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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4205

Mr FORREST (6:17 PM) —As a signatory to this committee’s dissenting report I want to take some time to explain my position and why I felt moved to sign a minority report. The first thing I want to establish absolutely clearly is that the member for Mallee is no climate change sceptic. In fact over the years it has been the member for Mallee who has raised the issue, particularly in respect to the changing pattern of precipitation across the southern half of the continent. There were private member motions one after another through a period of probably 10 years before anybody else in the parliament was talking about the impact of climate change on our continent. I can remember one private member’s motion when I was actually chastised by two opposition members—they are now government members and present in the parliament—with one actually alleging that precipitation in Australia was increasing and not, as I was arguing, decreasing.

It is interesting that in 2002 I tabled a very comprehensive report on the issue of weather modification, which included charts that Professor Garnaut has subsequently relied on in his discussion about the impacts of climate change in his recent comprehensive report. I will be very disappointed if government members haul out the old chestnut that because I have written a dissenting report on this particular report that I am a climate change sceptic. It is far from the truth.

I have never really seen the logic of signing the Kyoto protocol with the suggestion that this would be a panacea for the very serious issue of reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. I felt over the years that it was inappropriate to sign such a protocol when it put our economy at risk and it gave economies of other more prolific emitters in other countries the opportunity to do nothing. We are all concerned about the globe and I think it needs to be a global response, not what I saw in the initial Kyoto protocol that we were signing.

However, I was prepared to consider that, but the reality is that Kyoto is already a decade old. Time, science and engineering have moved on and there are many more published opportunities for a better outcome with respect to the commitments that countries make and achieving outcomes that the Kyoto agreement did not achieve, especially for Australia and other developed countries. We now await version 2 with great interest with regard to the outcomes from Copenhagen later this year. My reason for dissent is particular to the evidence that the committee received when it gathered information in preparation for this report. I feel that it does not give credence to all of the discussion that was put to us in evidence from people who hold a contrary point of view. I was just a bit disappointed that government members were so keen on honouring the election commitment they made that this contrary evidence was not given due regard.

The other thing that disappointed me is with regard to the lack of consideration of ramifications—not just of signing Kyoto but of participating in its outcomes—on our economy. That is a debate we will continue to have as a parliament from here on. I chose to support other coalition members and not sign the majority report to make sure that the points I am making here get proper airing. Some of the recommendations we support include recommendations 5 and 8. Those are about doing things and making things happen to address the issue of carbon abatement.

I am a great enthusiast for the opportunities that solar power presents us. There is a huge opportunity in my part of the world. One thing we have in the electorate of Mallee is plenty of sunshine. I made a commitment at the last federal election: I wanted to see Mallee become the solar power generation capital of the world. In fact, we now have, with a commitment of $75 million from the former government and $50 million from the state, a huge power station being established just south of Mildura that will power 43,000 homes. There is already another project stimulated with the announcement of a $100 million grant from the Victorian state government. Many municipalities are competing to take part in that opportunity.

My focus, probably as a result of my background in engineering, is: let us tackle this very serious issue of carbon abatement with real solutions. It is interesting to see how real solutions are evolving. There is a proposal by a commercial company known as MBD Energy. Their proposal is absolutely innovative, with prototypes. They are currently negotiating for access to the stack exhaust from Loy Yang power station in Victoria in order to combine that with the huge amount of Melbourne and Latrobe Valley sewage. It is pumped past the power station. They would combine two elements together with sunshine. The outcome, through the process of growing algae in perspex pipes probably 350 millimetres in diameter, is being able to use what has been provided to us by nature positively and constructively. They will combine carbon dioxide with sewage and sunshine to create a commercial product, which is a nutrient for livestock and fuel in a reusable form. Admittedly, it may only stop the CO2 from getting into the atmosphere and recycling it through another cycle, but it certainly deters the final outcome of carbon getting into our atmosphere.

I put those comments on the record as to why I have signed a dissenting report. I want to see a much more productive outcome and actually reduce emissions, not rely so heavily on the poetic nature of signing an agreement which other countries have long since signed and where outcomes have not been produced. I thank the chamber for the opportunity. I would prefer to have seen more balance in the report. I think it has neglected to give proper weight to alternative actions that have the potential to make real progress in a low-carbon economy.