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Thursday, 20 August 2009
Page: 5525

Senator ABETZ (10:55 AM) —I thank Senator Xenophon for that rare insight into his party room! I am sure we are all a lot better off for knowing how things operate in that party room. To respond to Senator Fielding, it seems that Family First have adopted the Labor Party approach of getting out to a focus group to see what little slogan works and then repeating it ad nauseam. It seems as though the latest slogan is ‘sold out’. But can I say to Senator Fielding: just because you repeat it 10 times does not make it a fact. It might sound good, it might be great rhetoric, but it does not make it the truth.

The simple fact is that overwhelmingly the Australian people want this upgrade of the renewable energy target to go through. We as a coalition had a decision to make as to whether we simply blocked the legislation at this stage or allowed it through. With the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, there was no urgency for that legislation—the government itself had delayed the starting date by 12 months; there was no need for it to be carried. However, there is a lot of investment, there is a lot of concern and I think there is a community expectation that this legislation be passed as soon as possible, therefore we entered into good faith negotiations with the government.

Can I disabuse Senator Fielding if he honestly believes that the National Party sold out in relation to food processing: they did not. I think everybody knows that they are the absolute champions in this place of rural and regional communities and of rural and regional jobs—and, if I might say so, no other senator has as long, distinguished and proud a record of doing that as Senator Boswell has. So to try to pin something like that onto Senator Boswell defies the history of, what—30 years in this place?

Senator Boswell —27.

Senator ABETZ —Twenty-seven years in this place—over a quarter of a century of excellent advocacy. To suggest that somehow he has sold out just defies the evidence of over 25 years of active advocacy by Senator Boswell. What we as a coalition sought to do was get as good a deal as possible. It is a matter of regret that the government has not come to the party on this aspect, and that is why we are moving our amendment.

In relation to Senator Wong’s contribution, she told us that the approach being undertaken by the coalition and the National Party is not the fairest system to provide assistance to protect the food-manufacturing sector. For the sake of the argument, I am willing to concede that point. Just tell us what the fairest system would be and we would then look at that. It is not an argument to say, ‘Yours isn’t the fairest system, so we won’t have a system at all.’ That is where the National Party in this place in particular can hold their heads up high because they have at least, along with the coalition, come up with a system. It might not be the fairest, it might not be the best—but guess what? It is the only one being put on the table, and that is why we believe it is worthy of support.

As for Senator Milne’s provocative comments, I do not know why she repeated them. I could understand the nonsense yesterday because she was being broadcast. We are not being broadcast today, but still we had a repetition of the arguments, which are completely unsustainable. In relation to the new and emerging technologies, we did seek a deal with the government. To our regret, they did not accept our suggestions.

Senator Milne —Why aren’t you moving that as an amendment—

Senator ABETZ —If you had not increased your carbon footprint by flying to Sydney and back overnight for some film, you would be aware that we have indicated that we are going to move a private member’s bill, hopefully within a matter of weeks. We will be introducing it as a separate bill into this place and hoping to get the support of the Senate. If we had not got that deal, and Senator Milne knows this, we could have been like a dog in a manger—not get out of it and then block the whole legislation. Is that what the Australian Greens wanted—that, for the sake of that section, we block the legislation and not let it go forward? I do not think so. That is why we had a balancing act. We can see the benefits of supporting this legislation going through, albeit that it has major faults, such as in the emerging technologies and food manufacturing. In relation to the emerging sector, we will be moving our private member’s bill.

In relation to the so-called ‘big emitters’, I remind the Senate yet again that Australia’s ‘big emitters’ are in fact some of the cleanest manufacturers in the world. I have got a funny feeling that even today we might hear about the closure of an energy intensive plant somewhere in this country, partially because of the projected introduction of a carbon pollution reduction scheme. People’s jobs will be lost. Senator Fielding, by the way, is right here—renewable energy is more expensive than the way we do energy at the moment. But the way we do energy at the moment has certain environmental consequences, and we are trying to wean ourselves off that type of energy. That is why the Howard government introduced renewable energy targets. We have always said it should be staged, systematic and done in a way that does not mug the economy along the road of transition. That is why we started with a modest target today. Hopefully, we will be voting for an increased target but, if we increase the target too quickly, we will make the energy intensive industries less competitive on the world market. That will mean the closure of our manufacturers in this country. But guess what? The world demand for cement, aluminium and zinc will still be there, and, if we are not making it in Australia, it will be made in China or Russia or India or Brazil or Indonesia or Vietnam.

Now tell me this: for a tonne of zinc produced in any of those countries, what are the CO2 emissions in comparison to a tonne of zinc produced in Australia today? In China, it is threefold—six tonnes of CO2 per tonne of zinc produced compared to only two tonnes of CO2 in Australia. So, by us pricing our manufacturing sector out of world markets through increased power prices, we will in fact see higher pollution levels throughout the world. That is the consequence of the dogmatic, ideological attitude of the Australian Greens when it comes to these matters.

I indicate on behalf of the coalition our support for Senator Boswell and commend him for his long advocacy in this area. I think Senator Fielding’s comments to the father of the Senate and his party were inappropriate, because Senator Boswell has been an excellent advocate in this area for many, many years.