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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3530

Senator CAROL BROWN (2:52 PM) —My question is also to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr. Could the minister please inform the Senate on what today’s CSIRO report, Growing the green collar economy, tells us about the challenges of moving to a low-carbon future, especially for Australian workers?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I thank Senator Brown for this question. This report highlights very serious issues which do challenge Australian society and the Australian economy. But let me start by making this simple observation: this government welcomes this report. Unlike those opposite who, when in government, chose to censor the CSIRO, this government defends the CSIRO’s right to take part in public debate, including national conversations on climate change. Unlike those opposite, I will not be gagging the CSIRO’s scientists or doctoring their findings every time they utter an inconvenient truth.

This report does highlight the challenges that we face in moving towards a low-carbon future. It is also upbeat about our capacity to answer those challenges and create new opportunities for Australian workers—that is, if we get the policy framework right. It tells us that emissions trading will not reduce employment and economic growth if we get the policy positions right. What it does tell us is that we can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and stabilise energy use while still raising our standard of living, if we get the policies right. What are those policies that are right? CSIRO, in this report, has included creating incentives to improve environment performance; investing in skills and training; renewing and retooling industry; investing in renewable energy, energy-efficient buildings and energy-efficient transport; improving access to green technologies; and creating a culture of innovation.

I am sure that all the senators over there understand that that is exactly what this government is doing. We will establish an emissions trading scheme. We have invested billions of new dollars in education and skills, reversing 11 years of squalid neglect. We will put industry policy back on the national agenda. We will establish new programs, like the Green Building Fund, Re-tooling for Climate Change and, of course, Climate Ready. We will bring production of the hybrid Camry to Australia. We will launch a root and branch review of the national innovation system and establish Enterprise Connect to give business better access to that system.

These are the policies we need to create the kind of high-performance, low-carbon economy that Australians actually want. These are the policies we need to ensure that prosperity is not just increased but also shared equitably right across the community. The government’s approach to climate change is both environmentally and economically responsible. It also reflects our strong belief in social justice. CSIRO’s modelling suggests that we can increase employment from 55 to 60 per cent by 2050 under a low-carbon regime. Of course, what we need to ensure, though, is that the right policy positions are taken so that we can also do so without environmental devastation. Australian workers should not be left to carry the burden of climate change. That is why it is so important to ensure that there is certainty, that there is a real commitment to change and that the right policy frameworks are being pursued so that we can ensure that there is effective economic growth and social justice. (Time expired)

Senator CAROL BROWN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister provide further information on the impact of emissions trading on business?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —What we know is that a properly structured, a properly designed, emissions trading scheme will actually allow for there to be growth and for there to be the opportunities to create quality jobs. A properly designed emissions trading scheme will allow for prosperity to be shared. Of course, the alternative is the current policy—or what we understand to be the policy—being pursued by the opposition; that is, a do-nothing approach. What we have seen in recent times is a renaissance for those climate change sceptics that dominated the previous regime for 11 years. The international studies all highlight and the report today demonstrates that there is a need for government action, there is a need for green investment strategies, there is a need for green research and development technology transfers and there is clearly a need to ensure that there is international cooperation. (Time expired)