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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2180


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (18:07): I too rise to speak on this so-called matter of public importance today, which is sadly just another attempt by those opposite to take a very poorly aimed shot at the government to, I think, hide their complete lack of policy and new ideas in this area. I really wait with bated breath for the ALP to one day introduce an MPI on matters of real concern to those we represent in this place—things like household bills and budgets, education, ensuring that we have a growing economy or how we develop the jobs not only for today but also for tomorrow. Unlike those opposite, this government does understand that all of these things are matters of great concern to Australians today. That is why this government is working to transition our economy to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing, increasingly interconnected and highly disruptive international economy.

Contrary to what we have just heard from Senator Lines, we are addressing climate change with all of these things in mind. Australia is the 12th-largest economy in the world, yet we are responsible for only 1.5 per cent of global emissions. I will say that again: we are responsible for only 1.5 per cent of global emissions. Here on this side this government starts from the position that we want to ensure that we deliver real and sustainable environmental outcomes while ensuring that we do not kill our economy but instead develop it and enable it to grow and transition.

The policies we are now implementing—which I will go through in a minute in a very factual sense to show that we are actually making a difference—unlike the policies of those opposite, are policies that this government has had for five years. They are the policies that we took to the last election and they are policies that we have been implementing for well over two years. Those opposite might not recognise it, but taking clear policies to the electorate and actually implementing them is good government. It is all about consistency and balance. This government is demonstrably and factually delivering what it promised at the election: that we would lower emissions while at the same time lowering electricity prices for all Australians.

All of us in this chamber are Australians. We all love our country and we all want to leave it in a far better state than we found it. What we do disagree on in this place—quite vehemently, sometimes—is how to achieve that and how we are going to work together to leave a better country than we found. I find it incredibly sad that those opposite attempt to paint us on this side as heartless and soulless, as wanting to destroy our environment and to leave it in a worse state than we found it. We have just heard it again from Senator Lines—calling us Tea Party people over here and really trying to say that we do not care. Of course we care. Of course we love our environment and want to leave it in a better state. But we also realise that it has to be done with balance and with sound and consistent policies.

What is really sad when listening to those opposite talk about this issue is that they cannot stand it when those of us on this side of the chamber have not only credible environmental policies but environmental policies that are demonstrably working. They hate it. The sad thing about them going in with that attitude is that not only do they hate that policies that are working for our environment come from this side of the chamber, but they would actively undermine and get rid of them. So let us have a look at what alternatives they would implement. They criticise us for having policies for five years and for implementing them. They hate it when the policies are actually achieving something.

What environmental policies would those opposite offer us instead? They have had five different policies in just over five years, and still the Leader of the Opposition cannot make up his mind. The only discernible policy from those opposite on the environment—unlike ours on this side—is that they would reintroduce Labor's disastrous carbon tax. It has already comprehensively been shown to be a completely disastrous policy, because not only was it costing the economy billions and costing taxpayers thousands of dollars extra per year in their electricity bills, but—to add insult to injury—it did not work. It made no discernible difference.

What are some of the facts of what we are implementing? First of all, on the international scene, Australia now has a strong and credible emissions reduction target. Australia's reductions and emissions per person and per dollar of GDP will actually be amongst the highest in the world. Fact: we will have a 52 per cent reduction in emissions per person, which is the second-highest amongst G20 countries. That is a fact. The next fact is that we will have a 65 per cent reduction in emissions per unit of GDP.

What are the facts on the Emissions Reduction Fund? Despite all of the bluff and bluster we hear from those on the other side, the fact is that we are achieving real and significant reductions with the Emissions Reduction Fund at around one per cent of the cost of the carbon tax. We have clear evidence that it is cheaper and more effective. As I said, the government's Emissions Reduction Fund is just one per cent of the cost of Labor's disastrous carbon tax. Where are the facts? The fact is that in just the first two auctions of the government's Emissions Reduction Fund nearly 92.8 million tonnes of emission reductions have already been secured over 275 projects at an average price of $13 per tonne. As a result of that, Australia demonstrably now has one of the most effective systems in the world for reducing emissions. It has gained the attention of the international community and is now being picked up by no organisation less than the World Bank.

The world is progressively rejecting carbon taxes and embracing direct-action-style approaches. Why do they like direct-action approaches? It is because it is not just talking; it is not just implementing a useless tax; it is getting in there and implementing actual effective change. In line with that, the World Bank has recently launched a $100 million reverse auction that replicates many features of Australia's own emissions reduction fund.

What are the facts in relation to government support for innovation in emission reduction and renewable energy? If you listened to those opposite, you would think that the government was not doing anything or was actually reversing what has been done in the past. This government absolutely supports innovation in emission reduction and renewable energy. We are currently providing over $15 billion in support for renewables and lower emissions—the strongest support ever, I suggest. Where are the facts? Where is the evidence? Australia is now the world leader in abatement innovation. We have the highest penetration of household solar in the world. Over 15 per cent of Australian households have solar PV or solar hot water systems. We are now leading the world in soil carbon research and abatement, with nearly eight million tonnes of abatement secured under the ERF.

This government has also introduced measures to reduce vehicle emissions, a National Energy Productivity Plan and a safeguard mechanism covering the largest emitting facilities in the economy. This government is also supporting climate research through the $145 million National Environmental Science Program and the $9 million National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. This government is very proud of its record on renewable energy in Australia.

Australia has the highest proportion of households with solar panels. As I said, it is about 15 per cent. To put it in perspective, the next largest is Belgium at around 7.5 per cent—half of Australia. Germany is next at 3.7 per cent. More than $3,000 in government mandated rebates have been provided for these solar systems. The renewable energy target will see more than 23.5 per cent of Australia's electricity coming from renewable sources in 2020 under this government.

It beggars belief that the opposition would really sit here today and deliver this MPI with a straight face given the effect that their climate change policies—or the lack of effect that their climate change policies—have on our economy. They still threaten to bring them back. This government is delivering policies that actually work, that not only help our economy to grow but also help protect our environment in the process. (Time expired)