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Thursday, 18 September 2008
Page: 7861

Mr GEORGANAS (10:11 AM) —I too rise to speak in support of the Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill 2008 and related bills. Let me start by congratulating the previous speaker, the member for Braddon, for his great explanation of what this bill will do and how we are combating climate change. As I said, I am here to speak on this legislation and to support the efforts of my parliamentary colleagues on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Resources, who worked so hard to bring this bill to the House. I would also like to support the efforts of the Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism, the Hon. Martin Ferguson, who has taken the tremendous step of putting forward groundbreaking legislation aimed fairly and squarely at combating climate change and the contribution of greenhouse gases to climate change, both in Australia and potentially around the world, while maintaining Australian jobs and economic prosperity.

We have had a number of statements over the years from members opposite, and over the last 24 hours, whilst I have been following this debate very closely, I have seen that those statements and arguments have not changed. The opposition continue to be climate change sceptics. If we go down that path we will achieve zilch. We have heard those opposite, both in this place and in the media, discounting the science that continues to accumulate and mocking anyone who takes the issue of global warming and dangerous climate change with the seriousness that they clearly deserve. We have had senior members of the former government making their positions crystal clear, saying, ‘It’s all too ambiguous; it’s all too hard.’ We have heard these arguments again over the last 24 hours; arguments like: ‘We’re simply too small a player to be involved in any global attempt to limit the proportion of carbon dioxide and other gases in our atmosphere.’ Over the last 24 hours they have said that it is not real, promoting broadcasts that cast the science and responsible leaders’ reactions to the situation as a swindle. Yet virtually in the same breath they have attempted to swindle the Australian public by characterising their support of a non-viable nuclear power industry within Australia as their responsible policy towards tackling the very climate change they discount.

The Australian public certainly believe the scientific consensus. We saw that last year as the average Australian voter showed their support for responsible government at the general election. They showed their support for federal Labor developing and implementing policies to combat the unsustainable polluting of our environment with ever-increasing volumes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The Australian public continue to show their support for the Labor government’s policies in this area. Recently, within the context of the Garnaut and Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme debate, the overwhelming majority of Australians voted yes, that we need to take these responsible and necessary steps to combat climate change. The bills before us today, the Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill 2008, the Offshore Petroleum (Annual Fees) Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill 2008, the Offshore Petroleum (Registration Fees) Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill 2008 and the Offshore Petroleum (Safety Levies) Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill 2008, in total, are designed to establish the context within which Australian industry can get on with the job of investigating options for the safe and secure storage of carbon dioxide within geological structures for many, many years to come.

The Minister for Resources and Energy and the Minister for Tourism, in his second reading speech, called for the parliament to await the outcome of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Resources inquiry into such matters and, in particular, whether the bills before us establish the best balance between the rights of players within the extraction industry and the needs of the sequestration industry. As I said earlier, I commend the minister for willing the committee to report to the parliament for his and the parliament’s fair and balanced considerations of the committee’s recommendations towards matters, including those addressing the balance of respective players’ rights and access. I note that in its report the committee congratulated the minister for his efforts in bringing the legislation to the House. It said:

The Committee would like to congratulate the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, the Hon Martin Ferguson MP, for this pioneering legislation. This legislation sets the groundwork for the establishment of a national GHG—

that is, greenhouse gas—

industry in Australia. If we grasp the opportunity provided, it will allow us to lead the world in the implementation and development of CCS—

that is, carbon dioxide capture and storage.

Some within the community question the wisdom of investing our support in geosequestration as a partial solution to increasing concentrations of global greenhouse gases. Some in the community believe that the government should limit our support in tackling climate change to possibilities that literally would be the best of all possible power generation technologies and systems. The position of the government is very clear: the government are encouraging the development of a suite of power-generating technologies utilising a range of resources. Not all of these technologies are totally waste free, not all of them are perfect in being fully sustainable, not all of them are likely to be systems fully accessible by all Australians and not all of them will be satisfactorily economical, nor even functional. But options that are being actively pursued around this nation have absolutely breathtaking potential. The federal Labor government have established the target of Australia, sourcing 20 per cent of our needed power for renewable sources by 2020.

Within my own home state of South Australia we are currently very well positioned to take up opportunities to harness the power of wind, being in the roaring forties. More wind farms are being built from Cape Jervis to the Flinders Ranges. If South Australia has not already met the 20 per cent renewable target, we will be very shortly. This is a very realistic target. It is a target that we must meet to achieve Labor’s longer term target of a 60 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050. South Australia is also blessed with natural resources in the form of hot rocks or radioactive granite under the ground in the mid- to far north of the state. Within my electorate office I have met with players from the geothermal industry and I am highly interested in this industry’s developments, as I think we all should be.

Geoscience Australia reportedly estimates that just one per cent of Australia’s geothermal energy is equivalent to 26,000 times Australia’s total annual energy consumption. Geothermal power generation has the potential to supply Australia with clean energy for hundreds, if not thousands, of years to come. The potential for this industry is really breathtaking. It is an industry that is receiving very real assistance from this federal Labor government in the form of a $50 million Geothermal Drilling Program, which will provide grants of up to $7 million on a matched funding basis to support the high cost of drilling deep geothermal wells for proof-of-concept projects. The Geothermal Drilling Program, launched by the Minister for Resources and Energy on 20 August this year, is the first program to be launched under the government’s $500 million Renewable Energy Fund. This fund is designed to accelerate the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable energy technologies in Australia. Which technologies will emerge as clear winners over the next decades? That will be up to the market and the industries which seek to take advantage of this amazing period of change within Australia and around the world. The responsible policy of this federal Labor government is to cut overall carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases within Australia through the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. This scheme will be the vehicle that drives investment in cleaner energy generation technologies and waste minimisation technologies, such as those required for geosequestration.

With bills such as these before us today, the government can and is willing to set the framework for doing business in a fair and reasonable manner. The government continues to provide encouragement with innovative technology development before letting the competing interests work out their own destiny over the longer term within the private sector. I expect that most Australians would conclude that this federal Labor government is taking the problem of climate change very seriously indeed and is pursuing the right mix of policies for us to meet our objectives in the short, medium and long term, and at the same time maintaining Australian jobs and economic prosperity. I would like to congratulate the committee that worked so hard on bringing this bill to the House and recommending it to the parliament. I commend this bill to the House.