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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10557


Mr KATTER ( Kennedy ) ( 19:45 ): I rise to speak on the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and associated bills. A year before the last election we launched a series of meetings for our own supporters in the electorate—they were the only people invited to the meetings. We had 15 of these meetings, and at them we asked, 'What are the issues?' I was very surprised that at every single meeting two of the main issues were electricity and dentists. If I had drawn up a list, I do not think they would have been in the first 40. But what we think and what people are saying are two entirely different things. I thought the arguments of QCOSS, the Queensland Council of Social Service—that is, that you switch the lights off or you eat, but you cannot do both—were wildly exaggerated. But people are doing it very, very hard. They cannot afford their current electricity charges.

Between 2004 and 2010 charges in Queensland rose from $839 to $1,296 per household. That is a 100 per cent increase. These are not my figures, but the federal government's figures from the Garnaut report, Australia's low pollution future. That is the document that the Parliamentary Library gave me when I asked them what would be the increase in electricity charges with a five per cent reduction in emissions. Table 6.15 on page 176 of the document tells me that the increase for a five per cent CPRS over the years from 2010 to 2015 will be 20 per cent. The average household electricity price increase for a five per cent CPRS reduction is 20 per cent. They are not my figures, they are the government's figures. They are telling us 10 per cent. On a show recently I asked Greg Combet could he please sack the Treasury and Mr Garnaut for telling lies, because they had said it was a 20 per cent increase, but the government said 10 per cent. The government would not lie, we know that. The audience burst out laughing because either Mr Garnaut and the Treasury report are telling lies or the government is telling lies. A 20 per cent increase translates into mark ups. With retailers like Energex and Ergon in Queensland, with delivery systems, with transmission lines then each of them adds on to that 20 per cent. Whether those add-ons are included in that 20 per cent I do not know. All I can say to the House is that we have an average increase of nearly 100 per cent every five years in Queensland and we are now going to add 20 per cent on to that with the government reductions.

Despite my very anti-environmental statements in this place many, many times, I have never been a person who has said that we should not show some restraint. Some times you need to pull on the reins a bit, and this is a case where I would say that. The argument that the world is heating because there are 358 parts per million up there of CO2 is quite ridiculous. It is a proposition that in any other time or age would have been laughed at. I liken it to putting wire netting over your house and thinking it will keep your house warm, but wire netting is actually more than 400 parts per million. It has got a better chance of keeping your house warm than this proposition being put forward by the government. If you have a particle of energy coming off the earth's surface—rebounding from sunlight that hits the earth's surface and bounds back into outer space—only 50 per cent of it is passed on. That means 50 per cent is retained by the CO2 molecule and 50 per cent is passed on into outer space. Even the 400 parts per million pales into insignificance when you consider that 50 per cent has gone anyway, back into outer space. There may be global warming; I would not deny that, although I think that even in An Inconvenient Truth there is some equivocation on the evidence—even from a very hardened warrior against global warming such as Al Gore. Katharina Fabricius of the Australian Institute of Marine Science is a leading international authority on the effect of CO2 in the oceans. In actual fact, there are some very serious ramifications in the decrease in the alkaline levels of the ocean. Calcium carbonate, which is the shell of shellfish, is an alkaline compound, so there will be problems if the sea ceases to be as alkaline. A tree grows well if there is a lot of CO2 in it. A shellfish grows well if there is a lot of calcium carbonate or alkaline substances out there. So if the alkaline levels drop then it becomes much harder for shellfish to form. I said to Dr Fabricius: 'But they're not at the bottom of the food chain. On the contrary, the minuscule bivalves that you cannot see with the naked eye—you need a microscope to see them—in fact comprise the major part of the bottom of the food chain.' So if those shellfish cannot form their shells then we have a very serious problem which starts to arise in the oceans.

I do not come here as any cassandra or soothsayer of doom—that is a long way off at this stage—but I, being a very strong opponent of the carbon tax and the various other proposals that have been put forward at various times, have said that we should have a bit of a pullback. If you want to cut carbon emissions, let us go to the experts. My environmentalist enemies would claim one of their patron saints to be Al Gore. The very first solution put forward by Al Gore is ethanol. There is no proposal in this place to do anything about ethanol. Mr Iemma, when he was the premier of New South Wales, said that he was going ahead with a 10 per cent ethanol blend because, he said at the conference he was addressing, he could not live another day with his conscience if he did not introduce ethanol into the petrol blend. People are dying in Sydney and Melbourne—not quite so much in Brisbane. I refer people to the works of Jonathan Streeton, the very eminent thoracic surgeon who was the specialist called by Slater and Gordon in the tobacco case in Australia; he is the leading chest authority in the country. I also refer people to the statements by the president of the AMA in New South Wales and Dr Tom Beer, the head of air quality control for Australia. Each of them said effectively—I think Tom Beer probably put it most succinctly—that more people are dying in Australia from motor vehicle emissions than from motor vehicle accidents.

It is remarkable to me that, while Mr Iemma has a conscience, the people in this place do not. They actually listened to the oil and gas lobby, who told them that motor cars will break down if you put ethanol in your tank. They actually said this and, in this parliament—the Liberal and National parties were in power then—actually promulgated that most extraordinarily stupid statement. Mr Speaker, I think you have seen pictures of the people in California. All the cars are breaking down in California, are they? America's average is nine per cent ethanol in their petrol tanks now, and in states like California, which have very stringent laws, it is much, much higher than nine per cent. Are all the cars breaking down in California? Go home tonight and turn on your television. Almost all your movies and TV shows come out of Hollywood in California. Have a look and see if there are any cars on the side of the road broken down. Twenty million people live in Sao Paulo and 21 million people live in Rio. All the cars are breaking down in Brazil, are they? They have 22 per cent. Yet the people on the front benches in this House came into this parliament and promulgated that piece of incredible rubbish put out by the oil companies. Why have we not got ethanol? Why has a country whose sugar industry is collapsing and whose grain industry is in desperate trouble not got ethanol? Why would we go to a solution that will cost this country $15,000 million a year in taxes alone?

I represent the base metals industry of Australia. I represent more base metals than anyone else in this parliament. A great company built up by many generations of great Australians, Mount Isa Mines, has announced the closure of its copper-processing plant in Mount Isa. BHP has announced that it is doing no more processing in Australia. The steel industry is moving offshore. The major cost input item into these industries, outside the copper and iron ore themselves, is electricity. The aluminium industry, the third greatest export industry of this country, is dependent almost exclusively on electricity. Electricity is more built into the cost of aluminium than is the cost of bauxite. It is congealed electricity.

So this government goes forward, smashing the coal industry, which is the carbon dioxide industry of the world. It is saying, 'We're going to be world leaders in smashing carbon dioxide'—and by implication, of course, the coal industry. 'We're going to be the people that lead the world in closing it down. Guess what Australia's biggest export is and has been for the last 15 years? It is coal, and we are going to close it down. The answer is there, not only in your motor cars, not only if you move the 10 per cent ethanol up to 20 per cent ethanol—the same as Brazil—and not only if you reduce your carbon emissions by five per cent for transport. In Australia, where most of that ethanol comes from sugar cane, people will say, 'It's a trade-off; we'll lose food.' Let me tell you: the cattle industry desperately needs distiller's grain for ethanol.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The honourable member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.