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Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Page: 7769

Mr PERRETT (6:21 PM) —I thank the member for Eden-Monaro for his contribution to the debate on this most serious of topics that we have before the House, climate change. I would like to quote a paragraph from the poem The Cycads by Judith Wright, which I think provides a context for this. It is about how what humans do can have significant consequences for the earth:

Take their cold seed and set it in the mind,

and its slow root will lengthen deep and deep

till, following, you cling on the last ledge

over the unthinkable, unfathomable edge

beyond which man remembers only sleep.

I will springboard from that into the legislation before the House, because the poem talks about the things which endure and this bill before the House is to ensure that we as humans today in 2008 do all that we can to make sure that as many species as possible do not suffer from climate change.

I am proud to rise in support of the Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill 2008 and the related bills before the House. This bill demonstrates the breadth of the Rudd government’s response to climate change, which, as I am sure the House knows, started only 11 minutes after the Rudd government was sworn in, when we ratified the Kyoto protocol—something which had been ignored for way too long.

The Rudd government has already committed $2.3 billion to tackle climate change. This includes: $500 million for the Renewable Energy Fund; $500 million for the National Clean Coal Fund; $500 million for the Green Car Innovation Fund; $150 million for solar and clean energy research; and $240 million to establish Clean Business Australia, to tackle climate change through projects with a focus on productivity and innovation. ‘Productivity’ is a word that might not be that familiar on the other side of the House. Productivity is a very important part of the economy. When you total up all of those commitments, that is $2.3 billion, and counting. This is a major investment in research and development on low-emissions technologies and recognition that renewable energy will have a key role in Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

But we also need to turn to the low-hanging fruit. The Rudd government is also helping households and businesses to use energy more wisely. Through direct financial incentives, strengthened energy efficiency regulations and targeted information, households will be helped to use less energy while saving money. The key measures include: $10,000 low-interest loans for Australian households to implement energy and water savings; rebates for energy efficient insulation for 300,000 rental homes, so we are covering everyone—homeowners and renters; $8,000 rebates for rooftop solar power panels; $1,000 rebates for solar hot water systems; $500 rebates for rainwater tanks and greywater recycling; improved cost-saving energy and water efficiency standards for new homes and appliances; and making every school a solar school within eight years. These measures will help all Australians play a part in the fight against climate change. Even the climate change sceptics opposite can play a part in addressing climate change. I guess it is like what they say about paranoia, that just because you are paranoid does not mean that everyone is not out to get you—just because you are a climate change sceptic does not mean that you cannot do your bit to help the environment.

The Rudd government is also setting up the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which will be the central mechanism to meet carbon emissions reduction targets. As well as exploring ways to reduce carbon emissions, we are working with industry to remediate existing emissions through carbon capture and storage. Geosequestration, or permanently storing captured CO2 under the seabed, is a solution that complements the existing offshore petroleum industry. It will enable carbon dioxide, and eventually other greenhouse gases, to be stored safely and securely in geological storage deep under the sea in Commonwealth waters.

The Rudd government is committed to providing a viable option for carbon capture and storage because, being a Queenslander, the Prime Minister understands how important the coal industry is to Australia. Anyone from Queensland would know that we have significant coal deposits, and high-quality coal deposits as well, unlike some of the Victorian stuff—with all due respect to the member opposite. In the world left to the Rudd government by John Howard and Peter Costello, coal provides around 80 per cent of electricity and it is our largest export commodity, generating around $24 billion in export revenue. That is why low-emissions coal technologies are so important. Carbon capture and storage will guarantee the long-term sustainable future of the coal power industry.

The Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill sets up a framework for the safe and secure injection and storage of greenhouse gases far underneath Commonwealth waters. The bill establishes a new range of offshore titles to pipe, inject and store CO2 under the seabed. This will create an environment in which industry can invest in carbon capture and storage projects with confidence and it will be able to do so now, as soon as this legislation is through. It will also encourage the commercialisation of technologies which have the potential to play a vital role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions in the future. These are opportunities that have been squandered over the years, because these will be the new technologies of the future. Like computers 30 years ago, these are the opportunities to lead the world. Unfortunately, we are starting a little bit behind the line because of some missed opportunities.

As a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Resources, I was pleased to be a part of the inquiry into this legislation. The Down under: greenhouse gas storage report came from that committee, a committee made up of Labor, Liberal, National and Independent members of the House. It was great as a new member of the House to see someone who has blue carpet in their room having the confidence to put all their faith into people who have green carpet in their rooms. Note there were only people with green carpet in the room—no-one with red carpet. It was great to be able to work together with the Labor, Liberal, National and Independent members to deal with this legislation. There should be a lot more of it. This inquiry strongly supported this carbon capture and storage framework. I am confident that it will enable this new industry to succeed and play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This bill effectively balances the rights and interactions between greenhouse gas storage and pre-existing petroleum titleholders. It provides certainty for greenhouse gas storage proponents to invest, it preserves the rights of the petroleum industry to their existing titles and it provides assurance to the community that CO2 storage is safe and secure. Don’t get me wrong: offshore petroleum is big business. We understand that. The value of oil and gas produced in Australia in 2007-08 was more than $27 billion, with exports valued at around $16 billion. I am sure every Australian with a car or who does not grow their own vegetables knows how important fuel is. So it is important that this bill protects offshore petroleum titleholders. In fact, offshore petroleum operators are well placed to get involved in geosequestration in terms of technology and their industry know-how.

I am pleased that the minister has accepted 17 of the committee’s 19 recommendations regarding this bill. This whole process was a credit to the chair, Dick Adams, the member for Lyons, and the deputy chair, Alby Schultz, the member for Hume. It also illustrates the faith and foresight of Minister Ferguson. The committee’s recommendations were about providing greater investment certainty, clarity regarding access and property rights and managing interactions between greenhouse gas storage and petroleum titleholders. This is obviously a very delicate balancing act. Australia is one of the first countries in the world to establish a framework to support geosequestration. I remain confident that this bill will serve as an example to the rest of the world on how we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. I commend the bill to the House.