities to participate in the economy of the 21st century—not the economy of the mid-20th century or of the 19th century but the economy of the 21st century, which will be a low-carbon economy. It will be one in which countries that favour and promote low-carbon, low-emitting industries will prosper. Those who wish to see us stuck in the industries of the 20th century, let alone those of the 19th century, will see our country flounder. The Liberal and National parties have adopted a position which would be the equivalent of saying to tradespeople in the 1920s that they should not learn new skills as car mechanics but, rather, stay as blacksmiths and carriage makers.

We wish our country to compete in the 21st century, not have our ecenomy frozen in the mid-20th century. That is why the Prime Minister said earlier today in question time that our economic future will be strengthened by the Clean Energy Future plan. Our economic future will be strengthened by guiding Australia to the economy of the 21st century, which is a low-carbon economy. Countries which are developing low-carbon, low-emissions industries and services are the countries which will be leading the world in coming decades. The United Kingdom has recognised this. Germany has recognised this. Other countries around the world have recognised this. We say it is simply wrong to think of the carbon price package and our Clean Energy Future plan, as it appears those on the other side do, as a trade-off between the environment and the economy. A carbon price will help us take advantage of the great opportunities that lie ahead as the world moves to cut its carbon pollution.

Just to give an idea of the extent of these opportunities, the low-carbon goods and services sector is estimated to be worth about $4.8 trillion globally and to employ 28 million people. It is a sector that is growing at four per cent a year and is expected to continue to accelerate. I will just quote someone who, on any view, comes from the inner ranks of business, Richard Lambert, who was recently in this country and also in New Zealand and is the former Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry. I heard him speak, and this is one of the things he said while he was here in July:

Taking carbon out of the atmosphere will require a whole bunch of new products and services to be developed, which will drive innovation and create new jobs and investment.

That's why companies like GE, Siemens, Jaguar Land Rover, Unilever and Marks and Spencer are not pushing back against carbon pricing policies. On the contrary, they understand that in the future they will need to be green to grow.

And that is, of course, why the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, wrote to our Prime Minister to congratulate Australia on the announcement of the Clean Energy Future plan on 10 July—because the British understand clearly that the future lies in adopting low-carbon processes; the future lies in putting a price on carbon.

But what do we have from those opposite? We have scare upon scare, misinformation upon misinformation. We have had more of the same from the Leader of the Nationals today. Extraordinarily, we had today in question time a question from the member for Flinders, who one would think from some of his past statements would know better, pushing what the Prime Minister rightly described as populist nonsense about the supposed problem of purchasing international carbon credits. This is the same member for Flinders who had supported, very directly, the purchasing of international carbon credits. As he said, a tonne of carbon is a tonne of carbon.

We are looking for the lowest abatement cost for Australia. We have had confirmed by economist after economist, by the International Monetary Fund, by the World Bank and by other countries that the cheapest and most effective means of lowering carbon pollution in this country is through an emissions trading scheme. That is why our policy has at its heart an emissions trading scheme. By contrast, the Liberal and National parties, having now said with their populist nonsense that they would not be purchasing international permits or carbon credits, have turned their backs on lowest cost abatement for Australia.

The planet is not concerned with where a tonne of emissions is reduced. The planet is concerned with an overall reduction of the amount of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The sooner those opposite begin to understand that that is the purpose of this policy, and that they need to have a policy that is capable of producing their supposed stated target, the quicker we will get to some level of rational debate in this country. The Liberal Party and the National Party, having ruled out the purchase of international carbon credits, are committing Australia to an on-budget cost that is vast—in the tens of billions of dollars. It would mean a cost of some $1,300 per household. It is a ridiculous way to proceed.

It is hard to believe that a party which supposedly prides itself on economic rationalism, which supposedly prides itself on a market approach to economic policy and which supposedly says that it does not like government picking winners and does not wish to have government throwing taxpayers' money at polluters has adopted a policy which does nothing other than that. Indeed, all economists have confirmed that the present inaction plan that the Liberal and National parties have is simply not capable of producing the emissions reductions that those parties have said they are signing up to.

We have had instead month after month of a scare campaign, month after month of nonsense from the Leader of the Opposition and nonsense from the Leader of the Nationals. We had the Leader of the Opposition out at a coalmine, which happened to be a Peabody mine, the day after the announcement of our carbon price plan and, embarrassingly, he said:

… the carbon tax is going to damage the coal industry … badly damage the coal industry … prejudice further investment in the coal industry …

And so on. I say 'embarrassingly' because the same afternoon Peabody, an American coal producer, announced a $4.7 billion bid for Macarthur Coal, and some three weeks after that we had Rio Tinto launching a $10.6 billion bid for Coal and Allied—hardly the sign of an industry that is under threat. It is hardly the sign of an industry that is supposedly so prejudiced by this modest carbon price that is going to be imposed from 1 July 2012—that is, next year.

In question time today we also heard questions from the member for Gippsland referring to events in the Latrobe Valley and seeking to suggest that foreshadowed lay-offs in the Latrobe Valley, foreshadowed as of now, are something to do with the carbon price that is yet to be introduced. We hear from those opposite—the dishonest members of the opposition—that, in the coming months, they will seek to attribute every single dismissal, every single lay-off, in whatever industry to the carbon price even before it is introduced. That is an indication of the approach that they have taken throughout this debate.